We’ve all been there. It’s midnight and your paper is due in 8 hours. You are staring at a blank Word document. You have no idea what to write. If only you could write SOMETHING. In frustration, you bury your head on your desk.
The first paragraph of a college essay, or any essay, is usually the most challenging. It’s also the most important because it will guide the structure and set the tone of the entire essay. In a traditional essay, the first paragraph often contains the thesis statement. This statement isone-sentence summary of the paper’s main argument (more on that in future blogs.)
Let’s imagine that your teacher or professor assigned this topic for a five-page essay:
“The SAT is an unfair test for international students and should no longer be required for admission. Do you agree or disagree?”
Here are five approaches to help you with writing on this topic:
#1. Tell a Story – Nadia had dreamed of going to Harvard from the time she entered kindergarten. “It was my mother’s dream for me,” she said. Every Saturday, she spent 10 hours at a “cram school” studying for the SAT while her friends went to the mall and watched movies…
#2. Use a Memorable Quote – “All the SAT measures is how well you take the SAT. It does not reveal how smart a person you are,” wrote blogger Amanda Chan. Chan is one of a growing number of SAT critics who argue that the college admission test is culturally biased. . .
#3. Define a Word – Most people know that the SAT is an important test used for college admission in the United States. But most people don’t know that “SAT” was originally an acronym for “Scholastic Aptitude Test”. But what exactly is “scholastic aptitude” and how can it be measured?…
#4. Present an Amazing Fact – Of the 1.6 million students who took the SAT in 2013, only 43 percent of test-takers met the SAT’s definition for being prepared for college. It is natural to blame teachers and test takers for not studying hard enough. But perhaps the test itself is flawed…
#5. Present a Problem – Every year the dreams of millions of international students are shattered over their performance on a single test—the dreaded SAT. Years of hard work are reduced to a single test on a single day. Is the SAT the best way to for universities to choose the best students?
Try brainstorming these five ways to start your essay. It’s no guarantee of success. But if you’re lucky, one of the approaches will get the ideas flowing. If the ideas still aren’t coming, read your class materials again with the five approaches in mind. Sooner or later, an idea will take shape.
Now it’s your turn. Try writing an opening paragraph using one of the five approaches and I will respond with feedback. I look forward to reading your responses!
Have a great day!
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A bland admission essaycan put an overworked college rep to sleep. I attended a conference once where an administrator at Yale University mentioned that 20 staffers at his Ivy League school read 50 college admission essays a day, six days a week during the application season. That's a lot of papers to slog through.
Now that it's summer, you've got time to write a great college essay. And to get your college admissions essay off to the right start, begin with a captivating opening line.
Want examples? Here are samples from winning college essays courtesy of Stanford University. These are opening lines of admissions essays that the Stanford admission reps especially liked. All of the essay writers were accepted as members of the class of 2012. You can find even more opening lines of sample admission essays in the Stanford Magazine.
10 Opening Lines from Stanford Admission Essays
- I change my name each time I place an order at Starbucks.
- When I was in the eighth grade I couldn't read.
- While traveling through the daily path of life, have you ever stumbled upon a hidden pocket of the universe?
- I have old hands.
- I was paralyzed from the waist down. I would try to move my leg or even shift an ankle but I never got a response. This was the first time thoughts of death ever cross my mind.
- I almost didn't live through September 11th, 2001.
- The spaghetti burbled and slushed around the pan, and as I stirred it, the noises it gave off began to sound increasingly like bodily functions.
- I have been surfing Lake Michigan since I was 3 years old.
- I stand on the riverbank surveying this rippled range like some riparian cowboy -instead of chaps, I wear vinyl, thigh-high waders and a lasso of measuring tape and twine is slung over my arm.
- I had never seen anyone get so excited about mitochondria.
Read More on CBS MoneyWatch:What's Wrong With America's Dream Colleges?
The Best Colleges You've Never Heard Of
College admissions essay by Jeff Pearce. CC 2.0.