The Amazing 15-Minute Essay Rough Draft Workout

Your grad school application is well on its way to being finished. Now, if only you could get your application essay started. Are you staring at your cursor, willing it to come up with something brilliant? Are you getting more stressed by the second, and feel like you need to run away from your computer?

Our advice? DON’T RUN FOR THE HILLS! Stay where you are and set a timer for 15 minutes. Simply WRITE, WRITE, WRITE until the timer goes off. Once you write a few words on the page – even if it’s “I don’t know what to write” something amazing happens: In the place of a blank page, there are WORDS! And these words will inspire you to write more.

Here’s how to make the most of your 15 minutes.


Think of these 15 minutes as a warm-up.

It’s not a marathon, but a short jog that will remind your body that is really does know how to run. Even if all you’ve written about is how you have nothing to say, the tangible act of writing will activate your writer’s reflex and inspire you to keep up the momentum and write something else, and hopefully, something significant.

Don’t forget – words produce more words.

Your meaningless “I’m writing but really don’t have anything to say” will probably turn into something more like, “actually, I may have a few things worth revealing.” You’ll be surprised, but it will happen.

Turn off your devices.

In order for this exercise to work, you MUST turn off your phone and pause WiFi. For 15 minutes of writing to really be 15 minutes of writing, you can’t stop halfway through to check your Instagram account or respond to your WhatsApps. It won’t work. As hard as it is, you have to bite the bullet and do it – turn off your phone and don’t open another tab on your computer.

Reward yourself.

You’re more likely to complete the 15-minute writing workout if you know there’s a reward waiting for you at the end. Whether it’s checking social media, having coffee with a friend, or treating yourself to a bamboo boat sushi order, just knowing it’s there will help keep you motivated to continue writing.

Get ready, get set…GO!

Don’t wait for the “right” moment or it will never come. Finish reading this article and then just jump right into it. Turn off your phone, set your alarm for 15 minutes, and ask yourself: What’s important to me? What do I get pleasure from? What are my passions? Now write. You only have to commit to 15 minutes of writing, and when your alarm goes off, STOP. Hit save and give yourself your reward. Remember, you’ve earned it!


Now that you’re gotten started, check out our free guide, 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Grad School Statement of Purpose, to be sure that your essay portrays you at your very best – as the ideal candidate you truly are.


About Linda Abraham:

Catherine Blogger has guided thousands of applicants to acceptances at top universities since 1994 – they know what works and what doesn’t, so follow Linda Abraham on Google+ and contact Accepted to get started or visit for all your admissions consulting needs today!

Photo at top courtesy of Caleb Roenigk under the Creative Commons License 2.0.



  • Linda Abraham

    Linda Abraham is the founder and CEO of Accepted, the top-tier admissions consultancy that helps you unlock your competitive advantage. Linda has written or co-authored 13 ebooks on the college admissions process. In 2007, she co-founded the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) and became its first president. For the last 20 years Linda and her highly credentialed, experienced team have helped thousands of applicants get accepted to top colleges and graduate schools worldwide, including but not limited to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, Kellogg, and MIT. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, The New York Times, US News, The Sunday Times of London, Businessweek, Poets & Quants and MBA Podcaster.

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