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December 3, 2023

Confessions of a College Apps Procrastinator

By Dylan N.
, 17
, from Brooklyn, NY

If you’re a high school senior, a  lot of people have probably been asking you, “How are college applications going?” And you know what I’ve been saying? “Oh, yeah,I’m getting them done.”

Truth? I wasn’t really getting them done. Instead, I’d become a master procrastinator, intending to do them, then having a full-blown panic attack because, guess what? Those deadlines weren’t going away.

So what have I learned about procrastination? 

  • “I have so much time!”

When colleges posted their questions in August, I thought, Wow, I have so much time! I mean, they’re not even due until January, which is in 2024! And it’s only 2023! And I’ll have all of Thanksgiving break and two more weeks of winter break to add to all the work I’ll be doing in the months ahead! No problem!

The thing about procrastination is that one minute you’re thinking, “I have all the time in the world,” and the next, deadlines are breathing down your neck. Netflix binges and late-night chats with friends felt way more urgent than those college essays. Big mistake!

  • Distractions

Distractions are my arch-nemesis. TikTok, YouTube, memes – I’d do anything to avoid those daunting college app prompts, and I had no idea how much I was avoiding doing them by distracting myself with mindless stuff. Before I knew it, the day was over and I wondered where my time went. Then I tracked what I did between the time I got home from school and the time I went to bed, and it felt like such a waste.

  • “I’ll Do It Tomorrow” 

When I started to worry that I wasn’t working on my essays (this happened a lot as I was trying to fall asleep), I’d calm myself down by saying that I’ll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow always felt like this magical land where motivation and inspiration would rain down on me. Spoiler: that didn’t happen, because the next day, I’d tell myself, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

  • Perfectionism

Part of why I avoided writing these essays is that I wanted my college apps to be perfect, and every idea I had felt kind of mid. So even when I did work on them, I kept rewriting the same sentence until it felt perfect, instead of just getting a draft down and then fixing it later. Perfectionism actually prevented me from the process of creating a great app.

Realizing it was almost December, I freaked out entirely and knew something had to change. Here’s what I’m doing to avoid procrastinating.

  1. Breaking down tasks into small steps. Outlining an essay? Finishing a paragraph? Heck yeah, those are wins worth celebrating!
  2.  Scheduling downtime. I’m working hard but avoiding burnout by taking breaks to exercise, watch a show, or talk to a friend—but only for 30 minutes max.
  3. Avoiding distractions. I got an app that manages how much time I spend scrolling through my phone. No more wasted hours.
  4. Letting go of perfection. Every sentence doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. I’m focusing on just being myself and letting the writing flow more easily.

Good luck to everyone, and happy not-procrastinating!

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