The best time to start working on college application essays is the summer between junior and senior year in high school. The summer is a great time to do this because you can really devote concentrated time to your essay without feeling guilty about not studying for your math test or not working on your English term paper. Undoubtedly, you will do your best thinking and thus have your best results, when you don’t have other things competing for your “brain power”.
Take some time to figure out what conditions are best for you to do your “best thinking” and make sure that you set yourself up this way when you go to write your essay. For example, I do my best thinking when I go for a run by myself. Some people like to listen to instrumental music, while others like to walk. Some like to have a completely clear table to work at and others feel stymied by such sterile surroundings. Discover what exactly will set you up for success as you search for your perfect, creatively inspiring essay writing conditions.
Your essay needs to be very personal and revealing about who you are and how you think. This is not the kind of writing that very many of us have experience with. It is difficult and will take effort. Don’t expect to sit down and whip off an essay in an hour and expect that it will hold up for you. Expect to work at it and anticipate rewrites and experimentation rather than settle on an essay with which you are not completely thrilled.
At some colleges, particularly the large ones that don’t offer admissions interviews, the essay is the only opportunity the admissions folks have to get to know you. Use this opportunity wisely and put some effort into writing it, it will be well worth it.