LUC Alumna and Project Manager at Young Impact
Ever stared at a blank page with a deadline hanging over your head like a sword of Damocles? Fear no longer! In this blog post, I will give you my five most important insights to smash your essays and submit them ahead of schedule.
Tip 1: Plan backward, not forwards:
Planning is overwhelming if you are anything like me and try to juggle studies with work, volunteering, or a vibrant social life. I usually have to conclude that I just do not have enough time to write my essays. That is why I recommend a strategy I dubbed “planning backward.” Start with your deadline date, and let your planning flow from there. For example, if your essay is due in a month, write down that deadline. Then flip back through your agenda and note that you want to have your final draft ready by week 3, your body paragraphs done by week 2, and your outline and intro finished by week 1. I invite you to rethink planning to make a foolproof timeline!
Tip 2: Leave time for editing:
Presentation is vital, especially if you want to leave a good first impression. That is why we dress up for a fancy night out with potential lovers. Why not dress up our essays too? I recommend scheduling a few days before the deadline to edit when you are "planning backward.” If you do so, you can play around with fonts and colors, and teachers will be impressed with your impeccable organization and coherent final product. It is like the difference between showing up in sweats or a fancy suit on a first date; it is the same you, but one version is more impressive.
Tip 3: Keep track of your sources:
A big part of editing is also fixing your citations and bibliography. But not remembering sources or placements of quotes can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. Therefore I always track my sources. You can use fancy software or keep it old-school, like I do, by putting links or page numbers in your “premature footnotes”. Fixing your citations resembles being a detective trying to solve the mystery of your writing process; you must keep the clues to find the solution.
Tip 4: Make an outline:
An essay, in many ways, is like a tall building; you need a blueprint to ensure that all the arguments will neatly stack up on each other on a robust foundation which is your thesis. Creating an outline allows you to align your ideas with your teacher's expectations, and determine whether your argument makes sense. Plus, jotting down notes, quotes, and readings in your outline will help determine if your position is defendable and rooted in scholarly literature early on. Once you have your outline, there will be no more fear that your essay might collapse.
Tip 5: Stay open to feedback:
Lastly, I invite you to reconsider your relationship with criticism and failure. Some time ago, I perceived others’ comments as an attack on my capabilities. Yet, I had to confront that my stubbornness and defensiveness (read: my fragile ego) were holding me back. Show your work to your friends, colleagues, and even teachers for feedback on your creative and academic endeavors. With such a growth mindset, you will see, as I did too, that they are your personal cheerleaders, instead of jealous bogeymen that are out to get you.
Remember, planning backward, leaving time for editing, making an outline, keeping track of your sources, and staying open to feedback are crucial contributors to a successful and enjoyable writing process. Start your writing process with these tricks up your sleeve, make yourself proud, and crush that upcoming essay deadline like never before!