5 Steps to Begin Your College Application Essay
Writing the first paragraph of your college application essay can be intimidating. How do I introduce my story? How do I set the tone for my essay? How can I hook my reader in, and make them want to read more? If you are asking yourself any of these questions, here are some tips to consider for the beginning of your college application essay.
- Write your first paragraph, last.
Starting your essay can be the most difficult part of the writing process. If you feel a lot of pressure in starting your work, waiting to write your introduction paragraph can be a great tip. Consider the purpose of your introductory paragraph: to provide your reader with some expectations of what the essay is about, and to grab their interest in what you have to say.
Your writing process may benefit by focusing on the body paragraphs first. Organizing your writing process in this way will allow you to fully develop your ideas, main points, writing style, and tone before working on the introductory paragraph. When you start your paper, you may have no idea which direction your writing is going to take (especially if you plan to write more than one draft). Focusing on the body paragraphs before writing your introduction will streamline the process by preemptively producing the information that will follow.
Writing your body paragraphs before writing your introductory paragraph also offers the opportunity to be open-minded as your main points develop. Instead of outlining your main points, then developing them, consider developing your main points first. This strategy can improve the development of ideas and simplify your task of writing a strong introduction paragraph.
- Hook Your Reader In By Diving Into The Action
Another tip for writing a strong introduction paragraph is diving into the action. This means that you may start your essay by describing a very specific scene. Put the reader in your shoes: describe a moment of intense action to spike their interest and pull them into the story.
- Hook Your Reader In By Getting Vulnerable
You may begin your essay by getting vulnerable and personal right away. Some students choose to start their essay by making a bold statement about a time they failed, obstacle they overcame, or risk they took. Take a risk in your essay by getting straight to the point and getting vulnerable.
- Write Multiple Drafts
As you plan, outline, write, revise, edit and rewrite your college application essay, consider practicing each of these strategies to find the one that works for you. Implementing a variety of strategies for your introduction paragraph offers the opportunity to write the most effective essay possible.
- Get Feedback On Your Work
One last tip: have multiple people read your paper. Ensure that you submit the best paper possible by getting feedback from peers. If the beginning of your paper is unsuccessful in pulling your reader in and setting expectations for your work, you need to continue editing and revising.
5 Interesting College Essay Prompts
When selecting the topic of your college application essay, it is crucial that you focus on something that is genuinely important or interesting to you. If you write an essay based on what you think the reader wants to hear, it will be obvious. Keep in mind, the reader has read thousands of college application essays, and you need to stand out in the stack of papers on their desk.
Many college applications (including the Common Application) offer the opportunity to write a paper on the topic of your choosing. Here are some examples of college essay prompts that might spark writing that is personal.
- Write about a life-changing piece of advice.
- Write about a non-academic accomplishment.
- If you could have a conversation with any person, who would it be?
- Write about a person who has profoundly impacted your life.
- Write about your goals for the future.
Consider whether any of these prompts are relevant to your identity, background, or core values. If any or all of these prompts stand out to you, you should begin drafting and developing your ideas. See where your brainstorming work takes you!
10 Things College Admissions Counselors Look For In A College Application Essay
As you write your college application essay, you should have a general idea of what the reader expects from you. Here is a breakdown of the top ten things college admissions counselors look for in your college application essay. Consider how you may answer these questions, or implement these key points, in your work.
- Who are you?
This question may seem simple, but in writing an essay about someone important to you, or a time you failed, your reader should still have a strong idea of who you are as a person. Get specific about your feelings, reactions, emotions, and experiences. Remember, the rest of your college application will consist of data and numbers that describe your academic history. Take the essay as an opportunity for the college admissions officers to get to know you on a deeper level.
- Tell a story.
Telling a story is an important part of your essay. You should include a narrative that offers a first-hand experience to support the discussion of your personal core values, goals, passions, and interests. If you want the reader to get to know you, offer the opportunity to step into your shoes through strong storytelling.
- What is your perspective of the world?
Your essay should provide the reader with an idea of how you see the world. You can be specific by talking about something like your cultural background and cultural identity. So long as you are genuine, including an idea of your world perspective will deepen the reader’s understanding of your place on their campus.
- What are your core values?
The reader must have a strong understanding of the things that matter most to you. You may find that this discussion becomes the main focus of your paper. Diving deep into your core values opens up discussion points, like
- Where do these values come from?
- How do you implement them into your life?
- How will you impact their college campus?
You should be explicit in answering this question. Answering this question may offer the opportunity to stand out among the other applicants. Give the reader specific reasons to offer you an acceptance to their college or university.
- What are your goals for the future?
The college admissions officer reading your essay wants to know your future plans. What are your goals? How do you plan to achieve those goals? It is a good idea to answer these questions (so long as they are relevant to the prompt you selected).
- Focus on you.
The focus of your work should be you. Many students error in writing an essay about a person that matters to them, a cultural background that is central to their identity, or a topic that interests them, without focusing on themselves. How has the person that matters to you changed your view of the world? How does your cultural identity affect your decisions or values? Why is the topic of interest integral to who you are? Answering these questions deepens the conversation and maintains the focus on you.
- Display Strong Writing Skills
Your essay should show off your writing skills. Be sure to implement strong word choices, descriptive imagery, and well-developed ideas. As you revise your work, pay attention to details you can implement to develop your narrative. You should also pay attention to developing your voice as a writer. A strong authorial voice will make your essay stand out.
- Provide Information You Have Not Shared In The Rest Of Your Application
Use the essay as an opportunity to share specific information about your academic history, personal background, or other important factors that make you who you are. If your college application offers short-answer questions, do not repeat information between writings.
- No Grammar Errors Or Spelling Errors
You should know that the college admissions counselors will see any writing errors as red flags. Any spelling and grammar errors may be signs of carelessness or rushed writing. Be sure that you read your work many times, and have someone else review it for any errors.
As you prepare to submit your college application essay, consider following these tips. As you draft your work, find a perfect start to your paper, select a unique prompt, and pay attention to the college admissions counselors’ expectations of your work. You can find more writing tips and strategies through FLEX College Prep’s Admissions Consulting. FLEX’s Application and Essay program will support you through every step of the essay writing process. An essay specialist can even help you set a schedule for completing your work on time. They will work with you to ensure that you submit the best work possible! Try it out.
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