Audience and Purpose of Essays

When a copywriter writes and advertisement, he considers his target audience and tailors his writing to them in order to increase sales or brand awareness. When screenwriters at Disney write a script for a new movie, they also consider their audiences. So if all of those important people and companies consider their audience and purpose, doesn’t it make sense for you to do the same when you are writing essays?

Most students do have some understanding about those concepts. For example, most of you probably have enough common sense not to write swear words in an academic essay (unless it’s part of a quote that you are analyzing, of course). However, a lot of people do have some misconceptions about audience and purpose of High School/College Essays.

There are a lot of different types of essays that you will write and they all require a slightly different approach. There is the essay that your teacher assigned to you, the essay that you write at home vs. the one that you write on an exam, the SAT essay, the scholarship essay, the college application essay, and probably other types of essays that I forgot to mention. For the sake of time, I will focus on essays that your teacher assigned to you as part of the course/class (I will not make the distinction about wether it’s on an exam or you have time to write at home) and college application essays (for the US). However, for all of this essays, you should consider your audience and purpose so this post applies to those as well.

An Essay that Your Teacher Assigned

Purpose: A lot of students think that the purpose of an essay is either 1.) to do research 2.) to learn something 3.) to express themselves 4.) to inform the teacher about the topic or 5.) to show the teacher what you know about the topic. All of those explanations might be accurate from the perspective of the teacher. However, we are focusing on your perspective not the teachers.

From your perspective, there are only 2 purposes for writing an essay:

  1. To get a good grade on the assignment
  2. To make your teacher like you

This means that you write what your audience (teacher) wants you to write and in a style that your audience (teacher) wants you to write it. You should focus on those two aspects more than on actually expressing your opinion on a certain topic or choosing an exciting topic to research. Save your ideas and opinions for your diary, your blog, your novel, or your collection of short stories. Feel free to express yourself freely outside of class. However, the classroom is not the time and place for you to do so.

Audience:  The audience of an essay that your teacher had assigned is obviously your teacher (Or in some cases, your TA’s). However, knowing this fact isn’t enough. You need to figure out what your audience (in this case your teacher or TA’s) like and doesn’t like.

Most teachers like:

  1. Formal, academic language and the use (overuse and abuse) of relevant jargon/key words. By key words, I mean words that she had defined or that were defined in your textbook.
  2. As much information as possible that had been covered in class.
  3. Boring, long sentence structure, word choice, organization, and tone. In fact, if you want to fall a sleep while reading your essay, you are probably doing something right.
  4. If the teacher wants to see an outline, you should submit an outline. And you should stick to that outline. Even if that means that your essay will sound unnatural.
  5. Paragraphs (this one is obvious)
  6. Introduction (can be boring, in most cases), body paragraphs (minimum of 3) and conclusion (will be even more boring than the introduction).
  7. Longer than it actually has to be. If something can be written in 10 words instead of 1, you should write it in 10. The longer you write, the better. Even if there is a word limit, teachers almost always over estimate how much you should write. So you will end up using a lot of useless words to fill up space.
  8. Whatever aligns with your teacher’s personal and political beliefs and what she thinks is the best answer. If your class contains controversial content, you choose the side of the teacher. If your teacher is a liberal, you write about how affirmative action is good, economic inequality is bad, woman are being oppressed by the patriarchy, etc… (Obviously, it should be relevant to the lesson. Don’t just list random facts that match with your teacher’s political beliefs). If your teacher has a certain interpretation of a novel and you believe in another interpretation, stick with your teacher’s interpretation. In most cases, assume that your teacher/professor/TA is liberal (Statistically speaking, there are more of them in Academia)
  9. Over explanation of the analysis. Even if something sounds like common sense, it’s always better to explain it.
  10. And of course, it should have good grammar, spelling, and match the rubric.

WARNING: This is an awful way to write anything in the real world. This advice only applies to how you should write in the classroom. Outside of school work, you should do the opposite of most items written above.

Now, what I have listed is what most teachers like/expect to see. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. Some teachers want to see counter arguments. Some, do want their students to challenge their ideas and play devil’s advocate. Some want the writing to sound pretty. For example, one of my teachers wanted all of our essays to be  poetic because she was obsessed with Shakespeare. (In this case, you better start reading Macbeth and learning poetry). Therefore, if you know who will be grading your work, you need to figure out what that person wants. If you can’t figure out who, specifically, will be grading your work (there are 10 TA’s in the class and the professor randomly hands out essays for them to grade),  stick with the outline above. It’s the safest bet.

How to Find out What Your Teacher Specifically Wants?

If you know the exact person who will be grading your work, than you are in luck. You know who to tailor your writing to. Now, what you should do is conduct “research” (figure out what your teacher wants).

There isn’t one way of going about research. Also, some methods work and others don’t in certain situations. With this said, here are some ideas of how you can go about this:

  • Ask for samples of work from previous students that got A’s. Make sure that that student was in your teacher’s class and that she is not simply handing out some old exemplars from the department.
  • Ask people who had previously been in her class about what the professor/teacher is looking for.
  • Read Ratemyprofessor.com and other websites. You might find something on them.
  • Talk to the teacher during office hours or recess (if you are in High School). No. Don’t ask your teacher, “what do you want me to write?”. That’s a stupid question. You will not get a good answer. Instead, ask for specific advice, casually talk to her to understand the type of person she is, ask her what she thinks is “good writing”/”bad writing”, etc… During this conversations, what she says is often less important than how she says it.
  • If your professor/teacher talks politics, pay attention. If your teacher emphasizes something over and over again, pay attention.
  • After you get feedback on your first assignment, make sure to read it carefully. This feedback will give you an idea about the type of writing that the teacher wants to see in the future.
  • Find a classmate who got an A on the assignment and ask to read his/her work. Chances are, at least one of the A students will agree.
  • Talk to the TA’s (if in college). They might have important insights that they might share with you.
  • Do a quick, Google search of the teacher. And no. Don’t friend your teacher on Facebook or stalk her.

College Admission Essays

Purpose: Similarly to the teacher case, the purpose of the college admission essay should not be about expressing yourself, about telling “your story”, or about being honest. There are a bit more variation when it comes to the purpose of your college admission essay (from your perspective). The purposes of the college admission essay are:

  1. For you to get accepted with an unconditional (preferably) or conditional (less preferable) offer.
  2. Get a scholarship/grant/financial aid (if this is important to you).
  3. To get directly excepted into the specific school/major/honors program, etc…

Similarly to the previous case with your teacher, this means that you have to write what your audience (admission officers) wants to read. This means that your admission essay should not be your diary or your honest account about your life. You are not trying to convey to the admission officer who you are. You are trying to convey to the admission officer what you think she wants you to be. You are trying to sell yourself and make yourself sound like the “perfect candidate” that the University wants to have. This probably will not be the real version of you. So feel free to lie (as long as it’s something that can’t be checked) in order to “sell” yourself to your audience.

Audience: Your audience are the admission officers of the University. So similarly with the previous example, you should figure out what they (most likely) want to hear. Unlike with the teachers, you will not be able to identify the actual people or person who will be reading your work. So you will have to think about the “most likely scenario”. If you are absolutely obsessed with doing research, try to find something on College Confidential or contact students that already got accepted by the University. Maybe, they will say something useful.

The admission officers most likely want to hear:

  1. About how you want to “make the world a better place” and “save the world”. Basically, make yourself sound like a nice, caring person who cares about social issues, loves volunteer work, and wants to work for a non-profit. It doesn’t matter if this story is true. However, to make it more believable, volunteer or participate in some fundraising activity at some point during your 4 years of High School. Also, keep in mind that it is extremely unlikely that the University will check the exact details of your “story”. So feel free to exaggerate the truth but don’t go over board.
  2. Leadership experience: If you had an official leadership position/title, than you are in luck. Just like with volunteer work, feel free to over exaggerate your involvement. If you did nothing extra but was named the team captain, feel free to talk about how you gave speeches to motivate your team before the games in the locker room, gave feedback to everybody after the games, helped the coach organize practice, etc… It’s extremely unlikely that the University will actually check all of those claims. If they do decide to conduct an informal “background check”, they will just ask your school “is it true that John is the team captain of the football team?” not “is it true that John gave feedback to players after every single game?”. The admission officers are human beings and human beings are lazy. They will not check every single claim and part of your “story” as long as your “story” sounds realistic.
  3. Liberal bias: Your admission officers are most likely liberals so avoid writing anything right wing.
  4. Diversity: If you are a minority, make sure to highlight that somewhere in your application. Universities are obsessed with diversity now days. This will make you look like a more attractive candidate and also lower other expectations/requirements, which will make it easier for you to get in.
  5. Special circumstances: If you were bullied as a kid, your family was poor, your parents got divorced, you were sick with a life threatening disease, your mother died, you are physically/mentally disabled, etc… make sure to include this in your essay. In fact, you might even decide to make one of these points the central part of your essay. Similarly to the other cases mentioned above, if it’s 1.) hard to check or 2.) it’s easy to check but you can come up with proof, feel free to include it. This point on it’s own will not help you get in. However, this “special circumstances” will make your other achievements sound more impressive, which will help you get in. For example, if John got a 3.9 GPA and was a captain of his Speech and Debate team, this sounds impressive but not too impressive. However, if we also know that John’s family was incredibly poor so he had to work while going to school to financially support himself, his mother was extremely ill and so he had to take care of her, he got bullied at school every day due to his families’ income, and he managed to get a 3.9 GPA and become the captain of his Speech and Debate team despite all of this adversities, all of a sudden, John’s accomplishment’s sound extremely impressive.
  6. The writing style should be better than the one you use for essays assigned by your teachers. It should not be boring.

So by this point, I’m guessing this post turned into a “college admissions essay” advice. 😀 However, the main point of this post was about how you should consider your “audience” when writing for schoolwork, just like authors consider their “audience” when writing for other purposes in life.

 

XOXO

 

Katy Bronsk

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What I think about Cheating in School? 

This question is incredibly easy for me to answer: I don’t care. I don’t care if other people cheat. I don’t care if other people don’t cheat. I honestly don’t see an ethical or moral issue with it.

Now, should teachers catch students for cheating? Absolutely. It’s part of their job and it also teaches students how to be better at cheating. In the old days, cheating used to be a science and an art. You can only achieve such a situation if students participate in cheating and teachers are good at catching them, which forces the students to improve (or weeds out the students who can not improve).

Do I think that students who cheat on exams are stupid? No. In fact, I think the students who cheat and never get caught and have good grades are the smart ones. Maybe not at the subjects that they are cheating on but definitely at life.

I have such a positive view of cheating in school because most of the stuff that you learn is artificial, anyways. You will end up forgetting most of  it and never using it in your job or your personal life. The teachers who teach you this subjects are also most of the time not the best people to teach you (sorry teachers). And they do so in a more theoretical rather than practical way.

The way you are tested on your knowledge is also artificial (again. There are some exceptions to the rule. But we are talking about the standard essays and exams here). How many times have you been asked to fill out a multiple choice exam at your part time job? Or can you imagine being asked to write a 12 page essay with a bibliography for a board meeting? This situations sound ridiculous because they are. Most jobs do not require for people to write essays and take exams as part of the job. Yet. This is how we test people in schools and universities.

Cheating, on the other hand, reflects the real world better than any exam ever will:

  • The rich kids get ahead by hiring ghost writers to write their essays for them just like they get the best jobs due to nepotism in the real world. Than, if teachers have suspicions of those rich kids cheating, the rich kids have to persuade and convince the teacher that they did not cheat and that it’s their authentic work. Just like sales, the rich kids have to “sell” their assignments to the teachers, if the teachers start getting suspicious.
  • Students sharing answers on homework questions or dividing the workload on homework helps them practice collaboration and management of the workload between different people. They also manage to cordinate everything with each other and do so without getting caught. It also means that worser students have to be better at networking. They have to find the right people to help them out and convince them to do so. Currently, it is incredibly rare that a single person creates something from start to finish. Most real life projects are created due to teamwork and collaboration. So students who work on exams/homework have to be pretty good at teamwork, which is an important skill in a lot of areas in life. In fact, there are some (pretty high paying) jobs that are almost completely based on this skill.
  • Students writing what teachers want to hear in essays (although technically not cheating) means that those sudents are talented at “reading people” – a skill that is arguably more valuable than whatever the topic of that essay is about.
  • Students cheating during exams and never getting caught means that they are really good at acting and pretending like they are doing their job while in reality doing something else (cheating). Students who are the best at this could easily perform magic tricks. They are so darn good that even if you film them, you will not see them cheating. The amount of creativity and imagination that goes into creating this cheating methods are incredible and sometimes way more time consuming than actually studying for exams.
  • Risk management: cheating on exams, assignments, etc…. always has risk. There is always a risk of being caught. Students who cheat and never get caught are good at assessing risk and deciding when cheating is worth it and when it’s not.
  • Kids who figure out how to cheat on stuff like community service hour requirements are good at gaming the system. They can figure out what “proof” is required and how to get that “proof” while doing the minimal amount of work. It also often requires knowing the right people (again, having a good network). And if you think people don’t “game the system” in the real world, than you must be incredibly naive. Just ask a tax lawyer who helps rich people pay minimal taxes by doing complicated tax schemes, which involve numerous different countries and legal entities. Or an immigration attorney who advises people on how to get a citizenship in a certain country through “investment schemes.” (Also, pretty high paying jobs, by the way.)
  • Oh. And students who cheat, get good grades, and don’t get caught actually DO study. It’s impossible to cheat your way 100% of the time through Middle School, High School, and than College without getting caught and getting good grades. Most students who chose to cheat and are good at it, cheat sometimes and study other times. So to all of you teachers who are saying that this students “are not learning” or “are cheating themselves”, you are wrong. Because they are studying/learning. Maybe not as much as other students. But they are still doing it. And if they are smart about it, they are not cheating themselves (since most of the stuff is artificial/useless in the real world to begin with).

You can probably add more skills/examples to the list of “skills that student have who are good at cheating” but I think you’ve got the idea.

If the education system was less artificial and the subjects were more practical, I probably would have had more of an issue with this. However, currently this is not the case and I do not feel like defending the integrity of an incredibly artificial system, which rarely focuses on or teaches useful skills. The students who “game” the system (either through the conventional definition of cheating or doing things that are considered ethical but leads to them doing the minimal amount of work) and get good grades are often the smart ones. You can’t cheat often and never get caught if you are an idiot (assuming your teacher is competent at catching people who cheat).

Do I think that you should cheat on exams? I don’t know you so can’t make any recommendations. There is a risk of getting caught and you always have to be careful (and be good at it.) And also use your best judgement. I do not encourage you to cheat (because I don’t know you) but will not look down on you if you choose to do so. And, to be completely honest, I will admire you if you are good at it.

So, to all of you people who like to cheat on exams (and are good at it, while getting good grades), I don’t think that you are stupid. In fact, I think you are pretty clever. 

 

XOXO

 

Katy Bronsk

 

 

Reflecting on my Freshman Year of College

My Freshman year of college is done. I’m done with my finals, my grades are up, and my friends had left home for the Summer. At first, I felt very disappointed with how my freshman year went. However, simply hating yourself for something or being disappointed is not very productive. Besides, I’m still an honors student and I have made loads of friends so I’m probably being way too harsh on myself. Instead of making this into a “I’m so disappointed in myself” story, I will reflect on my successes and failures and what I learned from them that I can apply next year (and that you can learn from as well).

Academics

1.) Quality is Better Than Quantity

What I mean by this is: it’s better to take fewer hours and get all A’s than take 17 hours and get a mixture of B’s and A’s. During my second semester of College, I took 17 hours. I thought that I could handle it because I took 16 during my first semester and got a mixture of A’s and -A’s as my grades. However, I was wrong. My cumulative GPA is still a 3.7 so I didn’t screw up too bad but I could have done significantly better if I had taken 14 or 13 hours.  I would have had more time to focus on each subject. Also, picking 3 difficult classes (calculus, chemistry, and management information systems) as part of those 17 hours was probably not the bad idea. I also would have had more time to join clubs and activities instead of being constantly stressed out about my grades.

I’ve done this because I wanted to declare my major earlier than everybody else. I achieved this goal but had to pay with a lower GPA.

Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 11.16.21 PM.png

Resolution For Next Year: Take less hours (maximum 16). Have a greater balance of easy/hard classes. Also, use Ratemyproffessor.com. No need to make my life harder than it has to be.

2.) Write What Your Professor Wants to Hear

I need to give credit were credit is due. I got this idea from Wall Street Playboy’s blog. They have written a post titled “The Real Guide to Our College Education System”. I’m not going to summarize the whole blog post here because not everything in it is relevant and because you can search for it yourself and read it.

One of the arguments that their blog post had made is that college teaches you to think like someone else and that if you write what your professor wants to hear in the essay, you will get a better grade (especially in humanities/social science/general education classes).

I tried this strategy out in my Sociology class. In the first essay, I’ve expressed my opinion on one of the issues in the class and got a B-. On the second essay, I have written what my professor wanted to hear (about how income inequality sucks) and got an A. I have used a similar approach for the exams, and again, got A’s on them.

Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 11.29.28 PM
I think you can guess  on which one I told my own opinion. Hint: It’s the first one.
The quality of both essays were similar. I spent exactly the same time writing the second essay as I spent on the first essay and I don’t think that my writing skills had significantly improved in this short period of time. However, I had the same opinion as the professor on the second essay and a different opinion on the first one, which had made all the difference.

Resolution For Next Year: Wall Street Playboys are right about this one. Use this strategy next year because it works.

3.) Controlling Your Emotions During Exams is Important

During my first Math exam, I ended up getting a really bad grade because I freaked out during the exam. I tried to solve the questions on it but ended up getting stuck on the arithmetic part, getting angry at myself, and “quitting” in the middle of the exam. On the next 2 exams, I have done significantly better (more than 24% better) because I was calm and in control of my emotions. As my Calculus professor had said: “It’s all in your head”. Yes. Studying for exams is important. But being in control of your emotions is just as important.

Resolution For Next Year: Don’t really have one. I learned how to not get nervous and remain calm so don’t really have anything to add.

Social Life

1.) Academics and Extra-Curriculars are More Important Than Social Life

This one relates to the academics point. This year, I have spent way too much time socializing and not enough time studying.

In High School, my High School Counselor had written in my letter of recommendation that I was anti social. The issue is that I have a tendency to try to prove people wrong and so I spent the whole freshman year by socializing with anyone and everyone, from a homeless guy next to the University to a millionaire trust fund kid to liberal arts kids to a guy whose triple majoring in 3 demanding subjects. I ended up going out almost every day. Even though I met a lot of incredibly fascinating people, I have ended up ruining my grades (partially because of this) and not participating in enough extracurriculars, since socializing took a lot of time.

Resolution For Next Year: Spend less time socializing (once or twice a week) and more time studying.

2.) Socialize With The Right People

Even though I socialized a lot, I ended up making a lot of random friends instead of making friends who can help me succeed or friends who are also studying finance/business. Yes. I have made some friends who also want to do something finance or business related but not enough.

Not only have I failed to make friends within my area of study, I have also failed to make a lot of friends who are motivated to do something with there lives and who, in return, would motivate me to do something. A lot of my friends are liberal arts majors and don’t understand why I’m doing what I’m doing and think that I should just switch to studying a more “fun major”.

However, having said all of this, I have found 2 best friends, who are just incredible human beings and who have always been there for me this year. One of them, I have met at Austin’s Pizza, after I have had a really bad experience with one of the guys. The second one I have met in my MIS class and she had taught me a lot of useful information about how to deal with my parents. I can’t thank God enough for putting this people in my path and I will definitely continue being best friends with them in the future.

Resolution For Next Year: Start socializing with people who can help me, who share my life goals, and/or who are motivated to do something with their lives and who will not drag me down. Stop socializing people who are not supportive of me and who have completely different goals and ideas about life. Don’t try to argue with them and waist your time. Continue being friends with my current 2 best friends because they are amazing.

3.) Remember People’s Names and How They Look Like

I have met so many people this year that I don’t remember half of the people that I’ve met. The problem is that a lot of those people remember my name and, somehow, a lot of those people think that I’m their BFF. And I don’t even remember who they are, where I met them, and what they are studying. I would usually pretend to go along with what they are talking about and pretend like I remember who they are (even though I don’t). I’ve used this strategy until one of those people had asked, “what’s my name?” in the middle of the conversation. I just stood there, mortified. Because whatever I did, I could not remember her name.

Resolution For Next Year: Keep track of who I meet and remember them. Because, apparently, I am a very memorable human being.

Extra-Curriculars

1.) Better to Join Less Clubs but be More Involved

Similarly to academics, quality trumps quantity.

I have joined a bunch of clubs my freshman year and ended up quitting most of them. In my High School, I didn’t had a lot of options when it came to extra-curriculars. In college, there is just so much to do and so many clubs to join. I felt like a kid in the candy store who wanted to try out everything. Even though I had a lot of fun (and don’t regret it because I figured out which clubs to join next year), I ended up not participating in any clubs meaningfully and (obviously) haven’t gotten elected for any leadership positions in any of the clubs.

Resolution For Next Year: Join 1-2 of the right organizations and participate a lot. Try to get a leadership position in one of those clubs by the end of next year.

2.) Meetings Are Boring But Necessary

For the finance related organizations that I have joined, the weekly meetings are pretty boring. You just sit there, listen to some people who make presentations, and pretend not to be bored. It’s like attending an additional class. Even though the information that they were talking about was interesting, you, yourself, are not doing anything. You just sit there and listen to other people talking. Because of this, I ended up not going to a lot of the weekly meetings.

However, what I have realized is that those meetings help  you  make friends with the right people. All of the people at this organizations are interested in the same things you are interested in. This means that it would be easy for you to find people to participate in  competitions, which are relevant to your major, with. It would also be easy to find people who have similar issues and concerns that you do and who understand you better. So even those meetings are boring, they provide a great opportunity to meet new people.

Resolution For Next Year: Suck it up and attend weekly meetings at those organizations in order to make friends with the right people easier.

So this are the my most important resolutions and things that I’ve learned for next year. Hopefully, I can stick with my plan for next year.

Hope you had an incredible year,

Good luck with Finals if you are still taking them,

 

XOXO

 

Katy Bronsk

PS: Sorry for not writing for so long. I just had a lot of exams that I had to do and then I started my Summer job so was getting used to the new work load.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Survive a “Busy Week” in College

This week was hell for me (academically). I had a test on Wednesday, a Math assignment due on Monday, 3 assignments due on Thursday, and to top it all of, a 20 page essay due on Friday for American Studies. On top of that, I had 2 interviews that I had to prepare for, this Blog, which I made a goal to update at least once a week, and my stock portfolio, which I had to update. From the beginning of the week, I felt overwhelmed. On Thursday, I ended up going to sleep at 5 AM and waking up at 7, almost pulling an all nighter. On the other days during this week, I would go to sleep at 2 or 3 AM. By Friday, I felt burned out, overwhelmed, and like I wanted to hit my annoying roommate who distracted me from working on this 20 page essay during my Spring Break. At the end, I did survive, turned in all of my assignments on time, and now feel incredibly happy about it. So this post will be about how to survive a tough week (or two) in college, when you feel overwhelmed, have a lot of work to do, and end up pulling an all nighter (or a bunch of them).

NOTE: This is not a competition of who had more work to do on a certain week. Everybody is different and everybody can manage different workloads. The defining quality of a “Busy Week” is that you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that you have to complete, you end up staying late on multiple nights in arrow and pulling all nighters or almost pulling all nighters, and you feel exhausted by the end of the week. The details are less important then the actual feeling and I do not want to get involved in a who-had-it-worse debate.

Why and When do “Busy Weeks” happen?

“Busy Weeks” happen because professors are evil and want to make college students’ life a living hell.

Joking. “Busy Weeks” happen because the majority of courses have a similar structure to them. They start with professors introducing themselves. Then, professors teach you content. At the end, you get “tested” on that content, most likely either with an Essay or an Exam. Since courses are often split into units of similar lengths, it’s likely that a lot of your courses will have tests on similar days (A.K.A. In one week or in two weeks). Similarly, Essays will often be due at similar times for this reason. The bad part is that you can’t do anything about this system. The good part is, that your “Busy Weeks” will be predictable and not that often so you will have downtime to rest.

In College, it usually happens around midterms and finals. In High School, it’s more random but most classes still follow a certain structure so you have more “busy” weeks, followed by periods of down time.

1st Step: Try to avoid the “Busy Week”

Basically, don’t do what I did with my American Studies essay. My professor had given this assignment over a month ago. However, I chose to procrastinate and leave it until the final week, when I had 2 other tests to study for and a bunch of other assignments to complete.

If you have an essay assigned for you to do over a long period of time, start working on it during your “downtime” period. For example, work on it during your Spring Break or Fall Break or when you don’t have a lot of other tests or assignments going on. By doing this, you will avoid having to stay up until 3 AM to do the essay the day it is due and most likely increase the quality of your work.

However, even by having the essay out of the way, you might still end up in a situation where you have a bunch of tests happening at the same time, with a bunch of smaller assignments due so you might still end up in the “Busy Week” situation.

Or maybe you did procrastinate and ended up in a “Busy Week” situation because of that. Or maybe a family emergency happened and distracted you. Whatever the situation is, it’s life and bad stuff happens. This means that it is possible that a “Busy Week” will happen in college, no matter how much you try to avoid it. However, by not procrastinating on the work that you can do early, you will reduce your work load during “Busy Week” and make it less painful.

2nd Step: Access Your Situation Objectively and Come Up With A Plan

During the weekends, look at what assignments, test, exams, etc… you have coming up for the week. You already most likely know when what tests are coming up and start to feel overwhelmed about it. However, putting them in your schedule, will allow for you to face your fears.

After you finish putting the times and dates of when everything is due in your calendar, you should plan out specifically when you will study for what during that week and what you need to get done on and by each of those days. Be honest about the amount of time that it would take for you to do each assignment. During “Busy Week”, you do not have a lot of time to do everything that you need to get done. This means that your time management skills will become incredibly important. You can do effective time management only if you are being honest to yourself. This means that it’s important for you to honestly answer, how many hours it will take for you to complete every task. You should also define the tasks that you need to complete. For example, if you need to memorize a bunch of dates for history and you like to memorize dates separately from all other content, this should be separated into a different task.

After you have decided how much time it will take to do everything, fill this time in your schedule for the week. Try to be creative with your time management and utilize every minute of the day that you can. For example, if you have 1 hour in between classes, use this time to work on something instead of socializing with your friends or day dreaming.

3rd Step: Follow Your Plan (the most painful part during “Busy Week”)

Most likely, your plan will start with the beginning of classes and end late at night, with no space for socializing, checking Facebook, going out, or doing anything apart from going to class, eating, sleeping (hopefully) and studying. (If you have extra curricular activities or a job, obviously this will be included as well. However, if you can skip some of your non-academic obligations or classes in which attendance isn’t mandatory and that are easy for you to handle, I would go for it.)

As painful as it will be, force yourself to stick to this schedule. A lot of people will advise you to “study in small chunks” and “take breaks.” I agree with this advice in situations when you have a lot of time. However, when you have a day left before the test and you have 10 pages of notes to memorize, you don’t have time for breaks, Facebook, etc… You only have time to force yourself to sit down and study. So do separate your activity into smaller chunks but do those chunks one after the other. If you want some variety in your activities, switch from doing one task to another but don’t start abandoning your work and doing something to relax. Unfortunately, you do not have time to relax during this situation. You can relax after you finish the week and get some downtime.

How to force yourself to do it

I usually do not have a problem with forcing myself to sit down and study or write an essay for a long period of time. I always just naturally have enough will power to do it. However, if you are not like me, here’s a list of things that you can tell yourself/do to make yourself go through this process a bit easier:

  • Tell yourself that if you don’t end up studying (or doing whatever you have to do) right now, you increase your chances of having an all nighter (which is most likely true)
  • Remind yourself why you chose to go to College in the first place and what your end goal is.
  • Tell yourself that it will feel really good once you finish everything (this one is also true)
  • Listen to music (when doing more repetitive tasks that have to be done)
  • Block social media on your devices and get rid of other distractions.
  • Go to a place where you know you will be able to concentrate
  • Come up with a reward to give yourself once you are done (But make sure to make it quick so do something like eat a chocolate bar)
  • Choose a demanding career that you can at least a bit identify with. Then think to yourself, “If the person in (insert the chosen demanding career) able to do (insert what this person does) repeatedly and constantly for 100 hours/week, I can force myself to sit down and finish and work hard for a week. People in (insert the career) are able to do it and none of those people have died. Therefore, I can also do it and everything will be alright” (I sometimes told myself this one when staying up very late)
  • Remind yourself that this situation is temporary and that, no matter the outcome, it will all be over soon

4th Step: Try to Get Some Sleep (Or not if it’s only an essay)

After you are done following the plan and finished everything, try to get some sleep if you have time for it. Especially if you have Exams that you have to do, getting sleep will help you perform better, since you will be less tired and will be able to focus better. If I have a choice between studying more for an Exam or sleeping, I usually choose sleep (assuming that I’ve memorized everything already and did the basics). For some exams, I never pull all nighters (such as Math, which I have described in my previous article).

If you only have an essay due and no tests for any of your classes on the day that the essay is due and you are a night owl, it’s wiser for you not to go to sleep and instead spend all of that time revising the essay. All you’ll have to do the next day is print that essay, show up to class, and hand that essay into your professors hands (and/or submit it online, which is even easier). All of this tasks do not require a lot of cognitive ability and you would be able to do it while acting and feeling like a zombie. Yes, it will be unhealthy and you will look like a mess but a revised essay will give you a higher grade then a non-revised one. Besides, you probably got yourself into this mess by procrastinating and so you don’t really get to complain when it comes to essays.

5th Step: Turn in that paper, do the tests, etc…

Basically, go through the motions and do all of that stuff that you worked/studied for.

NOTE: This step will go simultaneously with Step #4 since you probably will have a test and you will have to continue studying for the next test right after until you do your “final” thing on that week.

6th Step: Reward Yourself

After finishing a bunch of exams in a row, I usually like to reward myself by going out somewhere, meeting with a bunch of friends, or doing something fun. So have fun. Reward yourself. You earned it.

Additional Tips

  •  If you have a bunch of small homework assignments due, cheat on them if you can. Make sure to not get caught but if there is a low risk way to cheat on them, do it. For example, use an online derivatives calculator for Calculus homework or ask your trusted friend about what he got on the homework. You need all the time you can save.
  • Do the small/unimportant assignments as quickly as possible. Do them first to get them out of the way.
  • Skim through the book instead of reading it. For some subjects, don’t even bother with the book.
  • For essays, try your best to pay attention to details and get everything as perfectly as possible.
  • For tests, focus on the most important concepts that you have to know and study those first. Then, move on to less obvious things (with the exception of Math but I already wrote about it and will not repeat myself)
  • Eat chocolate, drink coffee, etc… (Do this only if you feel like you absolutely have to)

Things to Avoid

  • Doing anything that you don’t absolutely have to do instead of studying
  • Complaining about having to study on Facebook, Twitter, on the phone with your best friend, etc… (you are only wasting your time. If you want to complain, you can do this after you finish doing whatever it is you are doing)
  • Doing “study drugs” (unless you were prescribed them for a legitimate reason. I feel really disappointed in my generation that I even have to mention this but this is a topic for a different time)
  • Making skipping class, procrastinating, skipping your non academic obligations, and not doing your small assignments properly a habit. (This tactic should only be used rarely and in emergency situations, not all the time)

 

Good luck on your essays and midterms,

 

XOXO

 

Katy Bronsk