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How to Write a College Essay Fast

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essay writing clockThere are myriad reasons why you might need to pen a college essay at lightning speed. You may have scribbled down the wrong deadline by mistake, and then realized you had two days to submit—not seventeen! You may have fallen head over heels for a college that was barely on your radar after a marvelous campus tour. You may have left your work to the very last minute after promising you’d never do that again!! Grr!!

Regardless of the reason you find yourself here, one thing is clear: you have to write a college essay—and fast.

To expedite the process, we recommend you:

1) Set the timer for 10 minutes and write down everything that comes to mind. 

Do not censor yourself or edit a single thing. Just let it flow. Any ideas that come to mind. You can ask yourself: What makes me unique? What do I want admissions to know about me? What traits do I love most about myself and how have I embodied them over the past four years? 

Although some students will be tempted to pick a topic and run with it for the sake of time, that can land you in a whole lot of trouble if it turns out the idea doesn’t have the legs you thought it did after all. Instead, take just ten minutes to sit down and think about what you’d like to say about yourself. What comes up might just surprise you.

2) Make a context list.

Once you land on a topic you’re excited about, think about two to three anecdotes or stories that illustrate your message. For example, if you want to write about how you are determined and hard-working, can you think of a few instances in which you showcased these traits? Maybe you didn’t make the track team your freshman year, so you decided to run every single day, rain or shine, to improve your time and try out again sophomore year. Perhaps you saved up enough babysitting money to pursue private voice lessons ahead of your school musical auditions. Did it pay off?

The key here is to not just tell, but show. Anyone can claim to be ambitious, plucky, compassionate, you name it, but the students who stand out to admissions will be the ones who can provide examples. 

3) Build an outline.

Please trust that this will be helpful. Once you have your topic, you’ll want to have an outline that serves as a road map as you write your essay. This way, if you get stuck in the mud while writing, you have something to refer back to, a light to lead you back to shore. 

Your outline can be bare bones or incredibly detailed, whichever will be most useful for you as you go forward. 

4) Write, write, write.

Hopefully the time you have spent brainstorming and outlining makes it so that you have a clear picture of what you want to say, which means there is only one thing left to do at this moment: put that keyboard to work!

Don’t keep track of the word count. Just write. Trust us when we say it is sooooooo much easier to cut down content than it is to flesh out existing ideas, especially if you’re doing this late at night when your eyelids are fighting just to stay open. If you find yourself drifting away from your central message, consider plopping that text in a separate document to return to later. Just keep up the momentum!

5) Step away.

In a perfect world, once you finish your rough draft, you’d be able to step away from it for a few days to revisit it later with fresh eyes. Even if you’re in a situation where you only have a day or a few hours to burn, use that time to give your mind a break. If you stare at any essay too long, it is bound to become distorted in front of your very eyes. Go get a snack, drink some water, play a bit of Animal Crossing (set a timer first if you do, though!). Give your brain a little break.

6) Edit.

You’re in the home stretch—we’re so proud!! You have material on the page, now you just need to take out your red pen (or Track Changes in Word or Suggesting mode in Google Docs) and slash and dash to your heart’s content. Is this sentence not propelling your story forward? Lose it. Is this paragraph meandering away from your central message? Goodbye! Does that sentimental bit ring hollow? Sayonara! Make sure that every facet of your essay is serving your final takeaway for admissions.

7) Get a fresh pair of eyes.

If it’s 11:54pm and your essay is due by 11:59 p.m., by all means, skip this step. If, however, you have a day or two at your disposal, this is a great time to get someone else’s point of view. There’s a reason so many successful writers thank their writing groups at the end of their books; getting feedback on your work from external sources is incredibly valuable. You might have used a word that needs explaining or translating, your closing line might benefit from some punching up, or it’s possible some of your well-intentioned words could rub people the wrong way.

At the very least, receiving a thumbs up from someone you trust will help to put your mind at ease as you hit submit.

As always, we’re wishing you the absolute best of luck. And if you’re looking for a seasoned expert to offer a fresh perspective, give us a call!

Have you visited our Supplemental Essay Guide?
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