Part of what makes working on college essays so hard is that the entire process happens in conjunction with the rest of your senior year. The same time I was writing my essays for Stanford and Princeton, I was running my speech and debate team, working for Student Government, editing the school newspaper and literary magazine, coaching swimming, and turning in papers for my IB Diploma. When I did have free time, all I wanted to do was sleep or socialize. It was a lot. My life was full before college essays, and then it was just plain crowded.
When you’re already an overscheduled senior, college essay procrastination can happen easily. Other things come up, like homework assignments, birthday parties or play rehearsals, and college essays (with those far away deadlines in January) end up taking a back seat. It’s 100% understandable. That’s why I want to tell you about a little trick that I personally used to keep myself on track while writing essays.
Creating Shorter Term Deadlines
When I was working on my applications, the January deadline for essays felt so distant that I didn’t feel much pressure to get them done early. However, I knew that if I let myself slack off, I would really regret it come December/winter vacation. I decided I had to find a way to give myself shorter term deadlines, and also make sure I stuck to those goals.
When I was writing my essays, I set up weekly meetings with my college counselor. Every time, right after I met with her and got edits, I would go to the secretary and set up a time for another meeting the following week. Getting plenty of rounds of edits from my college counselor was great, but for me the greatest benefit of these meetings was that they kept me accountable. I couldn’t go to a meeting without anything to show, so it meant I just had to keep writing and revising. My school didn’t mandate how often we had to meet with our college counselors, but I forced myself to set this meeting every week, because that meant I had to have some sort of edit or update to bring every time.
For me, a week was a good amount of time because it kept me consistently productive, but also had some wiggle room: if I was going to be taking an exam on Wednesday, I could focus on that Sun-Wed and then still have some time to write before meeting with my counselor on Friday.
I also made sure to keep my meetings really flexible: the only criteria was that I bring something I had made progress on during the past week. Sometimes I would bring in draft after draft of the essay for weeks on end, and other times I would switch it up and bring in a different essay every week. Sometimes I didn’t even bring any writing, just ideas and brainstormed topics I had for a prompt! I didn’t spend time worrying about which essays were getting done when, as long as I was making overall progress. I found this made it much easier to meet my weekly goals than to try and be strict about what I was working on and when.
This trick kept me accountable and on a great writing schedule for all of senior fall: I turned in all of my college essays 2 weeks early, which meant I got to have a relaxing Christmas break free from stress.
So to summarize: the BEST way I found to stop procrastinating on college essays is this: set weekly meetings with someone that can hold you accountable. It can be your parents, a good friend, your college counselor, a trusted teacher, as long as it’s someone you respect and trust (aka you would feel kind of bad if you met with them and had to say, “Sorry, I didn’t write anything new this week”). These meetings can be casual and short, and you don’t even need to get edits from this person if you don’t want to. The purpose is just for you to have an external deadline for making progress on your essays each week. Feel free to set even more frequent meetings if that’s what you need!
Try this tip out, and let me know in the comments who you set meetings with and how they’re going! Happy writing!
Have specific questions you want answered? Want to get personalized feedback on your essays? I offer one on one advising available to anyone around the world, and would love to work with you!