Procrastinators, you know who you are. You’re the ones who waited until December to start your college essays and spent 15 minutes frantically scouring the internet before you landed on this post. You have a month (maybe less) before the deadlines start to hit and you don’t know where to start. First, just take a breath. You can get this done. Just remember the wise words of Calvin and Hobbes author Bill Watterson, “You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. What mood is that? Last-minute panic.”
Sorry sorry, stop panicking. The first part of the quote is just as true as the second. Some of the most successful creative people were also terrible procrastinators because procrastination is also a way of thinking (so says Aaron Sorkin). Perfectionists (like Steve Jobs!) also procrastinate to delay the messy process of drafting. In other words, being a procrastinator doesn’t make you a bad person or an incompetent student. Still, the word does need to get done eventually, and you’ve officially entered the final time crunch. So, how are you going to get it all done? We’ve made a crash course just for people like you, and in about five steps, you’ll be well on your way to college essay success.
Guilt and self-blame are only going to slow you down, so take a deep breath and let go of any regret you may feel. You can’t control the past, but you can control how you tackle the coming weeks. You are still in the race and you have time to catch up if you buckle down and make time to write.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. The key to writing your supplemental essays is to find ways NOT to write. Compile a list of all of your supplemental essay prompts and group them by category. How many “why” essays do you have? How many activity essays? Chances are, you can start by writing one essay for each category (usually in response to the question with the longest word limit) and then simply trim and edit it to fit with several other prompts. Just don’t forget to swap in the correct school name!
It’s crunch time. You need to write every single day. So, schedule some non-negotiable writing time for yourself and set a schedule you can stick to. Give yourself deadlines for each essay and enlist someone to hold you accountable. Consider making a deal with your mom or guidance counselor: if you meet your self-imposed deadlines, they will help you proofread your final drafts.
This is not a punishment, we swear. When you get down to the wire like this, though, you need to create a distraction-free environment for yourself. No, you don’t have to lock yourself in an airtight container, but you do need to make sure that your writing time is uncompromisable. Sometimes that means staying in when your friends are going out. The time to focus is now.
You have an intense few weeks ahead of you, but that doesn’t mean you should skip meals or stop sleeping. In fact, it’s more important than ever for you to take care of yourself. Make sure you are well-fed and well-rested so that you have the mental energy to really focus on writing essays that truly reflect who you are (and not just the person you become during the last-minute panic). Most of all, remember that you can do this and you will end up at the school that is right for you.