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How to Pull an All-Nighter

posted by Peter on August 28th, 2008

So, that test snuck up on you faster than you thought, or that pile of homework your philosophy teacher is expecting at 10 am tomorrow slipped your mind all week. Now it’s 9 pm the night before, those memories are flooding back, and you’re just realizing the situation you’re in. It’s time for you to do what every college student has done at some point, and what some of them (albeit not the best ones) swear by. It’s time for an all-nighter. You can do it. Here’s how.

1. Get organized. We’re not going to scold you (like those other “How to Pull an All Nighter” articles) and tell you that you should have been organized from the start. We’re not your parents. But if you pull it together now, you can make it. Put all of your assignments in front of you, so you can see all of them. Rank them in order of importance (think point value and how close you are to bombing the class). This order will be your homework roadmap for the night. Also, if you have any small, easy assignments, make note of them (see step 5).

2. Take a quick stock of supplies. According to wikiHow, you’re going to need cold water (to drink, not to dunk your head), and protein-rich snacks like cheese and sandwiches. Stay away from caffeine until later, though, because if you hit it too early, you’ll just crash later. Stay away from sugar, it’s all bad news.

3. Choose a hard surface to do your work on. Like a desk or a table. Especially if you’re already tired, don’t use anyplace that would make an impromptu bed, like the couch, the recliner or the floor. In your sleepiness, you’ll be tempted to get more comfortable. Resist it, Frodo, you must resist it.

4. Do the most important assignments first. Which teachers will be less understanding if you walk into class tomorrow with nothing but a blank expression? Get their mega-points assignments out of the way first. Push the easygoing prof’s homework further down the list, because he’ll probably be more lenient should you drop the ball, again.

5. Use the easy assignments as filler. Did you make a note of your small, easy tasks? If so, you can whip one out to recharge yourself after finishing a tougher assignment. Your brain will appreciate the lighter load, you’ll feel more awake, and then you can take a quick break without feeling like you just received a pummeling (see step 6).

6. Break for 10 minutes every hour or so. Go outside, walk around, do jumping jacks, listen to music, watch TV, but be ready to pry yourself away from all distractions and get back to work when your time is up. And oh yeah, no napping on your breaks (see step 7).

7. No napping. Some people can power-nap and be okay, but as stated at, if you stop for a quick nap, you run the risk of waking up bright and early the next morning looking like a chump. Don’t risk it. Fight off sleep by drinking a lot of cold water, eating your snacks, reading your assignments out loud, taking deep breaths, and telling yourself you’re almost done.

8. Hit the caffeine right before the end. If it’s 8:30 am, you’re almost finished, and you feel you’re about to unravel completely, you can use your caffeine supply to make it through the morning. Just bear in mind you have to keep it going right up to class time, or you’ll crash like a flaming dirigible.

9. Walk into class like nothing is wrong. Hopefully. As long as your work doesn’t sound like the ramblings of a strung-out writer on the edge, you can get away with your foolishness, pass the test or hand in your homework, and use this experience as a lesson. Or just do it again next weekend. Yeah, we know.

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