Tips to Finish Writing College Application Essays

With many college application deadlines looming on Jan. 1, December can be a cold awakening for high school seniors. Heed the following advice to ensure that your application essays get completed amidst the hustle and bustle of holiday events, coupled with the pressure of regular school and extracurricular commitments.

Create a Timeline

When time is of the essence, creating a personalized timeline is an important first step. Set aside approximately a month — for procrastinators, no less than two weeks — to finish all your essays.

As you design your writing schedule, think about what time of day you tend to think most clearly and whether you would prefer to work a little on each essay every day or on only one at a time but for a longer period.

[Read: How to Write a College Essay.]

In addition, aim to leave between five days and a week for the paramount editing phase. Bear in mind, too, that the time each of your reviewers will need may vary and that they may not get back to you as quickly as they normally would because of the holidays. The bottom line is to allow for enough editing time so that no one involved feels pressured or stressed during the holidays.

Stay Motivated and Focused

If you are struggling to come up with ideas for your essays or to complete them, you may need to get out of your routine for a while. Think about which activities galvanize your creative circuits — working out, going for a long drive, watching movies, meeting up with friends?

Do whatever you need to do to recharge your battery so that you can sit down to work on your college essays feeling happy and motivated.

Just make sure to ditch your phone for a while and ask others at home not to bother you, as distractions will only hinder the creative process.

Write Something, Even if It’s Not Great

Getting started is generally the hardest part of any writing assignment. Writing about yourself can add an element of self-consciousness that makes it even harder. But the key to defeating writer’s block is writing.

[Read: College Essay Examples: How to Write Your Story.]

So write, even if you know what you’re writing isn’t very good. You may stumble on a sentence you like, and you can build around it while deleting the rest. Or, you might find that the example you liked isn’t easy to explain after all, so you need to try another approach. But at least now you know and have plenty of time to try again.

Everything you write — even if it ends up getting deleted later — is progress. And with deadlines coming up quickly, you need that progress.

Tips for the Editing Phase

Approach it with a serious, professional mindset. Editing is every bit as crucial a phase as writing, but because it comes so close to essay submission it is easy to overlook or underemphasize. Do not make that mistake. Some students find themselves spending more time on editing than they did on drafting or writing, and that is perfectly acceptable.

Editing should consist of multiple rounds, with two being the absolute minimum number of times you make changes to each essay. To stay on target, it may be helpful to set aside “work hours” for editing that you put on a calendar and carry out in a quiet, office-like space devoid of distractions.

Use multiple human and nonhuman resources. The more “eyes” — living or not — that you have on your college admissions essays, the better. The reason is that each reader increases your chances of ultimately producing an error-free, logical, effective and smoothly flowing essay.

But do not limit your readers to either solely human or solely nonhuman sources. Sometimes people catch mistakes that autocorrect and other forms of software may not detect, and vice versa.

[Read: Top College Officials Share Notes on Great Application Essays.]

Therefore, start with writing assistant programs to find and fix the low-level mistakes, such as misused homophones or punctuation and capitalization errors. Then, ask at least two writing-savvy adults to make suggestions about your essays. Preferably, at least one of those individuals will have experience in college admissions.

Space out editing sessions. Editing sessions should not occur back to back. Sufficient time is needed for the brain to reset and approach each read with a blank slate.

Typically, this means that you should wait at least a whole day to revisit an essay or to have others do the same. If you don’t wait long enough, you might miss some issues simply because your brain is too tired — or so familiar with the essay that you aren’t really reading it as it appears on the screen, but remembering it as it sounds in your head.

If you keep this advice at the forefront of your mind, you will finish your college application essays — and be proud of what you submit — before the holiday break ends.

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Tips to Finish Writing College Application Essays originally appeared on usnews.com

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