Procrastination – Avoid it

Recently I had a funny ironic moment with a student. We were reviewing his Common Application essay. He had chosen to respond to Prompt # 4 –

Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

So what’s his problem? He struggles with procrastination. I read over his essay and it contained some strong insightful thoughts. He described his efforts to overcome procrastination and delineated how he was breaking down the problem to solve it.

Then I asked him when he would be able to return his revised essay to me and he asked “when is the deadline?” I was inspired by what I thought were his improved planning skills. I told him the deadline was November 1. He thought for a moment and said, “how about October 26th, which at the time was two weeks away. Of course I knew I needed time to edit that essay version, get it back to him for his, hopefully, final edits and I knew that his anticipated timing wouldn’t work.

So, I grimaced and said “I don’t think you can write your essay about overcoming procrastination and turn your essay in on the last day it’s due.” He, his parents and I all had a good laugh about the irony of his essay topic and the current situation, but we also seriously discussed what is an acceptable submission date for an essay on procrastination.

Writer’s block, being over-stressed, competing assignments, etc. there are a multitude of reasons why students push off writing their essays. But waiting until the last minute is doomed to failure.

Sometimes, even when students have the best intentions, life just gets in the way. God forbid you have a technology issue or you get sick or there is a natural disaster like this year’s Hurricane Matthew. If you think you’re over-stressed now, just wait until it’s 11:59 and you want to submit your application. I tell my students that can virtually count on computer servers crashing at colleges in the last few days before the deadline.

I have heard, and this is not yet substantiated, but I have heard that colleges frequently receive over 80% of their applications in the last three days prior to the deadline. So let’s do the math. According to the 2017 edition of Princeton Review’s Best 381 Colleges, UCLA received 92,728 applications. If these stats hold up, that means that UCLA received almost 75,000 applications just at or just before the deadline.

What is the number one piece of advice my seniors always offer to juniors… “Don’t wait until the last minute to write your essays. Write your essays over the summer. Don’t procrastinate, the college application process is painful enough already.”


Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;