It never ceases to amaze us how many students wait until the very last minute to do the vast majority of the work on their college applications. College essays should not be written over winter break, right before the college application deadline. They should be written way beforehand! But we suppose saying as much changes nothing since we say the same thing every year and every year we help students at the very last minute with their college applications. It’s remarkable just how many procrastinators there are among high school students.
When students write their college essays at the very last minute, there isn’t as much opportunity to revise. And good writing is about revising, revising, revising. How many rewrites can one possibly do if the first draft of a college essay isn’t written until December 28th? Not many — considering that student only has a couple of days to get that essay in. Rarely — and by rarely we mean never — do students write a fantastic college essay on their first draft. In over twenty years of offering college admissions counseling to students around the world, we’d be hard-pressed to think of a single instance when this happened. Good writing is about rewriting. It’s true of college essay writers. It’s true of professional novelists, screenwriters, and journalists.
Is it narcissism to think that one can hammer out a remarkably compelling essay on the first draft? Perhaps. Perhaps it’s just a fundamental misunderstanding of how good writing happens. Good writing happens by taking time in between drafts, to reflect a bit. Maybe something you wrote last week was terrible but it will take a week to realize it. It’s this very sort of thing that one won’t have opportunity to realize if one waits until December 28th to write college essays. So, high school juniors, don’t make these kinds of mistakes!