One of my favorite undergraduate literature professors had a mantra that there were no due dates for papers in his class. You could do them all in the first couple of weeks, you could work on them gradually throughout the semester, or you could do them all at the last minute.
However, as long as you handed them in more than two weeks before the end of the semester, you were allowed up to two rounds of revisions to improve your grade, if you weren’t entirely pleased with the first grade you got.
He quite cheerfully told us that it was completely fine if they waited until the last day of class to hand everything in, he wouldn’t mark them off for being late or anything, but you wouldn’t have the chance to revise. He then just as cheerfully asked us what we thought most of his students he offers this deal to them do. He shared that in past years, roughly half would hand everything in on the last day. Ah, procrastination.
To me, a go-getter, this was absolutely fantastic, because I could knock most of my work for this class out of the park while my other classes were still warming up. For at least one of my five courses, I could get those taxing final projects done and have one less thing to worry about while studying for final exams and working on final papers.
This class was a special case, most classes have a firmer structure and schedule. However, this extreme case sheds some light on the benefits of getting things done early. In a traditional class with a more set deadline, there are still quite a few reasons why it’s better for you to finish things with time to spare.
1. It’s good for your own well-being.
Stress is unavoidable in life, especially for a student. You’ve got endless competing priorities in your life, especially if you’re juggling any sort of part-time or full-time work in addition to your studies. Even if you’re solely a student, if you’ve got a lot of credits this semester, you’re going to be feeling the crunch of obligations and deadlines no matter what else is going on in your life.
Subsequently, if you can save yourself the mounting stress that comes with an approaching deadline, you’re doing yourself a favor. Finishing a paper a few days or weeks earlier will completely eliminate that growing pressure. It’s easier to think things through, gives you more time to study or research, and will likely result in a better final product.
2. Your professors will appreciate you.
As an undergrad, every time I handed something in early, my professors were anywhere from pleasantly surprised to positively elated. There were even a few occasions when I was actually thanked by a professor for handing things in early. Though writing papers is a lot of work, grading them is also a fair bit of work on your professor’s side. It’s really nice for them as well to be able to do work on grading gradually rather than be slammed with 30 or more papers all at once and need to grade them in a timely manner.
3. You’ll know your grade sooner.
This isn’t a perfect guarantee since it will sometimes take professors a while to grade the terrifying amount of assignments they need to go over. But if you hand things in early, there’s a good chance you’re going to be on the top of that pile and will hear back about your grade sooner. If the professor gives opportunities to revise your work, this will also give you more revision time.
4. It gives you a buffer if something goes wrong.
Did your flash drive spontaneously die? Did something go wrong when you uploaded the paper to cloud storage? Are you out of ink and it’s midnight and all the nearby stores are closed and your class is at eight in the morning before they open back up? Oh gosh, was the printer at your university down too? Do you need to upload your paper but your internet went down and your cell phone is dead and you can’t find the charger to make a portable hotspot to tether your computer to?
There are so many things that can go wrong. I have both been the student frantically printing things before class and the employee who is unjamming the printer for the students frantically printing things before class.
But here’s the nice thing about finishing your work early; all of those things can happen and if you have a few days of leeway, ideally maybe a week or more, every single disaster can happen and you’ll stroll right through them untouched by the chaos. You got your paper done. You’re totally fine, you’ve got time, even if every single one of those long-winded questions happened.
5. Your work will be better.
“I can only work under pressure, I’ll still come up with something great.”
Nice try, but something you wrote the day before is simply not going to be as complete and polished as something you’ve poked at over the course of a few days or weeks. If you don’t believe me, check out Tim Urban’s Ted Talk on procrastination. He procrastinated on writing his thesis. How do you think that turned out?
I sympathize with every one of his points here and often fall into the same pitfalls, but if you crank out a fast first draft like you would when doing work on the night before a deadline, then go back and edit it, your work is going to be undeniably better.
6. If you develop these good habits early, senioritis won’t hit you as hard.
I won’t pretend to be a white night riding a unicorn; I had great habits as a freshman, largely preserved them into my junior year, then completely fell apart as a senior. However, I always had that nagging voice in the back of my mind, remind myself of all these points I’m outlining for you. Though my discipline was slipping, I was able to seize it when I needed to and finished a thesis over 50 pages long and countless other papers.
Habits run deep and if you have good ones, it’s easier to stick to them. If it’s your norm to do things a week early, let’s say you slip up a little and leave half that time. Giving yourself half a week is still good and you’ll have a better finished product than everyone rushing to do things the night before.
7. The incredible satisfaction of handing something in early as the rest of your class just stares.
And as you return to your desk, you hear muttered conversations of “When is that due? How many pages does it need to be?”
This is definitely one of those silly little extrinsic motivators, but it’s still a very fun moment. It’s a reminder that if you push yourself to do things early and really do your best, you’re putting yourself ahead of the curve. While education isn’t inherently a competition, things get competitive fast when you’re out in the workforce, so it’s good to push yourself to work harder.
About the Creator
I'm from Neptune. No, not the farthest planet from the sun, but from Neptune, New Jersey. I'm a writer, poet, blogger, and an Oxford comma enthusiast. I go by @SleeplessAuthor on Twitter and @SleeplessAuthoress on Instagram.