If you are applying to the University of California schools, you have until the end of this month. As busy seniors, some of you might have waited to write your essays over Thanksgiving, when you have some days off and can catch up. Yes, it would be better if you already had them in, but there is still time.

The key, however, is to not let this last minute deadline dash ruin your Thanksgiving. The holiday comes late this year–Nov. 27–so it’s closer to the Nov. 30th deadline than ever. So yes, you are really cutting it close. If you don’t have a plan, it could hang over your head the entire holiday weekend.

To not let these essays ruin one of the best times of the year–when you are supposed to be feasting with your family, watching football games and focusing on all you have to be grateful for–take a few minutes to map out a plan. These essays don’t have to take days and days to write. If you can latch on to some strong topic ideas, and then pound out a rough draft, you could crank them out in a matter of hours.

But if you just keep procrastinating, finding reasons not to work on these Wednesday (because, hey, you deserve some down time), and then Thursday (because, hey, this is the big day and you are so stuffed now you can’t think and it’s time for a nap), and then Friday (your friends come up with some fun idea to go out and you tell yourself you still have all Saturday…) you could find yourself staring at a blank computer screen that night, feeling mad at yourself for waiting so long and trying not to panic.

Instead, figure out your free days, and map out a couple blocks of time. If you have Wednesday off, that’s your best day. Give yourself two hours in the morning to come up with topics, and write out a rough draft for one of the two prompts. Then block out two more hours that afternoon or evening to write out another draft for your other essay.

There, you will have two drafts. Almost there! Then, do nothing on Thanksgiving, unless you suddenly get in the mood, or didn’t quite get to those first drafts. Block out two more hours either Friday morning or afternoon to review what you have written, and cut out the bad stuff, add some more good stuff, read it out loud, go through a final editing checklist, etc.

From what I understand about the application system, lots of kids wait until the last minute, and often, the system gets glitchy and it can be frustrating and hard to turn in your application. So avoid this last minute rush as much as possible. Ideally, submit your application well before the final weekend. But above all, avoid Saturday, and especially Saturday night.

Of course, if you can start on these essays NOW, you will be that much further along, and won’t have to spend any of your precious Thanksgiving dealing with them. If you do wait, just stick to your plan and it will all work out!