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Fighting Procrastination: Five Tips for Writing College Essays

By Ryan Diller
Ryan Diller '17
Actor & Assistant Editor

For many, just the idea of writing an essay evokes the dread of staring at a blank computer screen, the buzz of coffee highs at 3 am, and maybe the classic childhood image of Spongebob Squarepants writing “The” in unnecessarily stylized calligraphy. However, if done correctly, writing an essay can be a highly rewarding experience. It might allow you to develop your thoughts on a subject you had no idea you cared so much about, boost your grade after bombing the last exam, and assure yourself that – yes – you are capable of sounding intelligent. Here are some tips on how to do it:

1. Breathe in

There are plenty of paranoid feelings you can get as you’re starting an essay: is this a stupid idea? Why did I pick this class? Why isn’t my thesis already perfect after working on this essay for ten minutes!? Relax. Find a cozy corner, decompress your thoughts, and let yourself write. Your initial paragraphs, topic sentences, and even pieces of textual evidence don’t have to be perfect (or even good) when you first write them; that’s what editing is for. To that end:

2. Start early

This will ward off stress and give you time to edit. Working an hour a day for four days is much more effective than working four hours in one day.

Give yourself time to edit your writing and work through multiple drafts, if need be. 

3. Know Yourself

Everyone writes their essay in a different order. Whether you begin with an outline, a proto-thesis, or an impromptu paragraph, there is no one way to start an essay. By knowing how you order the writing process, you can schedule your drafting appropriately. If you don't have your system down yet, give yourself time to experiment and figure one out.

The library is an excellent space for quiet writing and, conveniently, is also home to the Writing Center.
4. Have someone else read it

It’s the most recommended tip for a reason. Your professor, roommate, and the Writing Center can all make sure you’re clearly communicating your ideas.

5. Proofread

This is the easiest way to improve your grade and make your essay more readable. If nothing else, at least do this. Your professor will thank you.

Proofread your work and ask others to read it. 

About Ryan

Ryan Diller is a junior English major with minors in Theater and Creative Writing. He is an assistant editor for the national creative nonfiction journal 1966, participates in Trinity’s theater program as a writer and actor, and works at the Writing Center.

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