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Start Your College Application Essay: Brainstorm Guide

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❶Maybe 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.

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David Lodge, Changing Places. To avoid falling into generalities with this one, make sure you're really creating an argument or debate with your counterintuitive sentence. 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. 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? 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.

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? 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? 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. Here are three ways to do this, with real-life examples from college essays published by colleges. In this pivot, you gesture out from the specific experience you describe to the overarching realization you had during it. Think of helper phrases such as "that was the moment I realized" and "never again would I.

Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. I actually succeeded in springing it. Stephen '19 for Johns Hopkins University. This is a pretty great pivot, neatly connecting the story Stephen's been telling about having to break into a car on a volunteering trip and his general reliance on his own resourcefulness and ability to roll with whatever life throws at him.

It's a double bonus that he accomplishes the pivot with a play on the word "click," which here means both the literal clicking of the car door latch and the figurative clicking his brain does. But in that moment I realized that the self-deprecating jokes were there for a reason. When attempting to climb the mountain of comedic success, I didn't just fall and then continue on my journey, but I fell so many times that I befriended the ground and realized that the middle of the metaphorical mountain made for a better campsite.

Not because I had let my failures get the best of me, but because I had learned to make the best of my failures. Rachel Schwartzbaum '19 for Connecticut College. This pivot similarly focuses on a "that moment" of illuminated clarity. In this case, it broadens Rachel's experience of stage fright before her standup comedy sets to the way she has more generally not allowed failures to stop her progress—and has instead been able to use them as learning experiences.

Not only does she describe her humor as "self-deprecating," but she also demonstrates what she means with that great "befriended the ground" line.

It was on this first educational assignment that I realized how much could be accomplished through an animal education program—more, in some cases, than the aggregate efforts of all of the rehabilitators. I found that I had been naive in my assumption that most people knew as much about wildlife as I did, and that they shared my respect for animals. Maloney '07 for Hamilton College. This is another classically constructed pivot, as J. The widening of scope happens at once as we go from a highly specific "first educational assignment" to the more general realization that "much" could be accomplished through these kinds of programs.

In this pivot, you draw a parallel between the life event that you've been describing in your very short story and other events that were similar in some significant way. This state of discovery is something I strive for on a daily basis. My goal is to make all the ideas in my mind fit together like the gears of a Swiss watch. Whether it's learning a new concept in linear algebra, talking to someone about a programming problem, or simply zoning out while I read, there is always some part of my day that pushes me towards this place of cohesion: Aubrey Anderson '19 for Tufts University.

After cataloging and detailing the many interesting thoughts that flow through her brain in a specific hour, Aubrey uses the pivot to explain that this is what every waking hour is like for her "on a daily basis. And her pivot lets us know that her example is a demonstration of how her mind works generally. Our return brought so much back for me. Dad haggling with the jewelry sellers, his minute examination of pots at a trading post, the affection he had for chilies.

I was scared that my love for the place would be tainted by his death, diminished without him there as my guide. That fear was part of what kept my mother and me away for so long. Once there, though, I was relieved to realize that Albuquerque still brings me closer to my father. Even though he is no longer there to "guide," the author's love for the place itself remains.

In this type of pivot, you use the experience you've described to demonstrate its importance in developing or zooming in on one key attribute. Here are some ways to think about making this transition: My true reward of having Stanley is that he opened the door to the world of botany. I would never have invested so much time learning about the molecular structure or chemical balance of plants if not for taking care of him. Michaela '19 for Johns Hopkins University. Without having to "take care of him," Michaela "would never have invested so much time learning" about plant biology.

By leaving me free to make mistakes and chase wild dreams, my father was always able to help ground me back in reality. Olivia Rabbitt '16 for Connecticut College. In Olivia's essay about her father's role in her life, the pivot discusses his importance by explaining his deep impact on her values. The introduction is comprised of three parts: The first part, the hook, should be a way to draw your readers in and to have them read the rest of your essay.

The hook should relate to your main point and should get your readers engaged so that they want to keep reading. Here are some examples of hooks: Asking a question that helps draw the readers into the central debate you're discussing can help get their attention. For example, an essay that supports gay marriage can start with the question, "Shouldn't any person be able to marry the person he loves?

Starting with a shocking statement or statistic relevant to your topic can help get the reader's attention. Starting with a short anecdote relevant to your thesis can help draw your readers in.

For example, if you were writing an essay about the difficulty of being a single mother, you could start by saying, "Jane was struggling to make ends meet while trying to take care of her son, Randy. State your main points. Once you've hooked your readers with a strong statement, it's time to spend at least one sentence or two describing each main point, so that your readers know what to expect. For example, if you're writing an essay with the following thesis statement: Once you've hooked your readers and stated your main points, all you have to do is state your thesis.

It tends to work best as the last sentence in the introductory paragraph, though sometimes the essay can be successful if you place the thesis earlier in the introduction. The introductory paragraph and the thesis should work like a road map to the rest of the essay, so that the reader knows what to expect in the rest of the paper.

To recap, a successful start to a college essay, or an introductory paragraph, should include the following: A "hook" to get the reader's attention A brief discussion of the main points that will be covered in the body of the essay The thesis statement.

Write body paragraphs. Once you've found your thesis statement and have written that introductory paragraph, much of the hard work of the essay is over.

Now, you'll have to jump into the body paragraphs that will develop the main points you've made in your thesis statement, and which will help inform or persuade your readers.

You should have body paragraphs or more, depending on the length of the essay. Each body paragraph should include the following: Supporting details, evidence, facts, or statistics that develop the main point. A concluding sentence that wraps up the ideas in the paragraph and transitions to the next body paragraph. Once you have your introduction and your three body paragraphs, you should write a conclusion that wraps up the ideas you've introduced and explained in your essay.

The conclusion should do several things: Remember to stick to the third person. Writing in the third person unless you're told not to do so is a very important aspect of writing a successful college essay. You should never say "I think Instead of saying, "I think abortion should remain legal in the United States," you can say, "Abortion should remain legal in the United States," to make your argument sound more forceful.

You should avoid the first and the second person. Don't say "you" -- say "one," "he or she," or use the appropriate pronoun. Instead of saying, "You should spend hours a week if you want to succeed in college," say, "College students should spend hours a week studying if they want to succeed. Once you've written your rough draft, you should go back and revise the essay and check for any lapses in your logic, and unproved points, or any weak arguments.

You may also find that not everything in the essay is relevant, that your ideas are repetitive, and that you may need to tweak your thesis a bit -- that's only natural. Once you feel that the essay is solid, you can revise it for grammar and punctuation. You should start by writing an introduction, followed by your main paragraph. Finally you should write an argument paragraph followed by a conclusion. Not Helpful 0 Helpful 6. Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered.

Could such an ordinary, everyday topic like making paperbag lunches get you into your dream school? Then you can talk about how you handled that problem, including making these lunches and other meals. You can explain the steps you took to learn how to cook, and your defining quality of bringing creativity and personal responsibility to the process.

Usually best to pick ONE quality in each essay to give it a sharp focus. Can you imagine how you could start this essay sharing your daily morning routine of making creative sack lunches? I can picture the types of colorful details and snippets of conversation from those frantic mornings—which you could craft into an anecdote to show yourself in action and start your essay.

Maybe one sister demands peanut butter and pickles, and another that her sandwich is cut into six squares and the third only eats mini-carrots and homemade hummus. Boy, are you a great big brother or sister!! Then you continue with the back story about your mom and why you were charged with this task, and drill deeper into how you handled it, and WHAT YOU LEARNED about yourself, others and the world in the process this is the all-important analytical, reflective part of your essay.

So I hope my Brainstorm Guide has helped you have unveil some of your past problems to start your college application essay. And that you start to get an idea of how you can use these to write about yourself to start your college application essay.

Read my posts in this Jumpstart page and I promise this will start to make more sense, and even give you more ways to discover your best topic ideas. If you want a short book that takes you through this process one step at a time, check out my writing guide on Amazon: My online course , also available on this blog, does the same thing, but with a series of short videos and handouts.

Remember, if you can think of your past problems, you are bound to find a great topic to start your college application essay!

Your email address will not be published. As a professional writing coach, I help students, parents, counselors, teachers and others from around the world on these dreaded essays! Learn about my in-person and online tutoring, editing, workshops, books, and online courses, My on-demand, fast-and-easy online e-course: Start Your College Application Essay: Brainstorm Guide by j9robinson May 1, All you need is to find that one magic topic idea.

Hang in there with me now… This will start to make sense once you learn more about these essays.

What Is the College Essay Introduction For?

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Jun 15,  · 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 .

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The college application essay writing process is an evolution, not a revolution. It will take time to grow and come into its own shape. We will get into the actual writing of the essay and its editing in a future post, but to summarize so far, make sure you.

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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 introduce yourself to the admissions office of your target college, your essay's beginning is your chance to introduce your writing. Starting A College Application Essay College application essay is an important aspect of the application process into a school or college. Colleges have limited vacancies in the program, therefore, this is the opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

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Find Your Problems and You Will Find Your Best Stories. Every year, I write a post for all you students who are ready to start your college application essay.