Consider yourself a college admissions counselor for a moment.
Friday at 6:13 p.m., you’ve been reading essays for, uh, ever. Your shoulders are burning, you’re unfocused all the time, and the coffee in your mug is now cold.
Which of these starting sentences is certainly going to get you to sit up in your office chair and pay close attention?
Merriam Webster defines music as “vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion,” but to me it’s always been so much more.
Bowing down to the porcelain god, I emptied the contents of my stomach. Foaming at the mouth, I was ready to pass out. My body couldn’t stop shaking as I gasped for air, and the room started spinning.
I believe that if you are a human being who is still alive, you choose Example B.
Intrigue-filled openings to personal statements have a million times higher reading probability. Additionally, personal statements that are read are more likely to draw attention and, as a result, have a better chance of being accepted into a top university.
So how can you create an engaging introduction for a personal statement?
Fortunately for us, there are other approaches to solving this problem. Here are a few advices:
A compelling personal statement could start with a challenge that needs to be addressed.
Consider how the opening scenes of some of your favorite movies go: we see a man throw a bag into the river before running back to his car, his face displaying extreme distress. Alternatively, a woman can be seen walking toward a plane headed for Russia while squaring her shoulders. What dropped into the river by the man? How come he’s afraid? Who is anticipating the Russian woman?
As we work to answer the conundrum or issue, we become engrossed in the narrative. To entice admissions officers to read your personal statement, follow this identical strategy.
Let’s review the previous illustration:
I emptied my stomach’s contents before the porcelain deity as a form of submission. I was about to faint because I was foaming at the mouth. The room began spinning as I struggled for air and my body couldn’t stop trembling.
What took place? How did she get sick? Will she survive this? Will someone offer assistance?
After only three sentences, you can see that we’re interested.
Perhaps an attention-grabbing personal statement won’t immediately solve the issue.
This is the definition of a story arc. No one desires to read. “Bowing down to the porcelain god, I emptied the contents of my stomach. Foaming at the mouth, I was ready to pass out. My body couldn’t stop shaking as I gasped for air, and the room started spinning…. because I got food poisoning at TGIFridays but I got over it the next day and it was cool. THE END.”
Use a little storytelling to take the reader on a journey. Fix a handful of the issues while posing others. We find out the girl’s whereabouts and who is with her, but we’re still unsure of how she got ill. She might require medical assistance, but we don’t know where to look for it.
Present a second problem or question in the middle of the essay and save the solution for the end if you can’t wait until the end. We learn that she consumed poor cuisine while traveling by train through India. She’s traveling alone, and when she’s in the restroom being unwell, her bag is left unattended in the train car. What will take place? (- a captivating personal statement is what will occur, that’s for sure.)
An eye-catching opening to a personal statement could be an absurd visual.
Imagine obtaining the following from a stack of personal statements:
Smeared blood, shredded feathers. Clearly, the bird was dead. But wait, the slight fluctuation of its chest, the slow blinking of its shiny black eyes. No, it was alive
Wait. What? How does this relate to your extracurricular activities or values? Don’t you want to find out by continuing to read?
The opening’s absurdity can be overcome in two ways.
1. Immediately after establishing the odd image, perhaps in the second paragraph, make sure to provide context for us. College essay readers have a far shorter attention span than moviegoers, and if you keep them in the dark for longer than a paragraph or two, you risk losing them. In a movie, you have roughly seven minutes to hook the audience before you lose them.
2. Don’t utilize an image just because it’s shocking. Although it may be shocking, the image must somehow directly relate to one of the story’s main themes or lessons.
A challenge that needs to be solved is frequently introduced by unexpected or striking openings, as was said above.
It’s possible that an attention-grabbing personal statement won’t begin in an attention-grabbing way.
Not every personal statement must begin with a paragraph or sentence that will set the world on fire. Some of my all-time favorite articles, in fact, began with the author catching up with his mother in a coffee shop or seeing her grandma prepare a meal. It’s acceptable to acclimate your reader gradually and to kindly draw them into the light of your tale.
When in doubt, just start writing; don’t place too much pressure on yourself to have an attention-grabbing opening for a first draft.
Bad writing is one of the keys to good writing; you need something to worry and correct. Nothing can be made better. It’s simple to become fixated on crafting the ideal essay introduction and postpone (read: stall, procrastinate) writing your essay until you’ve discovered that ideal start. Don’t.
A little-known fact: When you write the middle of the essay and realize the topic needs to alter, you will frequently have to rewrite the start. Or you decide that you should begin your essay later in the narrative, perhaps at the pivotal decision point.
So, the following is some guidance for individuals trying to find the ideal opening: Simply complete your essay. Start now. Later, you’ll come upon a opening.