Starting in middle school, students deal with all manner of projects and assignments that involve some kind of essay writing. These essays graduate into full-blown papers in high school, and balancing their deadlines against other schoolwork becomes a central focus of time management. It is an axiom that you shouldn’t finish an essay the night before it is due, but when should it be finished? For best results, students should actually be finishing their essays at least one week before that final deadline.
A Real Draft
A necessary point of clarification: when we say that students should finish their essay one week before the deadline, we do indeed mean finished, with a final draft. Not a first draft, nor what many students have been led to believe qualifies as a ‘first draft,’ but is, in reality, a loose, disorganized collection of paragraph fragments. Papers should be nearly in their final form, one week out.
Proofreading is Crucial
Most basically, students need time to review their own writing and ensure that they have eliminated any spelling mistakes, typos, or grammar errors. While most teachers do not take points off for these things anymore, reading and understanding a messy paper is much more difficult than for a clean, crisp essay, and other points could be affected if proofreading is not adequately performed.
Feedback is Key
Few students are naturally gifted writers, able to get an A on any paper for any teacher. Most students need to work very hard on their writing, and it is seldom clear what teachers’ expectations are before papers are actually graded. Because of this, students should be actively seeking input on their writing from their teachers. To make sure they can find time to do so multiple times, with revisions in between, at least a week of time is required. This allows students to obtain feedback, address it, obtain more feedback, and so on and so on until they hit their deadline.
While following these guidelines certainly does not guarantee a good grade on an essay, it will certainly result in a better grade than if they had not been followed. While finishing essays weeks before they are due may seem a tall order, with long-term planning and time management, students can organize their calendars properly and make sure they are never taken by surprise. Then, they just have to write!
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