By now you may already know you are going to be applying for college, but when should you start the application? The due date isn’t for quite a while, so it’s not pressing on your mind too much yet. You may be thinking it shouldn’t be too big of a deal, right?

That is, until you’re scrambling to finish the essay two hours before the application is due (not speaking from personal experience, of course…).

While it may not be the most pressing thing on your to-do list now, the later you put off your application, the more stressful it will be. To avoid that kind of anxiety during your senior year, the sooner that you start thinking about your college applications, the better.

The Benefits of Starting Early

Not only does starting early help you in the actual process of filling out your answers, it also gives you time to develop the skills you want to showcase. There are three specific ways that I’ve seen how starting early can benefit both you and your college applications.

1. Knowledge of Activities that Will Look Good on the Application

This benefit comes from simply looking at the college application as soon as you can—even if that’s a year before you actually plan on submitting it. It may seem weird to look at the application so early, but it will give you a good idea of what kind of questions are there. And the sooner you know what your school is looking for, the sooner you can start thinking about how to best portray your past accomplishments.

Honestly, that was the hardest part for me. Deciding which of my normal activities showed my best qualities was like trying to find the cure to cancer. It just didn’t seem possible. I think that if I had had more time to think it over, I could have pulled a lot more of my desirable qualities from the normal everyday activities that I enjoyed.

2. Ability to Make Lifestyle Changes that Will Help You Stand Out

Looking at your college application early also gives you the ability to see where you are lacking and go out and change that. For example, if you notice that you haven’t done anything that exemplifies leadership, you can make it goal to do something in the next year that makes you a leader. Starting early gives you that chance to make the changes that will both help your application be stronger and help you grow overall.

The thing is, if you’re like me, who didn’t start thinking about my college application until a couple months before it was due, you won’t have that time to make a change. It will be whatever you’ve done up to that point, and that’s it. If you find that you don’t have experience in one of the school’s desired categories, there won’t be anything you can do about it.

3. Time to Draft and Redraft Your Essays Based on Others’ Feedback

This is a big benefit. Writing might not be your favorite thing, but it’s a significant part of a college application. And not only is it writing, it’s writing about yourself. Which can be pretty difficult to do in a way that sounds genuine. So when writing something like this, it’s a good idea to get feedback from anyone that you can: your parents, your siblings, your teachers, your friends, it could be anyone. You can also check out how to improve your drafts by reading “How to Make Your Application Essay Stand Out.”

The earlier you write your initial draft, the more feedback you can get, and ultimately, you’ll feel a lot more confident about your essays when you do submit your application.

The Time to Start Is Now

So start preparing now. Even if you’re the type that procrastinates until the last minute (I’m with you there) this is one thing that you’ll want to be thinking about early. Even if you’re a freshman or sophomore, start thinking about college options now. If you’re a junior, look at the applications. And if you’re a senior, don’t put off those essays—start now. You’ll be grateful that you did!


Another way to prepare is by working with a CollegeVine Mentor!

Christina Crosland

Christina Crosland

Christina Crosland is currently a senior studying Interdisciplinary Humanities at Brigham Young University. Since the day she was born, Christina has called the West her home, and she is proud to say that she graduated from a little high school in Idaho. And while her home lies in one place, her heart lies in the great unknown. Traveling has always been her interest and reading of fantastical journeys her passion.
Christina Crosland