Is your college essay due this weekend, or next week, and you’ve been procrastinating epically? Here’s how to beat the procrastination paralysis and crank out a college essay by deadline.
Note & Plug! The photo featured above shows gung-ho participants in a customized Essay Intensive college essay writing workshop, Just Write, at The TEAK Fellowship. They beat procrastination, just like you will, and punched out some quality personal essays! So, speaking of– back to you.
The moment is Now
It’s beyond crunch-time. You’re panicking that you don’t have time
(because you screwed yourself) to be all that you need to be in your college admissions essay: insightful, creative, authentic, reflective, and thoughtful. (You’re wrong– keep reading). You’re seriously considering writing your college essay on your dog’s midlife crisis as you watch him limp after spastic squirrels. And ending it with a line about the pointlessness of striving in this world.
Think again. Let your dog have his own crisis. Seize your loaded moment for what it’s worth, and use our tips to write.
4 simple steps to produce your college essay rough draft
Follow the guide below to write your college essay today. Commit to an hour for this task. RIGHT NOW is the procrastinator’s best medicine. Instead of despairing, leave procrastination behind with these simple writing tips. Your personal essay will still need crafting and polish (that’s your job on Sunday, every procrastinator’s nemesis day), but at least you’ll have something to polish:
- BREATHE. Full inhales and exhales. At least three times. Because everyone knows three is the magic, wish-granting number. Last exhale, blow your worries and doubts across the room and don’t invite them back until your writing session is done. By then they might have found something else to do.
- Get a clean writing surface– a notebook, a new doc on your computer, your phone, a blank email message, whatever tells your brain “We are putting words in a row now and saying something.”
- Start by writing about why you procrastinated or what it felt like in your body and mind (the feelings, the thoughts) to procrastinate. This will give you a little self-awareness, a “subject”, and start your “pen” moving (a not-moving pen is the procrastinator’s greatest weapon). You’ll learn about your drives and your habits, and get practice using visceral language. Write for about five minutes, getting it all out, not holding back, and letting curses words abound if they help you set yourself free. (This is “freewriting”).
- Choose one of the following topics as a free-writing prompt, and write without stopping or judging for 15-20 minutes: A. A small thing that is a big deal to you — and why (a pen your mom gave you for your 9th birthday, your grandpa’s toenail clippers, the list goes on); B. A time you counted your chickens before they hatched, and how you dealt with it; C. A surprising thing about you– especially juicy if it conflicts with another aspect of your personality or reputation– and its importance. (Contact us for a free copy of our prompt roundup, with a billion other ways to get started.)
TAKE A SHORT BREAK.
I said short.
Set a timer for 3 minutes. Stand up, fake jump rope, drink water, do push-ups, vigorously rub your scalp– whatever you need to do to move blood. Congratulate yourself.
6 simple steps to develop your college essay draft
- Ask yourself what positive character trait or aspect of yourself is highlighted in the essay, and could you emphasize or describe it further (Do so).
- Craft an intro that includes some element of surprise and clues to the reader what this essay will cover. [See these great first lines from Stanford University’s sample student essays for inspiration]. Dropping us right into the action, as if seeing it through your eyes, can “hook” our interest.
- Add a paragraph (or two) with any necessary “backstory” the reader needs to understand your main focus (example: your mom had to write for you until you were in third grade because your handwriting was so bad; kids made fun of you) taking us right up to the most important moment (but THEN for the first time you spelled my name legibly, and your mom bought you your own pen to celebrate).
- Add a paragraph that considers the effect on you of your main topic, and how it shows up in your day-to-day operating (example: you now never take writing lightly; you’re proud to sign your name while most people just dash it off). Be sure to SHOW how you work on the inside– the vulnerable parts of you no one can see unless you open up, for real.
- Make meaning, and leave the reader with something to chew on. A conclusion doesn’t have to tie it all up– no, because life doesn’t do that! Instead, show us the impact on you of what we’ve just read about. A great conclusion is one that has your reader remembering your essay, not immediately forgetting about it. Trying ending with an image or idea that takes us back to the beginning (example: the feeling of taking the pen out of its case; a metaphor for a legible page; your empathy for little kids who struggle to write).
- REREAD and take out any repetition (of words, phrases, ideas– you can use the “Find” function!).
There, now you have SOMETHING. And something is waaaaaaay better than nothing.
Find someone to read your essay
Finally, go beg (on your knees, with all kinds of sugar on top!) for a kind reader to look at your personal essay with you (see our tips on choosing a good reader).
Always read your essay aloud to your audience (you can read one round to your dog when proofreading yourself, but don’t stop there). Your reader should offer you honest, critical feedback and tell you what pops forward about you and your story in the essay (Did you convincingly convey your chosen trait? Can the reader tell why this is meaningful?).
Apply feedback as needed.
Remember– don’t rule out anything in advance. No topic is automatically good or bad: it’s all about how you handle it and the meaningful lessons you take and convey from your experience.
And if you’re still in a bind, contact us to check out your draft. We’re happy to procrastinate on doing laundry in order to help you polish your essay.