Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

How to Write a College Paper

I am fascinated to learn about others’ work habits, especially when a pertinent due date approaches like a punch to the nose. One discovers their academic mettle and stamina when their biggest accomplishment with a paper is putting their name, course title, and date at the top of the page, with a ten-page landscape of blank pages to fill in the nighttime abyss of wee hours and caffeinated jitters. This is where you can prove your brilliance in the face of insurmountable obstacles, namely, your own stupidity in letting this paper go until now.
Next time you sit down at ten PM to start that paper due the next morning, you should know that you’re not alone. I probably have a paper due the next day too, and I am probably playing Solitaire on my computer.
This is a proven mathematical fact that can be found as an example in elementary school textbooks, accompanied by a picture of me drooling on my computer keyboard: the number of computer Solitaire games I play will increase in an exponential fashion on each day closer to a paper’s due date. So that means that on the evening before a paper is due, I will play, on average, four thousand games of computer Solitaire.
I used to be a good student back in my high school days, I swear. I used to-get this-start a paper a week before it was due. I didn’t turn into a moron until I came to college, so I have WU to thank for reversing my education. I figure by the time I graduate I’ll have to put a wine cork on the end of my fork so I don’t poke my eye out when I eat dinner.
Just to give you an idea of how awful my paper-writing habits have gotten, let me give you a by-the-clock rundown of how I approached my last paper. The clock starts at 6 PM. Thursday evening and the paper is due at 10 AM Friday morning.

6:00-7:00 PM: Reruns of The Simpsons are on. In the pecking order of life’s priorities, The Simpsons pecks the holy heck out of any paper.

7:00-8:00 PM: I decide that now is a good time to vacuum the rug in my bedroom. My rug is only five feet by eight feet, yet this activity manages to take a full hour. During this time, I get the fifth phone call of the day from someone asking for the St Louis Credit Union. I am starting to think I am the St Louis Credit Union.

8:00-10:00 PM: The movie Dunston Checks In, starring Jason Alexander and a mischievous orangutan, is playing on the Family Channel. It becomes very urgent that I watch this movie.

10:00-10:30 PM: I open up a Microsoft Word file and put my name, course title, and date in the upper right hand corner of the page. Yes, this activity takes a half hour to complete properly.

10:30 PM-Midnight: I go check the television schedule on Yahoo.com to see what television shows I’m missing for this paper. Then I check Weather.com. Then imdb.com to see what other movies Jason Alexander has been in. Then I play a couple games of Solitaire.

Midnight-12:15 AM: I make some toast. And I burn it. I have a glass of juice. And spill it on my phone. Now my telephone buttons stick. It’s difficult to dial any phone number with a 5 in it, so if I haven’t called you lately, you now know why.

12:15-1:00 AM: Some more Solitaire.

1:00-5:00 AM: I sit down and write the stupid paper.

Every time I do this, I say I’ll never do it again. But, of course, you never know when Dunston Checks In will be on cable again, so you gotta take life’s opportunities when they, too, punch you in the nose.

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