Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills

Writing College Application Essays: Overcoming Procrastintation

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So it’s almost the end of October and your college applications are due soon. You’ve written some of your short essays, but haven’t started the long one. You know it’s got to be done — it’s niggling away in the back of your brain, slightly annoying, starting to become more and more persistent, but you keep pushing it back, thinking you’ll start it tomorrow, or the day after, or sometime after that. So when are you going to start writing your college application essay?

Let me ask that question another way. Why haven’t you started? Here are some common reasons I hear:

1. Too busy
2. No topic
3, Too nervous
4. Writer’s block

Let’s tackle these problems one by one:

Too Busy? Divide your essay writing into manageable pieces. Do it in small bites. Take a look at your schedule and see where you can give yourself a half hour at a time. Then divide up what you need to do. The first half hour choose a topic and jot down some thoughts.  The next make an outline. The next begin to flesh it out, and so on. You’ll have an essay before you know it.

No topic? Try these exercises:

  1. List 3 or 4 people who have influenced you. Then write down what you’ve learned from them and how that’s made you a better, more interesting or different person in your life.
  2. Ask your family to help you try and remember a time when you struggled with something that you learned from or helped you grow as a person, and then jot down some of your own feelings about that time.

After you’re done, take a look at what you’ve written. You’ll probably find a good college application essay waiting for you in one of your answers.

Too Nervous? Nerves are common, but too many nerves can stop you in your tracks. The trick is to start writing. Even if you don’t have a topic, just write. Don’t know where to start? That leads me to the last problem:

Writer’s Block: Writer’s block can be caused by lots of things, including nerves, but if you’ve got it you’ve got to find a way to get rid of it. I like free-writing. Go to a quiet place and write for five minutes.  Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what to write, just do it. It can be about anything, or nothing. You can write about the pieces of lint on your carpet or how your little brother is annoying or anything that comes to mind. The trick is don’t stop. If you’re writing and draw a blank, write the last sentence over again until something new comes to mind. Have fun and try to enjoy it. After you’re done, free-write again, this time about the topic you’ve chosen for your college application essay. But don’t write your essay. Write about one aspect of your topic, one detail, or one emotion. When you’re done, look it over. If it’s awful, toss it in the trash. It’s okay to do that. Not everything we write is for keeps. But keep on with this process and you can be well on your way to overcoming your writer’s block and moving ahead.

Figure out why you’re procrastinating and you can get on with the business of writing your college application essay. I hope these tips help speed you on your way!


Author: Sharon Epstein

College consultant, teaching students how to write memorable college application essays, grad school and prep school essays, and succeed at job and college interviews.

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