I managed to escape the curse of the all nighter until my third year (unless the Royal Wedding counted). It hasn’t been easy, and it’s definitely been a curse, but I’ve learned that there seems to be a riveting hourly breakdown that follows in what all nighters for the average student looks like. A window into what essay cramming in one night is like. Warning: the following will feel all too familiar, unpleasant, and may bring back some painful reminders.
7pm: Fresh out of dinner with coffee(ssssss) in hand, and (half) your research done, it’s go time!
7:30pm: JSTOR spree! If only there weren’t so many pdfs setting up camp on your desktop…maybe you should have started sooner.
8:00pm: Your friend decides to come join you aka someone to watch your things while you momentarily leave the room every hour to regain sanity
9pm: Outline is done, now for a Facebook break!
9:45pm: Your friend decides to leave…weakling…
…You shoot a disapproving look as you resume you tweeting about the trials and tribulations of being a student.
Midnight: Bring out your coffee machine, time to start draft #1.
2am: Wait…your thesis..WHERE DID THE THESIS GO? What is my thesis?
2:30am: Draft #2 begins….scour wait-lists for possible writing centre appointment. Will accept anything up to an hour before deadline at 10am.
4am: Still on draft #2. Time for a 20 minute nap.
6am: THIRD DRAFT IS DONE. Three is all you need…right?
6:45am: The sun is coming up. How long has it been?
7am: Coffee bean supply becomes non existent.
8:00am: Citation time!
8:15am: Whaaa? WHY is Purdue Owl down? NO! NOT NOW! OF ALL THE TIMES.
9:30am: 30 minute nap before class.
10:00am: SUBMIT10:10am: Crawl back into bed, tell yourself you’ll never do this again.
Alas my friends I have fallen ill with the dreaded March head cold. There could be no worse time of the year to contract this virulent pestilence that renders my brain nothing more than a cloudy, congested dome of confusion.
It happened Saturday morning. As soon as I woke up I knew I was infected. My head hurt, my nostrils were clogged, and that little tickle in my throat that I had been ignoring all week had transformed from a tickle into more of a sandpaper on raw skin kind of thing.
Am I whining?
However, there’s a point to my whining. With three papers due in the next four days and an illness, I was inspired to write about extensions. No not hair extensions. Paper or assignment extensions.
I am in my fourth year here at U of T and before this week I had never asked for an extension. You might ask why. Most of my friends get extensions regularly. The reason I’ve never asked for one is that the whole process makes me nervous.
First you need to email or meet with your Prof. and request the extension. Usually you’d provide them with some justification for the extension ie. My computer was stolen, My dog died. Yet, most likely the conversation would be about how you need an extension because you have two other papers due the same week or a midterm on the same day. Worst case scenario you tell your Prof that you started too late and simply can’t finish it on time.
Having a conversation about any of these things with my Profs would give me serious anxiety. I mean why I would want my Prof. to know that I am horrible at time management, or worse that I finished all my other assignments before I even started to think about his.
Luckily, I only had to tell my Prof. that I was really sick and she happily gave me an extension. Even still I am left to wonder if she now thinks that I am a bad student for not being finished with the paper early, so that something like a cold wouldn’t get in the way of submitting the paper on time.
The other thing that makes me nervous about extensions is that I am convinced that late paper will automatically be graded more harshly. This might not be an issue if your class has 500 students, but in a seminar class with only 15 people, it’s pretty easy for the Prof to remember who was diligent and who was not.
I have no proof or basis to say this, it’s just a fear I have. I’m sue lots of Profs. grade papers equally regardless of whether they were submitted on time. I’m only saying that this aspect of extensions makes me very uncomfortable.
I actually found this great how to site on the web…How to ask for an extension! Take a look it’s very step by step and instructional.
I hope you all don’t get sick, but if you it might be the perfect opportunity to ask for an extension.
It’s crunch time! I mean that literally because I have a twenty page paper due in a few days that is still in the midst of being born from my mind. I also mean that figuratively because during what has been a very painful three day essay writing marathon, I have been relieving my stress with crunchy food.
So I started on Friday night with carrots, a healthy option. These provided me with the crunch I was seeing and had the extra bonus of not messing up my writing space. This healthy option sustained my need for crunch for the night.
Saturday was required a snack with a crunch slightly more extreme crunch factor. This is why at 11pm on Saturday night instead of writing my essay I was searching through my storage room for my deep fryer. I found the fryer and proceeded to make these little wonders…
Beer battered onion rings my fellow students…mmmmmmmm! Admittedly not the healthiest of snack options, but with all that essay writing I deserved a treat. And also, onions are a vegetable…let’s justify it like that.
These are fast and easy to make…get an onion, slice it into ring and pop out the centre of the rings, in a bowl mix up some flour, salt, baking soda, and cornstarch and and then stir in a cup of your favorite beer. (If you don’t drink alcohol you can actually replace the beer with water.) Dip your onions in the batter and fry for 3 mins in oil warmed to 375 degrees.
So that was Saturday. On Sunday, i was feeling guilty for eating so many onion rings so I turned to another crunchy alternative that is a bot more healthy than onion rings. Toasted pita with eggplant dip.
The recipe for this is a bit more involved than the onion rings, so I’ll post the link here. This provided a low fat option that gave me the required saltiness and crunch that I was craving.
Three straight days of writing is exhausting. I don’t usually do this. I like to start my papers nice and early, but this term I simply ran out of time. Now I find myself scrambling to finish the list of assignments on my calendar that are all due next week.
I find taking a few minutes to eat something really good makes weekends like this not as bad. It’s a treat for every few pages I finish. It wards off sleep and lethargic writing.
If my tummy is happy then my brain usually works a lot better!
So reading week is upon us and I am buried in course readings. I had planned to buckle down and start reading a few days ago, but alas I procrastinated and started to late.
Realizing that I would have to read for five straight days without sleep in order to finish the three novels and stacks of course readings that are waiting for me, in a panic I decided that I would find these novels on film.
I’ve never done this before. I am of the firm opinion that the book is always better than the movie. However, when the choice is to not read any of the book or to watch a bad movie about said book, which will not be read in time, then the movie will at least give me some point of reference for class discussions.
I lucked out big time with this attempt at condensing my readings into film format. Unbeknownst to me one of the books I was assigned was actually the script to a documentary. In a case such as this it just doesn’t make any sense to read the book. I mean it was written for the screen. It’s like reading Shakespeare…an effort that in my opinion that deviates far too much from the original intention…plays are meant to be watched not read.
So this documentary, that I was assigned to read was actually really great. The narration was written by one of my former professors, which is cool in itself, and it did a great job of bringing the course material to life. I feel that in this case seeing the documentary and reading the book are of equal academic value. Watching the book was just so much easier and more enjoyable.
Is this cutting corners? I don’t think so. As long as I get the intended information into my brain, it doesn’t really matter much to me how it gets in there. If in some cases that movie or play is a more effective way for you to learn the course material then more power to you.
In this particular case, the movie beat out the book hands down. The U of T Library website has a massive collection of movies that are free to borrow. Check out their page and maybe one of the books you are having difficulty getting through will be on film.
I had an assignment due last Friday that reminded me how horrible I am at solving tech troubles. My Word file wouldn’t open, my USB key wouldn’t mount, and my printer ran out of ink. I spent the night moving between my laptop and desktop computers, rewriting portions of my essay. By the time I completed, printed, and stapled my assignment, my hair was in disarray and my attitude was sour.
Let me just say that I don’t consider myself a particularly tech-savvy individual. I can do the basics, of course. E-mail, MS Office, and surfing the net aren’t an issue! But I’m not very good at dealing with anything out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, that includes error messages, computer crashes, and corrupted files. And lately, I’ve been experiencing a lot more of all that than I would like.
I always seem to fight my battles with technology when I’m short on energy, patience and time. And while I’m sure that poor time management skills contribute to half of my technical woes, I’m convinced that computer trouble is an inevitable and undesirable part of our incredibly high-tech society. That being said, I figured I’d share a few tips to prevent tech troubles from rearing their ugly head.
ALWAYS unplug your USB key safely. You may have realized that most computers are constantly warning you about disconnecting flash drives without ejecting. While those reminders can be unbelievably annoying, they are in place for your own benefit! Yanking out a drive while your computer is performing complicated actions in the background could easily corrupt your files (trust me, I know). There’s no reason not to eject your drives, and doing so will keep your data uber-safe.
Use online storage (as well as a USB key) to back-up your files. Many students use USB keys to store and backup their personal files. The problem is that USB keys (and the files on them!) can be lost, damaged, or corrupted. A great alternative to a USB drive is using online storage services to backup and share your files, photos, and music. You can even get some of these services, like Dropbox, for free so there’s absolutely nothing to lose!
Turn off your computer at night. I’m extremely guilty of leaving my computer turned on throughout the night. But shutting it down has more advantages than leaving it on. Doing so will save energy costs, for one. On top of that, it’ll ensure that your computer systems aren’t unnecessarily overworked. And that’s good news for you and your files!
Use a reliable anti-virus program. Unfortunately, just because you don’t open suspicious attachments on your email messages doesn’t mean that your computer is fully immune to virus infections. To protect your data, install and update a dependable anti-virus and Firewall program (http://antivirus.utoronto.ca/). Doing so will prevent access to harmful websites and wave hackers off your computer, protecting your data from corruption.
Upgrade your systems! Following up on system updates is stress free, automatic, and completely free.
I’m sure we’ve all had computer or printer problems at some point in our academic careers. If you have any tips on preventing data loss, please share them! I can use all the help I can get!
I met someone online a few months ago. They are smart, resourceful, and they always want to talk to me. I have become quite attached to them as of late and I feel like we’ve developed a deep and meaningful relationship. With all these essays due in the next two weeks, it’s so great to go online and talk to someone who really understands what I need. This is what I need: scholarly journals, citable dictionaries, and article databanks.
My new online love is none other the library chat function “ASK” on the U of T Library website. This app. Is possibly the best thing ever conceived of in the history of universities! It’s so amazing, you just log in and like magic a librarian is there live on your computer to help you out with any library related needs you might have.
One thing I have learned since starting at U of T is that librarians love to help. They are the most helpful profession. Go and try this. Walk up to the reference desk at your library and ask them to help you find some random piece of research. Notice the glimmer of excitement in their eye. Now notice how they provide you with the information you requested, but they also give a whole wealth of knowledge that you didn’t ask for. You might think “I didn’t ask for that”, but give yourself a few minutes and you’ll realize you
actually do need this information. You just didn’t know it yet!
I’m not a masochist. I will not spend hours in the library trying to uncover research material, when I can just ask someone else to do it for me. Now I know that sounds lazy, but if the University is providing this service to us free of charge, they must agree that this manual labour is just too tiresome for us to be doing ourselves.
I’m sure there was some backroom discussion with all the Humanities Professors on campus, that went something like this, “We’ll find all the stuff for them at the library and you guys can assign another essay or two per term.”
I’m most likely conspiracy theorizing here, but whatever the motivation was for providing this amazing research tool was, I am a much happier student because of it.
Yesterday morning, I was trying to find a scholarly Latin dictionary online, when I stopped myself and asked “why am I doing this?” I quickly logged onto ASK and a librarian sent me a url to an approved Latin dictionary within minutes.
Give ASK a test drive and I’m sure you’ll never research the same again!
This week I met with a professor about nothing. It was like a Seinfeld episode, entitled “office hours”. The great thing about Seinfeld is that even though it was the show about nothing, something always happened.
I feel the same way about meeting with my professors. Even if I don’t have a topic for a paper, I’ll go meet with them to discuss any random ideas that might be floating around in my head. If you try to meet with your profs before you start a paper, then give yourself a hand!
Amazingly, I always leave these meetings with great essay topics, new insights into reading I didn’t understand, and most importantly I always leave with a more comprehensive understanding of who these professors are and what they want.
I really don’t like reading books or journal articles that focus on topics that are of no interest to me. I can imagine that as my various profs sit at home with a mountain of essays to grade that they are praying to the academic demigod’s to make these papers interesting.
Meeting with your prof gives you some understanding of what they find interesting. A friend of mine told me that her prof had recommended an essay topic to her, but she thought it would seem weak minded if she wrote a paper on a topic he had recommended.
My response: “What is wrong with you? Are you a masochist?”
I have been in this situation on multiple occasions and the best marks I have ever received on papers have been the ones that were written on topics that came out of conversations with profs.
Think about it…If I told you that I would like cake and you brought me a pie, I would eat the eat a piece of pie, because you gave it to me, but the whole time I was eating it I would most likely be wondering why you brought me a pie, when I told you I liked cake.
I would probably assume one of three things:
1. You were not listening to me.
2. You do not care that I like cake; you like pie, so I in turn must also like pie.
3. You are just trying to aggravate me.
If this is the mindset that your prof has while marking your paper, there’s a good chance you’re not going to get the mark you were hoping for.
I’m currently writing an essay, the topic of which I find confusing, but my prof recommended that I write on the topic…so even though this essay is causing me great mental pain, at least I know that the reader will be engaged and actually care about the topic of the paper.
In the end, I have to remember that although I am here to learn, I am also here to graduate with a GPA that reflects the amount of effort I have put into this endeavour. If ceding an essay topic to the preference of an evaluator will get me to this point, then I’ll eat cake every day of the week!
Sometimes the best thing you can do about school is cry. I mean it. When you have three papers due within three days and your brain refuses to construct a single coherent sentence, crying is perhaps the only thing to be done.
I experimented with this the other night while lying in my bed racking my brain for a thesis to a paper that is due in only a few days.
I have to say the results were positive. I allowed myself to sink down to that dark place where late and incomplete papers dwell and I stayed there for fifteen minutes or so. In this place, hope of the timely composing of elegant prose and logical patterns of argument ceases to exist and there is a freedom usually only felt during summer break.
For a few minutes, I gave up.
I cried until I felt like I had no more reasons to be crying. I wiped my nose, dried my eyes, and marched back to my kitchen table and sat back down in front of my laptop.
Within half an hour I had a thesis and it wasn’t horrible; it might even be good.
When I started at U of T, one of my professors said something to me that stuck. It goes something like this, “the perfect essay is the one that’s handed in on time”.
Not every paper I write here will be a masterpiece and not every argument I make will not be well founded. Sometimes it’s enough to just aim for completion. That’s a hard one for me to come to terms with. I’m a keener and I demand far too much from myself when it comes to school. I am not my grades…that’s my new mantra.
I find on those days when I’m overwhelmed with my workload that if I just remind myself that all I need to concentrate on is finishing the assignment, then the quality of the paper will invariably come together. For me it always happens this way, once I’ve finished my first draft the stress of completion lightens and then I am a wellspring of fancy words, arguments, and evidence. I just have to get to that point.
Crying might not be the outlet that works best for you. Maybe for you primal screaming might work. It’s pretty easy to learn this technique. Go to some secluded place like your bathroom or your car if you have one and scream really loud. Oh and don’t hold back. That’s it…I have a Prof. who swears by this technique! I haven’t personally tried this yet, but I’m guessing before May comes I will have. To help you a a good long here’s a sample video of what a good scream sounds like.
Alternatively, you might try kitchen dancing. I call it kitchen dancing, but you can call it what ever you like. I find spontaneous solo dance parties are a great stress reliever. I even catch myself doing this at school while listening to my I-pod. If, in the next week, you see a person grooving across Queen’s park, it’s probably me…say hello.
School is stressful and I’ve found that if I don’t let it all out once in a while I start to feel like I might crumble or explode into a pile of broken little pieces.
October is mental health month. Why not take some time for yourself? De-stress, cry, scream, dance…do whatever you need to do, in order make it through the year with your mental health intact. If you need extra help with stress management or perhaps you need someone to talk to, remember CAPS (Counselling and psychology Services) at U of T.
An original Leonardo da vinci sketch; an essay is much the same, no? (Courtesy of QOUT blog)
After how many years of being here, if I don’t know at least something about writing an essay, then there must be something wrong. But luckily, I do, so listen up everyone, whether you are a non-humanities student who detests sentences more than a 10 page equation, or an arts student who might not even know how to do MLA formatting, if I impart something to all of you as a graduating student, this might be it.
The seedling yet to be hatched:
Never ever under any circumstance not talk to you professor. Ever, ok? We think we may know what we are doing, but it’s always good to double check with the professor. Think of it like this: you are a manufacturer producing a product for a customer. You go to your customer beforehand to see what they want so you know you’re on the right track to fulfilling their desires. Give your prof what they want, while of course doing what you like, and you’ll be in good stead.
Always, always read secondary literature on your topic, book etc. This allows you to see what’s been said, get inspired, see where there’s room for original thought. This is not plagiarizing because there is not a problem seeing what’s out there. On the other hand, if you copy what Prof so and so said from the University of Pennsylvania, then we got a problem. Essays, for me at least, are about exploring new ideas. Do something original.
The process of maturation:
As you write, always read over your work, again, again and again. You may start your essay off in one direction and suddenly it takes many turns. These turns need to be evaluated, maybe your thesis needs to be changed, or your arguments. Remember that any (good) essay is like an orchestra: all elements must be in unison to get the beauty of the point across.
It’s not for your eyes only. Consider taking that essay to a writing centre or showing it to a friend. A good essay should be accessible to those who aren’t fine-tuned in the nitty-gritty complex abstract ideas of literature. The message should be readily accessible. The sophistication of a piece of work is not dependent upon language, but rather the idea.
Well, there you have it. Some rules I have followed for the past few years, and they usually served me well. Surprised I didn’t say “don’t leave an essay to night before?” I’ve known people who can punch an essay out with hours to go and still get a good mark –everybody’s different.
Everyone does it, and I know for a fact that you, as a student, do it all the time. You procrastinate!
The first step to combating procrastination is to admit that you’re guilty of doing it, and also to realize that succumbing to it is inevitable. The second step is to find a solution. Easier said than done, right? For years, I tried to stave off my bad habits with remedies that I’ve found online, in magazines, self-help books, and of course, the customary lessons from my teachers and parents.
I started putting post-it notes all over my room, I tried keeping an agenda of all of my activities and I took breaks often when I was working and rewarded myself when I did well. I even deactivated Facebook (albeit briefly). But to be frank, most of these “solutions” felt much like putting a band-aid on a broken leg. Yes, they were all terrific habits to develop, but none of them were providing a real solution to the fact that I simply didn’t want to do the things that I didn’t want to do. Procrastination is not about forgetting to do things; it’s about replacing the seemingly boring tasks with ones that we find more enjoyable. This was my problem.
Eventually, I stopped looking at procrastination as the enemy, and embraced it as a natural habit that most fun-loving members of society take part in, no matter how bad it is for us. So I played with this idea of welcoming procrastination, and instead of trying to cut it out of my life, I tried to find ways to fit it in. I took notes of my habits while I did things that I didn’t necessarily enjoy doing, and what I quickly found out was that it wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to do something, but that I didn’t enjoy doing singular tasks for very long periods of time.
This should have come as no surprise to me, for two reasons. I’m a member of the many Y-genners who think a YouTube video longer than three minutes is too much of a commitment. And two, as I’d later discover, the average human being begins to absorb less information after a period of focus longer than 45 minutes to an hour. No wonder my five hour late night crams weren’t working out.
But then the problem became exacerbated when I was still having trouble focusing on one task for even an hour at a time. I could no longer blame the shortcomings of the human brain. Even after fifteen or twenty minutes, I’d find ways to procrastinate. I needed a solution to my solution.
So, I began making lists of things I had to do in order of priority and separated them between lengthy, more demanding tasks — class readings, assignments, etc. — and shorter, easier ones — responding to emails, exercising, making dinner, paying rent. All things that I needed to do, but all requiring varied levels of effort, focus and time.
What I’d then do was start at the top of the list with a high priority item and start working on it. If after 20 minutes, I found myself drifting, I’d stop what I was doing and move down the list, taking on a shorter, less intense task, and then once I was finished I’d get back to what I was doing before. What I soon discovered was that employing this tactic, not only would I no longer get frustrated with myself for failing to concentrate, but I was also able to work consistently for longer periods of time, and I was truly being more productive. By mixing activities up in a more natural way instead of say, studying for three hours and then running personal errands for another two hours, I was able to keep myself occupied and not get bored doing any one thing for too long.
The trick was to procrastinate by doing other things that I needed to do, and ultimately, get more done! I’d conquered procrastination with procrastination. It’s important to note though, that catching up on the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother or checking your Facebook status is not something that you need to do!
Of course, like every piece of advice, this is a bit autobiographical, and what works for me, may not necessarily work for you. But who knows, we may be more alike than you think.
In any case, here’s a fun video about procrastination to distract you from doing something else that you probably should be doing. Enjoy!