Good ways to start a college essay about yourself

A great college essay introduction is key to making your essay stand out, You' re not writing for yourself but for a very specific kind of reader.
Table of contents

I'll list them here and then dissect them one by one in the next section:.

Top 6 Common Application Essay Tips

You've got your reader's attention when you see its furry ears extended … No, wait. You've got your squirrel's attention. Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar. Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.

Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now :. So my suggestion is to work in reverse order! Writing your essay will be much easier if you can figure out the entirety of it first and then go back and work out exactly how it should start. This means that before you can craft your ideal first sentence, the way the short story experience of your life will play out on the page, and the perfect pivoting moment that transitions from your story to your insight, you must work out a general idea about which life event you will share and what you expect that life event to demonstrate to the reader about you and the kind of person you are.

Essays That Worked

If you're having trouble coming up with a topic, check out our guide on brainstorming college essay ideas. It might also be helpful to read our guides to specific application essays, such as picking your best Common App prompt and writing a perfect University of California personal statement. In the next sections of this article, I'll talk about how to work backwards on the introduction, moving from bigger to smaller elements: starting with the first section of the essay in general and then honing your pivot sentence and your first sentence.

Don't get too excited about working in reverse—not all activities are safe to do backwards. In a word essay, this section will take up about the first half of the essay and will mostly consist of a brief story that illuminates a key experience, an important character trait, a moment of transition or transformation, or a step toward maturity.

CRUSH the Common Application Essay! 8 Tips.

Once you've figured out your topic and zeroed in on the experience you want to highlight in the beginning of your essay, here are 2 great approaches to making it into a story:. Later, as you listen to the recorded story to try to get a sense of how to write it, you can also get a sense of the tone with which you want to tell your story. Are you being funny as you talk? Trying to shock, surprise, or astound your audience? The way you most naturally tell your story is the way you should write it. After you've done this storyteller exercise, write down the salient points of what you learned.

What is the story your essay will tell? What is the point about your life, point of view, or personality it will make? What tone will you tell it with? Sketch out a detailed outline so that you can start filling in the pieces as we work through how to write the introductory sections.

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Write a Compelling Essay

Baron Munchausen didn't know whether to tell his story sad that his horse had been cut in half, or delighted by knowing what would happen if half a horse drank from a fountain. In general, your essay's first sentence should be either a mini-cliffhanger that sets up a situation the reader would like to see resolved, or really lush scene-setting that situates your audience in a place and time they can readily visualize. The former builds expectations and evokes curiosity, and the latter stimulates the imagination and creates a connection with the author.

In both cases, you hit your goal of greater reader engagement. The experience of coming out is raw and emotional, and the issue of LGBTQ rights is an important facet of modern life. This three-word sentence immediately sums up an enormous background of the personal and political. Wolf, my fourth-grade band teacher, as he lifted the heavy tuba and put it into my arms.

This sentence conjures up a funny image—we can immediately picture the larger adult standing next to a little kid holding a giant tuba. It also does a little play on words: "handle it" can refer to both the literal tuba Matt is being asked to hold and the figurative stress of playing the instrument. I live alone—I always have since elementary school.

Kevin Zevallos '16 for Connecticut College. This opener definitely makes us want to know more. Why was he alone? Where were the protective grown-ups who surround most kids? How on earth could a little kid of years old survive on his own? I have old hands.

What are some do's and don'ts for the admissions essay?

What are "old" hands? Are they old-looking? How has having these hands affected the author? There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre. Who wanted to go for a walk? And why was this person being prevented from going? Look at how much specificity this sentence packs in less than 20 words.

Each noun and adjective is chosen for its ability to convey yet another detail.


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  • 1. Get to know your prompt;

Maybe it's because I live in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where Brett Favre draws more of a crowd on Sunday than any religious service, cheese is a staple food, it's sub-zero during global warming, current "fashions" come three years after they've hit it big with the rest of the world, and where all children by the age of ten can use a gauge like it's their job. Riley Smith '12 for Hamilton College. This sentence manages to hit every stereotype about Wisconsin held by outsiders—football, cheese, polar winters, backwardness, and guns—and this piling on gives us a good sense of place while also creating enough hyperbole to be funny.

At the same time, the sentence raises the tantalizing question: maybe what is because of Wisconsin? High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of , two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of miles per hour. David Lodge, Changing Places.


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This sentence is structured in the highly specific style of a math problem, which makes it funny. However, at the heart of this sentence lies a mystery that grabs the reader's interest: why on earth would these two people be doing this? To avoid falling into generalities with this one, make sure you're really creating an argument or debate with your counterintuitive sentence. If no one would argue with what you've said, then you aren't making an argument.

If string theory is really true, then the entire world is made up of strings, and I cannot tie a single one. This sentence hints that the rest of the essay will continue playing with linked, albeit not typically connected, concepts. In just six words, this sentence upends everything we think we know about what happens to human beings. Is this person about to declare herself to be totally selfish and uncaring about the less fortunate? We want to know the story that would lead someone to this kind of conclusion.

So many amazing details here.

2. Brainstorm

Why is the Colonel being executed? What does "discovering" ice entail? How does he go from ice-discoverer to military commander of some sort to someone condemned to capital punishment? To work well, your question should be especially specific, come out of left field, or pose a surprising hypothetical. How does an agnostic Jew living in the Diaspora connect to Israel? This is a thorny opening, raising questions about the difference between being an ethnic Jew and practicing the religion of Judaism, and the obligations of Jews who live outside of Israel to those who live in Israel and vice versa.

There's a lot of meat to this question, setting up a philosophically interesting, politically important, and personally meaningful essay. While traveling through the daily path of life, have you ever stumbled upon a hidden pocket of the universe? One way to think about how to do this kind of opening sentence well is to model it on the morals that ended each Aesop's fable. The lesson you learned should be slightly surprising not necessarily intuitive and something that someone else might disagree with. Perhaps it wasn't wise to chew and swallow a handful of sand the day I was given my first sandbox, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Don’t Waste Time

The best part of this hilarious sentence is that even in retrospect, eating a handful of sand is only possibly an unwise idea—a qualifier achieved through that great "perhaps. The reader wants to know more. All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina. Did he draw the right conclusion here? How did he come to this realization? The implication that he will tell us all about some dysfunctional drama also has a rubbernecking draw. Now go! And let your first sentences soar like the Wright Brothers' first airplane! This is the place in your essay where you go from small to big—from the life experience you describe in detail to the bigger point this experience illustrates about your world and yourself. Typically, the pivot sentence will come at the end of your introductory section, about halfway through the essay.

I say sentence, but this section could be more than one sentence though ideally no longer than two or three. So how do you make the turn? Usually you indicate in your pivot sentence itself that you are moving from one part of the essay to another.