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How to Finish College Applications in time for January 1st Deadlines

Nov 27, 2020

It might feel overwhelming to have to write multiple supplemental essays for multiple colleges – on top of your Common App essay and Activities List. It might feel especially overwhelming if you have to accomplish a lot of those things in a short amount of time. It’s possible that applying to fifteen or more colleges creates some serious burnout, or that the idea of starting to write feels daunting. Luckily, we’ve got some tips and tricks to help you tackle these difficult last months of application season, and feel not only accomplished but also at peace.

1. Plan, Plan, Plan

Putting together an activities list, a main personal essay, and multiple supplemental essays might seem incredibly overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! Dividing your work up in small pieces will make the college essay writing process a seamless experience. Start by making a list of the schools you’re applying to. Then, arrange the list in order of priority and create a calendar for yourself. Determine how many school’s applications you need to write a week in order to meet your deadlines. Remember to take into account the number of supplemental essays you need to write for each school. Some schools require two or three essays, so you will want to make sure to give yourself plenty of time to write each.

2. Reward Yourself After Each Essay

Set yourself goals. You might want to complete one supplement each day or two every other day. Then, determine a reward for accomplishing your goal. This reward can be as simple as eating your favorite meal for dinner or scheduling an hour of downtime devoted to any activity of your choosing. Knowing that you have a reward to look forward to enjoying after you complete your supplement will serve as motivation to finish your work!

3. Try to Change Your Mentality: This Isn’t About Deadlines, It’s About Your Future

It might be tempting to think about college essays in terms of deadlines or as assignments that you just have to complete. Adopting such a mentality might not be the most productive approach, and in fact, slightly changing your mindset will set you on the path to positive productivity!

You should think about college applications as a prerequisite to attaining your dream future. You might be surprised by what you might learn if you stop viewing college applications as just another item on checklist and start thinking about them as an opportunity for growth!

4. Free Write

For many of us perfectionists, it might be hard to wrap our heads around the idea that a college essay doesn’t have to be 100% perfect right from the start. In fact, producing a mediocre first draft might actually set you in the direct direction for success. If you’re stuck on a prompt, start by writing down the first thing that comes to mind. This might mean writing bullet points, sentence fragments or run-on sentences. The important thing is that you just start writing. This sort of writing will get your gears turning and eventually, it will lead you to a great idea.

After you’ve finished free writing or writing by association, set the essay aside for a day and return to it the next. Looking at your free writing with a fresh set of eyes will most likely give you a great idea to run with. Try this method—it really works!

5. Have a Conversation with a Teacher, Friend, or Family Member

If you’re stuck on a particular essay topic, chances are you might find some inspiration from the people around you. Talk to a teacher about an accomplishment you’ve achieved in their class. Ask a friend how they would describe you and why they find your friendship meaningful. Strike up a conversation with your mom about an important milestone that you had growing up. Discussing your experiences with someone who knows you fairly well might clue you into a potential essay topic that you might not have thought of yourself—and who knows, you might just learn something new about yourself!

6. Create a Study Group with Friends

Chances are you’re not alone in the college application process! If you and your friends are all writing apps, why not write apps together to keep each other motivated? Set aside a couple of hours each week to hold a group study session with friends. If one person is doing work, it will motivate everyone else to write as well! Use your friends as a motivating force to stay productive.

Most importantly, remember that college is a time for self-discovery, and college apps are the first stepping stone into a well of opportunity. Treat this time as a time for yourself. Take a deep breath. Relax. Just write.