Whatever you do is a special and key moment. This is not the moment when inspiration appears or the last stroke is painted over or the audience is looking at the final product. For many, getting started is the hardest part of everything. And that is understandable. Firstly, because it turns everything you do into reality, which raises the stakes. Secondly, because where you start can easily determine the quality of where you end up.
Knowing how to start your college essay is intimidating. It can be difficult to write an attractive, genuine opener. But without an interesting hook, you run the risk of getting lost in a huge sea of applications. To do this, we have put together several tricks on how to start an essay for college to make your moment smoother and less stressful.
What Is the College Essay Introduction For?
Before we talk about how to start a college essay, let’s discuss the role of the introduction. Just as your college essay is your chance to present yourself in the admissions office of your target college, the beginning of your essay is your chance to introduce your writing.
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Introducing a personal statement is basically a tortuous worm that catches a hook to catch your reader. It is very important to attract attention from the very beginning – the more energetic and active your audience is, the greater the likelihood that what you say will really work out. How are you going to create an introduction that will successfully hook your reader? Let’s talk about how to structure the beginning of your essay. Even though they’re called essays, personal statements are really more like a mix of a short story and a philosophy or psychology class that’s all about you. The story typically comes in the first half of the essay, and the insightful explanation comes second —but, of course, all rules were made to be broken, and some great essays flip this more traditional order.
How to Write a College Essay Introduction
Here’s a weird secret that’s true for most written work: just because it’ll end up at the beginning doesn’t mean you have to write it first. For example, in this case, you can’t know what your killer first sentence will be until you’ve figured out the following details:
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The story you want to tell
The point you want that story to make
The trait/maturity level/background about you that your essay will reveal
How to Write the First Section of Your College Essay
Once you’ve figured out your topic and zeroed in on the experience you want to highlight at the beginning of your essay, here are 2 great approaches to making it into a story:
Talk about it in the style of a storyteller (while you are recording yourself): imagine that you are sitting with a group of people at a fire or that you are stuck in a long flight, sitting next to someone you want to make friends with. Now tell this story. What do you need to know to someone who does not know you so that history makes sense? What details do you need to provide in order to put them in the story with you? What background information do they need in order to understand the essence or importance of the story?
Write down how you tell your story to your friends, and then talk about it: what do they need to clarify? What questions do they have? What parts of your story are meaningless or logically not following them? Do they want to know more or less? Is part of your story interesting to them, but not interesting to you? Part of your story is secretly boring, although you think this is interesting?
How to Write a Pivot Sentence in Your College Essay
Typically, the pivot sentence will come at the end of your introductory section, about halfway through the essay. But this section could be more than one sentence (though ideally no longer than two or three). Usually you indicate in your pivot sentence itself that you are moving from one part of the essay to another. This is called signposting, and it’s a great way to keep readers updated on where they are in the flow of the essay and your argument.
The Bottom Line: How to Start Your College Essay
An introduction to a college essay should catch your reader and make her want to know more and read more. Good personal statements will contain the following features:
A detailed description of the experience of your life
A pivot to a broader picture in which you explain why and how this experience shaped you, your point of view, and/or your values.
You do not need to write an introduction first, and of course you do not need to write the first sentence first. Instead, start developing your story by telling it out loud to a friend. Then you can work on your first sentence and your core. The first sentence should be either short, sharp, and contain some ambiguity or questions, or be a detailed and beautiful description that sets up an easily depicted scene. On the other hand, the core should answer the question: “How is the story you told related to a greater truth or understanding about you?”
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