Procrastination not the way to go, tips for success necessary

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I submitted my first grad school application this past Friday, September 30. It was one of the most thrilling-yet- terrifying moments in my life to bring it to the post office. Holding the thick stack of essays and application materials made me realize just how close May 2012 is.
I know I’m preaching to the choir for my senior class, and I know that all of you who aren’t in my position really can’t relate to this unless you’re applying to some awesome program or internship in the near future.
You really can’t understand the feeling until you hold the application to your first-choice school in your hands. It is a little like what Plato describes with “The Cave,” as in having your eyes opened.
As for what I did, I plan on going to seminary/divinity school after this year. I applied to McAfee School of Theology at the Mercer-Atlanta campus.
The Early Decision deadline and scholarship consideration deadline is very soon, so I finally sent it out. I have been working on this for weeks. I wrote four full pages for one question alone, and I had four to do.
I spent ages working under the tutelage of Dr. Richard Wilson, to whom I owe quite a bit for having gone over them a few times, and I also owe a thank you to Professor Jenny Zimmerman for the editing. I also want to thank Dr. Brian Rood, Dr. Craig McMahan, and Dr. Janell Johnson for having written recommendation letters.
However, I don’t want to just thank people. I want to give tips to all of you about the process. While I have just sent one out, I also have two to three more in the works, as Campbell, Duke and maybe Wake Forest are all soon with their deadlines as well.
While it’s been tough to balance all of this with the massive amount of writing for classes lately, it has only better prepared me.
Longtime readers of the Cluster will remember that I wrote about procrastination a year-and-a-half ago, after some pretty serious issues in my life.
While I’ve bounced back well since then, the dangerous temptation of procrastination sits on the fence all the time.
That deadline will sneak up on you faster than you realize. It feels quite empowering to have gotten that big project, paper, application, etc. done ahead of schedule. Your work is also better.
While I was one to always say my best work came out under pressure, I learned that I can apply my own pressure early on in the project deadline in order to get similar and even better work. My grades have rebounded this year, and I might get to graduate cum laude or higher after all.
Anyway, this leads me to my first tip about grad school application: start applying as early as possible and force deadlines on yourself. Your professors are busy. Actually, they’re busier than you. You are not the busiest person on the planet, even though it’s easy to fall into that way of thinking.
This lesson was one I had to get over in order make sure that I didn’t just drop application materials and recommendation forms on a professor’s desk and ask for them to do it now. Okay, yes, I did this to you, Prof. Zimmerman, but it was editing an essay!
Most professors will gladly do a letter for you if you have a good relationship, but you just have to give them time. Hence, my second tip: identify your professors early on and tell them early on!
More than likely, you’re writing something. I know that this is redundant, but you are going to need to write the best essays of your life. They have to be on point and part of a greater body of work called your grad school application. I personally wouldn’t have been qualified for those essays if I hadn’t been writing continually for The Cluster, my own personal items, and writing-intensive courses.
A student majoring in something that doesn’t focus on writing needs to make sure he or she keeps writing in some regards in order to be prepared for the essay process in their applications.
This leads me to my third tip, one that will really prove to be valuable if not self-explanatory and expected: practice writing in your discipline as much as possible.
In essence, most of these tips are probably already in your minds. This stuff might be unnecessary. However, you know that classes build up, and all of a sudden, you have four tests and a paper the same week as your application’s deadline.
Hence, my fourth tip: apply as soon as possible. You will do better and have more time to devote to it. I know that this is what saved my application from being lost in translation while my papers took over my life.
This leads me to my final tip: treat your application like a term paper or final project. You’ll do better and have a higher chance of getting into your dream job. This is something that everyone should pay attention to.
All in all, these five tips are something I came up with to help me get my application(s) out on time. I hope to hear back from my number one choice soon in the positive sense, but it’s in God’s hands now.
Hence, I pray and hope for the best. I don’t think you should do a shoddy job and hope to get lucky, but I think that having faith in yourself helps quite a bit.
I wish all of you the best on your grad school, program, or internship applications. I’m definitely in the same boat, waiting around for a reply now. I can’t wait!

Comments on this column  can be sent to Garret.
mcdowell@gmail.com.

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