The first sign that something is wrong is usually a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.
You notice that every time the date glows on a phone, you start to sweat. Next, your heart races uncontrollably and your fingers fly across the keyboard in the middle of the night.
You can’t stop thinking about the fact that you called out of work again and you can’t remember if tomorrow is actually Tuesday or Friday.
These symptoms are a clear indication of procrastination — a highly contagious and often (academically) fatal disease that afflicts masses of high school seniors every year during college application season.
In fact, its prominence among students has earned it the nickname Senioritis.
Surrendering to Senioritis before you start your college essays will produce terrible results!
While it might be comforting to know that you are not alone, don’t let that stop you from taking preventative measures to protect yourself.
You can stop procrastination, and you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
Better yet, if you start your college applications early, your senior year will be an unforgettable experience.
It is important to understand that procrastination is a habit caused by a combination of disorganization, failing to prioritize time, and a fear of failure.
The following strategies will help you overcome procrastination, begin your college essays early, and set yourself up for a successful college career:
Charting Deadlines for Smooth Sailing. Deadlines Prevent Procrastination!
Understanding deadlines and preparing accordingly is a crucial part of the college application process.
Deadlines are not a suggestion. They must be taken seriously.
College admissions officers will not look favorably upon your application if you have failed to meet its most basic requirement.
- Failing to follow the rules during college applications implies that you wouldn’t follow the rules once you’re on campus.
Spend time researching colleges and note the deadlines for early and regular admission.
Having these dates and not “figuring it out as you go” will save you time and the stress of scrambling to write a college essay at the last minute.
- For further preparedness, consider also writing down the college essay prompt and word count requirement.
- As you scan these notes later, you can decide which essays will take you longer to write based on that information.
- It’s psychologically proven that writing down deadlines and important info makes it easier to remember them.
Having this chart of prompts and word counts in front of you will save you time and effort — instead of visiting websites with that information, you can conveniently scan your chart without interrupting your flow.
- This is an effective strategy when applying for scholarships as well, since many scholarships require essays that are similar to the Common App or University of California prompts.
Create a chart that organizes all of your deadlines, and keep it somewhere where you will look at it frequently.
This might be taped to your desk, folded up in your wallet, or covering the face of your One Direction cardboard cutout (I’m not judging — you do you).
You can separate your chart by category, but it is important that the dates are organized chronologically. Here’s an example:
Early Admissions Due Date
Regular Action Due Date
College / University
University of Uno
Describe an event that had a lasting impact on your life
College of Architecture at Jenga
What are your future career goals and what is your plan for achieving them?
As you complete your college essays, mark them off with a pen or marker.
The physical action of checking items off your list is a great feeling! The rush you get is the greatest remedy for procrastination during college application season.
Success is achieved step by step, inch by inch, so crossing off items will help you visualize success.
Be sure to add every college that you are considering to your chart even if you are not certain you will write the essay.
You don’t want to realize too late that you have missed a deadline and the opportunity to apply.
Save the Date! Announcing the Union of Pen and Paper
Procrastination is a persistent beast, and one way of fighting back is to be equally persistent in staying organized.
- Use a calendar or planner to write down important dates and to schedule writing time for your college essays.
Refer to your deadline chart and make your own (earlier) deadlines for each essay.
In the example above, the early admission deadline for the University of Uno is November 11th, 2017. You might set a personal deadline for November 6th and block out writing time for yourself on November 3rd and 4th.
These self-selected writing times will make sure that you have enough time to brainstorm, write, and edit your essays.
Finishing your essay before the actual due date ensures a high-quality final product and avoids the inconvenience and stress caused by procrastination.
While deciding which days are most convenient for you to begin writing your essay, also consider these questions:
- Do I focus better in the morning, afternoon, or evening?
- In what environment am I most productive? The library? A coffee shop? The kitchen table?
Add these details to your planner and check it before making “fun” plans.
There are going to be times when you’re invited to a baseball game or a movie during writing time, but in order to beat procrastination, you must prioritize and stick to a schedule.
If you have never used a planner, now is a great time to get into the habit.
- You will find it is a useful tool in managing assignments, clubs, sports, work, and other activities in college.
For some students, printing a monthly block calendar is a minimalist strategy for staying organized.
- Other options include detailed daily planners, planners that allow you to set short- and long-term goals, planners with inspirational quotes and questions, and even phone applications that allow you to set reminders.
Whatever organizational tool you choose, be sure to update it frequently and check it every day.
The prospect of writing your college essays becomes much less intimidating when you have your tasks written in front of you.
Grab Your Umbrella! A Brainstorm is On the Horizon
Sitting down to write without brainstorming or outlining an essay is a daunting task.
Use this brainstorming guide during your entire college essay writing process — it’s the best of its kind.
Few students can successfully write a college essay without planning.
- Try brainstorming a list of anecdotes, words, phrases, or ideas related to the prompt you are given.
Don’t worry whether something is a “good” idea. During the brainstorming stage, you are concerned first with getting ideas down on paper.
If you have avoided procrastination, you will not be brainstorming and writing the final draft of your essay on the same day.
This means that as ideas come to you, you can pull out your notes and add them.
You might be surprised by how new ideas marinate in your subconscious and then tug at your attention while walking between classes or driving home from school.
Once you have your ideas on paper, create an outline of the structure of your essay. Even short college essays benefit from this process.
- Do you want to start with an anecdote? Do you know that in the body you want to discuss your experience in a particular club? These are details you definitely want to add to your document.
- Having brainstormed and outlined early in the process of applying to a college greatly cuts down on procrastination.
- Instead of starting with nothing, you have specific and thorough notes to guide your writing.
It’s in the nature of teenagers to skip brainstorming and planning.
Many of your peers will not brainstorm for the college essay — that’s their loss. Make sure you brainstorm, plan, and attack your essays in a meticulous way.
Slow and steady is better than fast and reckless.
Access Denied: Limit Distractions for Focused Writing & Solve Procrastination
Limiting distractions during your writing time is incredibly important.
You can block out as many writing sessions as you want, but if you spend all of your time googling Drake memes and cute puppies, then it is time wasted.
- If you are writing on the computer, consider using a productivity app that blocks websites during a set period of time.
- These apps are often free extensions and allow you to block websites that typically distract you (such as Facebook and Twitter).
Then, you set a time for a certain number of hours, and, no matter what you do, the websites are inaccessible until the timer runs out.
Here are some great website blockers that will help you increase productivity and limit distractions:
Here’s a good list of website blockers. Reddit, Imgur, Pinterest, and Instagram are informative and/or entertaining, but they won’t help you write your college essays. Block them, for now.
Another strategy for limiting distractions is to draft your essays “old school” with paper and pencil. Be sure to sit away from computers, phones, tablets, and other distractions.
While writing, students often tend to overly rely on Google for ideas instead of using their own creativity.
Trust yourself, you know your story better than anybody else!
- If you’re still having trouble with increasing productivity, despite taking disciplinary measures to limit distractions, listen to interviews or podcasts with prominent people.
These are some great people, interviews, stories, channels, and publications to check out when you need to step it up:
- Brian Chesky and the AirBnb Story
- Evan Carmichael Top 10 Rules (YouTube)
- Conor Mcgregor motivation videos (YouTube)
- IndieHackers Podcast
- Joe Rogan
- The Oprah Winfrey Story
- Elon Musk
- Steve Jobs
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Mulligan Brothers (YouTube)
- The Jack Ma Story
- The Howard Schultz Story
- How I Built This Podcast
Collaborative Problem Solving: It’s Okay to Ask for Help
Many times procrastination stems from a fear of failure and/or a feeling of being “stuck” and unable to start writing.
- If this describes you, it is important to reach out for help early in the process of writing a college essay.
If you have written an essay but need some feedback, try asking an older sibling, or even your English teacher to read over your work and discuss it with you.
- You might find that having a conversation about your writing will spark new ideas and help you see your essay from another perspective.
- You might also feel unsure about the requirements of an essay. If this is the case, ask your guidance counselor to go through the essay process with you.
- You can also call the admissions office of a college or university to ask for clarification.
Asking for help and advocating for yourself is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it shows that you are self-motivated and dedicated to producing quality work.
Conclusion: Beat Procrastination During College Applications
Restore your peace of mind by leaving behind late-night panic attacks and mindless Internet scrolling.
By following these tips you can overcome procrastination and submit well-crafted essays to college admissions.
Always remember, the best way to write an effective college essay and flawless college application is to give yourself time. Preparation levels the playing field between you and your competitors.
Lots of smart students procrastinate during college applications. You can get your college essay advantage by starting early and sifting through your best ideas, anecdotes, introductions, and conclusions.