The art of writing a college paper

By Amanda Eakin

There are always givens while one barrels through the AU “college experience.” It is a given that you will get into at least one fight at the Financial Aid office, it is a given that you will snag at least one parking ticket, and it is a given that you will gain at least ten pounds from a heavy Convo diet (you really didn’t think you could get away with eating that crème brûlée cheesecake, did you?).

There is, of course, a given that is even more unsavory than a combination of all three scenarios: writing a paper. Some majors suffer more than others, yet eventually you will come to a point where composing your own essay is inevitable.

Along with this hefty task, you will probably hold off on writing that paper until the day before it is due. You’ve had weeks to prepare for it, yet you’ve probably opted for more tempting routes, such as drifting over to the open, delicious arms of BW3s or the alluring, sultry glow of the Starbucks sign down on 250. You cannot resist.

Surely it is not your fault if now you must resort to desperately cranking out your paper in the black of some miserable night because of the due date that had unexpectedly jumped out of hell.

Sadly, this state of anxiety and exasperation-only one of many symptoms when you write a paper at the last minute-will probably be coupled with the legendary all-nighter. Because of the suffering you will go through, allow me to plot out the key points in your night so you will know what to expect. It is my hope, as we are nearing Thanksgiving break and professors are cheerfully piling on the assignments, that as you sit down to write that monster of a paper, you can prepare yourself.

Maybe then you can beat the system and actually squeeze in a whole hour of sleep before you have to head off to class.

10:30 p.m. You’re feeling good. You just got back from the Eagle’s Nest and have just cracked open a can of Nos. You’re not even tired yet, and you feel-dare I say it?-a shred of hope. Perhaps you can get through this with your sanity completely intact.

11 p.m. After relishing in your happy buzz, you finally open up a Word document. You take a deep breath, stare at the blank screen. You check Facebook.

11:30 p.m. All right, enough messing around. You feel inspired after your insightful yet cheeky Facebook status update bemoaning the pain and despair sure to come as you write your paper. After you have creeped on the profiles of all the people who have liked your status, you are ready to work. You plug in your name, the course number, and date into the top left corner of your document. It occurs to you that you need a title.

11:45 p.m. You are still pondering about that damn title…

12 a.m. Oh, screw it. You put down “Title” and move on. You’ll fix it later. You check the clock and freak out over the lost time. Where did it go? You check in the fridge, but to no avail. You pull out your leftovers from BW3s instead.

12:30 a.m. Progress seems like a foreign word. You are approximately two sentences into your paper. However, you have a general idea of what your thesis may be, so that’s a plus. To celebrate, you take a few victory swigs from your Nos. You realize you took one victory sip too many and just finished off the last of it.

1 a.m. At last, you have finished your intro paragraph. It’ll be smooth sailing from here on out. Proud of your accomplishment, you check Facebook.

1:30 a.m. It occurs to you that you need sources for your paper. You start Googling your topic, but become distracted by researching the amount of calories in Asian Zing wings and the cancerous properties of energy drinks.

2 a.m. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy when you wrote about the anguish sure to come in your Facebook status. Surely the caffeine buzz wouldn’t be wearing off already…

3 a.m. Wiping a bead of sweat from your forehead, you admire your work. There are coherent sentences in your paper, and you sound slightly more articulate than Mike Sorrentino; it’s a commendable start. Why are those words dancing?

4 a.m. Your roommate’s stuffed dinosaur keeps staring at you. It’s creeping you out.

5 a.m. You begin to contemplate the meaning of life. You stare at your Word document. The cursor, which has remained stagnant for an “x” a.m.ount of time now, is surely mocking you.

6 a.m. You think about driving to Denny’s. At least they would be open, unlike most places in this God-forsaken town…is there a God?

7 a.m. Your roommate’s snoring reminds you why you hate people. To exercise your arm muscles, since you have remained cemented to your chair for so long, you retrieve the Nos can from the garbage and chuck it at your roommate. Yet she sleeps on, unfazed. Must be nice.

7:30 a.m. Ah, the sunrise. What a glorious sight. The thought strikes you that perhaps you should start wrapping up your paper. Class starts in…what? Less than two hours?

8 a.m. Fatigue is replaced with a numb determination as you crank out the remainder of your paper. You don’t remember what you wrote-you were kind of in a trance, after all-but it at least it meets the page requirement. At this point, gibberish is acceptable. You’re done.