Leighton Rowell
Leighton Rowell Credit:

I spent most of my winter break writing college application essays.

Some colleges require no essays, but the majority of them do. As applicants, we are warned against clichéd topics, such as trips abroad, volunteer work or tales of various accomplishments. Colleges insist that we delve into a vast reserve of past experiences to find a topic that will adequately engage admissions officers. Having lived only 17 years, I don’t have all that many life stories to tell.

Also, I have committed myself to a difficult way of doing things. In the past few months, I have been known to wait until the very last minute before submitting an application.

I work better under pressure. Despite ever-looming deadlines, I consistently put off writing the essays until just before midnight of the day they’re due.

Procrastination is something that plagues high school students—seniors, in particular—with every new assignment. The issue with college applications is that they don’t go away until applicants finally decide that enough is enough. Irresponsible as it is, I have yet to reach that point.

A few weeks ago, I was certain I had found the solution. At the suggestion of my tutor, I vowed to “silence” all of my social networking accounts. Truly wishing to rid myself of all distractions, I surrendered my login information to a trustworthy friend and asked her to change the passwords so as to prevent me from accessing my Facebook news feed, Twitter updates, and blog posts. In the days without access to the cyber realm, I attempted to brainstorm topics and make a substantial dent in the word counts that remained.

Then I started playing the addictive computer game Tetris. I played so exhaustively that I reached the highest level.

Then, after five Facebook-free days, I discovered a loophole. By indicating that I had “forgotten” my password, I regained access to every website that I had abandoned. Justifying my return to the Internet, I reasoned that I was accomplishing less without Facebook than with it.

I have been admitted to four colleges already and I’d love to be done with the admissions process. However, if I seek acceptance to the remaining colleges on my list of schools, I must discipline myself to continue creating sentences that adequately reply to vague prompts such as “I felt like I truly belonged when…” and “What makes you unique and colorful?” in 50, 200 or 500 words.

I suppose I am intimidated by the more creative essay topics, since I fear my own misinterpretation of the subject or an admissions officer’s misunderstanding of my response. The essay I have avoided the most over the past few months, however, is the rather straightforward one of the Common Application.

The Common Application makes applying easier because general background information is provided to all colleges, with each institution requiring a supplementary application more specific to the school.

The Common Application offers applicants five different topics. One may write about “an ethical dilemma,” an “issue of personal, local, national, or international concern,” an influential person, a fictional character, or diversity.

Though I have chosen “an ethical dilemma” as my topic, the most difficult aspect of that essay is the beginning. Unsure of where to begin, I just haven’t.

I know I can write well. I have already written five or six essays (at the last minute, of course) and, as aforementioned, been admitted to college. Unfortunately, I think the acceptances encourage the perpetuation of my tendency to procrastinate (and current state of writer’s block).

Before I started writing college application essays in August, a college counselor told me that starting then was starting late. I don’t really believe that I needed to start any earlier, but looking back, I’m sure I could have spared a few hours on some weekend to make progress.

I can’t wait to be finished. When I’m done with applications this month, I’ll finally be able to play more Tetris (and maybe hang out with my friends).

Leighton Rowell is a student intern for Reporter Newspapers.