how to write a good intro for a college essay

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How to Write an Essay Introduction (with Examples)   

essay introduction

The introduction of an essay plays a critical role in engaging the reader and providing contextual information about the topic. It sets the stage for the rest of the essay, establishes the tone and style, and motivates the reader to continue reading. 

Table of Contents

What is an essay introduction , what to include in an essay introduction, how to create an essay structure , step-by-step process for writing an essay introduction , how to write an introduction paragraph , how to write a hook for your essay , how to include background information , how to write a thesis statement .

  • Argumentative Essay Introduction Example: 
  • Expository Essay Introduction Example 

Literary Analysis Essay Introduction Example

Check and revise – checklist for essay introduction , key takeaways , frequently asked questions .

An introduction is the opening section of an essay, paper, or other written work. It introduces the topic and provides background information, context, and an overview of what the reader can expect from the rest of the work. 1 The key is to be concise and to the point, providing enough information to engage the reader without delving into excessive detail. 

The essay introduction is crucial as it sets the tone for the entire piece and provides the reader with a roadmap of what to expect. Here are key elements to include in your essay introduction: 

  • Hook : Start with an attention-grabbing statement or question to engage the reader. This could be a surprising fact, a relevant quote, or a compelling anecdote. 
  • Background information : Provide context and background information to help the reader understand the topic. This can include historical information, definitions of key terms, or an overview of the current state of affairs related to your topic. 
  • Thesis statement : Clearly state your main argument or position on the topic. Your thesis should be concise and specific, providing a clear direction for your essay. 

Before we get into how to write an essay introduction, we need to know how it is structured. The structure of an essay is crucial for organizing your thoughts and presenting them clearly and logically. It is divided as follows: 2  

  • Introduction:  The introduction should grab the reader’s attention with a hook, provide context, and include a thesis statement that presents the main argument or purpose of the essay.  
  • Body:  The body should consist of focused paragraphs that support your thesis statement using evidence and analysis. Each paragraph should concentrate on a single central idea or argument and provide evidence, examples, or analysis to back it up.  
  • Conclusion:  The conclusion should summarize the main points and restate the thesis differently. End with a final statement that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. Avoid new information or arguments. 

how to write a good intro for a college essay

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write an essay introduction: 

  • Start with a Hook : Begin your introduction paragraph with an attention-grabbing statement, question, quote, or anecdote related to your topic. The hook should pique the reader’s interest and encourage them to continue reading. 
  • Provide Background Information : This helps the reader understand the relevance and importance of the topic. 
  • State Your Thesis Statement : The last sentence is the main argument or point of your essay. It should be clear, concise, and directly address the topic of your essay. 
  • Preview the Main Points : This gives the reader an idea of what to expect and how you will support your thesis. 
  • Keep it Concise and Clear : Avoid going into too much detail or including information not directly relevant to your topic. 
  • Revise : Revise your introduction after you’ve written the rest of your essay to ensure it aligns with your final argument. 

Here’s an example of an essay introduction paragraph about the importance of education: 

Education is often viewed as a fundamental human right and a key social and economic development driver. As Nelson Mandela once famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It is the key to unlocking a wide range of opportunities and benefits for individuals, societies, and nations. In today’s constantly evolving world, education has become even more critical. It has expanded beyond traditional classroom learning to include digital and remote learning, making education more accessible and convenient. This essay will delve into the importance of education in empowering individuals to achieve their dreams, improving societies by promoting social justice and equality, and driving economic growth by developing a skilled workforce and promoting innovation. 

This introduction paragraph example includes a hook (the quote by Nelson Mandela), provides some background information on education, and states the thesis statement (the importance of education). 

This is one of the key steps in how to write an essay introduction. Crafting a compelling hook is vital because it sets the tone for your entire essay and determines whether your readers will stay interested. A good hook draws the reader in and sets the stage for the rest of your essay.  

  • Avoid Dry Fact : Instead of simply stating a bland fact, try to make it engaging and relevant to your topic. For example, if you’re writing about the benefits of exercise, you could start with a startling statistic like, “Did you know that regular exercise can increase your lifespan by up to seven years?” 
  • Avoid Using a Dictionary Definition : While definitions can be informative, they’re not always the most captivating way to start an essay. Instead, try to use a quote, anecdote, or provocative question to pique the reader’s interest. For instance, if you’re writing about freedom, you could begin with a quote from a famous freedom fighter or philosopher. 
  • Do Not Just State a Fact That the Reader Already Knows : This ties back to the first point—your hook should surprise or intrigue the reader. For Here’s an introduction paragraph example, if you’re writing about climate change, you could start with a thought-provoking statement like, “Despite overwhelming evidence, many people still refuse to believe in the reality of climate change.” 

Including background information in the introduction section of your essay is important to provide context and establish the relevance of your topic. When writing the background information, you can follow these steps: 

  • Start with a General Statement:  Begin with a general statement about the topic and gradually narrow it down to your specific focus. For example, when discussing the impact of social media, you can begin by making a broad statement about social media and its widespread use in today’s society, as follows: “Social media has become an integral part of modern life, with billions of users worldwide.” 
  • Define Key Terms : Define any key terms or concepts that may be unfamiliar to your readers but are essential for understanding your argument. 
  • Provide Relevant Statistics:  Use statistics or facts to highlight the significance of the issue you’re discussing. For instance, “According to a report by Statista, the number of social media users is expected to reach 4.41 billion by 2025.” 
  • Discuss the Evolution:  Mention previous research or studies that have been conducted on the topic, especially those that are relevant to your argument. Mention key milestones or developments that have shaped its current impact. You can also outline some of the major effects of social media. For example, you can briefly describe how social media has evolved, including positives such as increased connectivity and issues like cyberbullying and privacy concerns. 
  • Transition to Your Thesis:  Use the background information to lead into your thesis statement, which should clearly state the main argument or purpose of your essay. For example, “Given its pervasive influence, it is crucial to examine the impact of social media on mental health.” 

how to write a good intro for a college essay

A thesis statement is a concise summary of the main point or claim of an essay, research paper, or other type of academic writing. It appears near the end of the introduction. Here’s how to write a thesis statement: 

  • Identify the topic:  Start by identifying the topic of your essay. For example, if your essay is about the importance of exercise for overall health, your topic is “exercise.” 
  • State your position:  Next, state your position or claim about the topic. This is the main argument or point you want to make. For example, if you believe that regular exercise is crucial for maintaining good health, your position could be: “Regular exercise is essential for maintaining good health.” 
  • Support your position:  Provide a brief overview of the reasons or evidence that support your position. These will be the main points of your essay. For example, if you’re writing an essay about the importance of exercise, you could mention the physical health benefits, mental health benefits, and the role of exercise in disease prevention. 
  • Make it specific:  Ensure your thesis statement clearly states what you will discuss in your essay. For example, instead of saying, “Exercise is good for you,” you could say, “Regular exercise, including cardiovascular and strength training, can improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.” 

Examples of essay introduction 

Here are examples of essay introductions for different types of essays: 

Argumentative Essay Introduction Example:  

Topic: Should the voting age be lowered to 16? 

“The question of whether the voting age should be lowered to 16 has sparked nationwide debate. While some argue that 16-year-olds lack the requisite maturity and knowledge to make informed decisions, others argue that doing so would imbue young people with agency and give them a voice in shaping their future.” 

Expository Essay Introduction Example  

Topic: The benefits of regular exercise 

“In today’s fast-paced world, the importance of regular exercise cannot be overstated. From improving physical health to boosting mental well-being, the benefits of exercise are numerous and far-reaching. This essay will examine the various advantages of regular exercise and provide tips on incorporating it into your daily routine.” 

Text: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee 

“Harper Lee’s novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ is a timeless classic that explores themes of racism, injustice, and morality in the American South. Through the eyes of young Scout Finch, the reader is taken on a journey that challenges societal norms and forces characters to confront their prejudices. This essay will analyze the novel’s use of symbolism, character development, and narrative structure to uncover its deeper meaning and relevance to contemporary society.” 

  • Engaging and Relevant First Sentence : The opening sentence captures the reader’s attention and relates directly to the topic. 
  • Background Information : Enough background information is introduced to provide context for the thesis statement. 
  • Definition of Important Terms : Key terms or concepts that might be unfamiliar to the audience or are central to the argument are defined. 
  • Clear Thesis Statement : The thesis statement presents the main point or argument of the essay. 
  • Relevance to Main Body : Everything in the introduction directly relates to and sets up the discussion in the main body of the essay. 

how to write a good intro for a college essay

Writing a strong introduction is crucial for setting the tone and context of your essay. Here are the key takeaways for how to write essay introduction: 3  

  • Hook the Reader : Start with an engaging hook to grab the reader’s attention. This could be a compelling question, a surprising fact, a relevant quote, or an anecdote. 
  • Provide Background : Give a brief overview of the topic, setting the context and stage for the discussion. 
  • Thesis Statement : State your thesis, which is the main argument or point of your essay. It should be concise, clear, and specific. 
  • Preview the Structure : Outline the main points or arguments to help the reader understand the organization of your essay. 
  • Keep it Concise : Avoid including unnecessary details or information not directly related to your thesis. 
  • Revise and Edit : Revise your introduction to ensure clarity, coherence, and relevance. Check for grammar and spelling errors. 
  • Seek Feedback : Get feedback from peers or instructors to improve your introduction further. 

The purpose of an essay introduction is to give an overview of the topic, context, and main ideas of the essay. It is meant to engage the reader, establish the tone for the rest of the essay, and introduce the thesis statement or central argument.  

An essay introduction typically ranges from 5-10% of the total word count. For example, in a 1,000-word essay, the introduction would be roughly 50-100 words. However, the length can vary depending on the complexity of the topic and the overall length of the essay.

An essay introduction is critical in engaging the reader and providing contextual information about the topic. To ensure its effectiveness, consider incorporating these key elements: a compelling hook, background information, a clear thesis statement, an outline of the essay’s scope, a smooth transition to the body, and optional signposting sentences.  

The process of writing an essay introduction is not necessarily straightforward, but there are several strategies that can be employed to achieve this end. When experiencing difficulty initiating the process, consider the following techniques: begin with an anecdote, a quotation, an image, a question, or a startling fact to pique the reader’s interest. It may also be helpful to consider the five W’s of journalism: who, what, when, where, why, and how.   For instance, an anecdotal opening could be structured as follows: “As I ascended the stage, momentarily blinded by the intense lights, I could sense the weight of a hundred eyes upon me, anticipating my next move. The topic of discussion was climate change, a subject I was passionate about, and it was my first public speaking event. Little did I know , that pivotal moment would not only alter my perspective but also chart my life’s course.” 

Crafting a compelling thesis statement for your introduction paragraph is crucial to grab your reader’s attention. To achieve this, avoid using overused phrases such as “In this paper, I will write about” or “I will focus on” as they lack originality. Instead, strive to engage your reader by substantiating your stance or proposition with a “so what” clause. While writing your thesis statement, aim to be precise, succinct, and clear in conveying your main argument.  

To create an effective essay introduction, ensure it is clear, engaging, relevant, and contains a concise thesis statement. It should transition smoothly into the essay and be long enough to cover necessary points but not become overwhelming. Seek feedback from peers or instructors to assess its effectiveness. 


  • Cui, L. (2022). Unit 6 Essay Introduction.  Building Academic Writing Skills . 
  • West, H., Malcolm, G., Keywood, S., & Hill, J. (2019). Writing a successful essay.  Journal of Geography in Higher Education ,  43 (4), 609-617. 
  • Beavers, M. E., Thoune, D. L., & McBeth, M. (2023). Bibliographic Essay: Reading, Researching, Teaching, and Writing with Hooks: A Queer Literacy Sponsorship. College English, 85(3), 230-242. 

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How To Write An Essay

Essay Introduction

Barbara P

Writing an Essay Introduction - Step by Step Guide

Published on: Dec 26, 2020

Last updated on: Jan 30, 2024

essay introduction

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Many students struggle with writing essay introductions that grab the reader's attention and set the stage for a strong argument.

It's frustrating when your well-researched essay doesn't get the recognition it deserves because your introduction falls flat. You deserve better results for your hard work!

In this guide, you’ll learn how to create engaging essay introductions that leave a lasting impression. From catchy opening lines to clear thesis statements, you'll learn techniques to hook your readers from the very beginning.

So, read on and learn how to write the perfect catchy introduction for your essay.

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What is a Good Essay Introduction?

An introduction is good if it gives a clear idea of what an essay is about. It tells the reader what to expect from the type of academic writing you are presenting. 

However, it should strike a balance between being informative and engaging, avoiding excessive detail that may lead to confusion.

A strong introduction is engaging, attractive, and also informative. It’s important to note that an essay introduction paragraph should not be too short or too long.

Remember, the introduction sets the stage for the body of your essay. So, keep it concise and focused while hinting at the critical elements you'll explore in more depth later.

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How to Write an Essay Introduction?

Crafting an effective essay introduction is essential for capturing your reader's attention and setting the tone for your entire piece of writing. To ensure your introduction is engaging and impactful, you can follow an introduction format.

Here is the essay introduction format that will help you write an introduction for your essay easily. 

1. Hook Sentence 

A hook sentence is a must for the introductory part of an essay. It helps to keep the reader engaged in your content and seek the reader’s attention.  It is an attention-grabbing sentence that develops the interest of the reader. It develops the anxiousness of reading the complete essay.

You can use the following as the hook sentence in your essay introduction:

  • A famous quotation
  • An interesting fact
  • An anecdote

All of the above are attention-grabbing things that prove to be perfect for a hook sentence.

Not sure how to create an attention-grabbing hook statement? Check out these hook statement examples to get a better idea!

2. Background Information 

Once you have provided an interesting hook sentence, it's time that you provide a little background information related to your essay topic.

The background information should comprise two or three sentences. The information should include the reason why you chose the topic and what is the expected scope of the topic. 

Also, clarify the theme and nature of your essay. 

3. Thesis Statement 

A thesis statement is a significant element of not just the introduction but also the whole essay. It is a statement that gives an overview of your complete essay. 

It should be written in such a way that the reader can have an idea about the whole purpose of your essay. 

Before you write a thesis statement for your essay, try looking into some thesis statement examples. It will help you write a meaningful statement for your essay. 

A thesis statement is mentioned after the background information and before the last sentence of the introductory paragraph. The last sentence of the introduction is a transitional sentence. 

Need more information on crafting an impactful thesis statement? Read this insightful guide on writing a thesis statement to get started!

4. Transition Sentence 

To end the introduction paragraph in a good way, a transition sentence is used. This sentence helps to relate the introduction to the rest of the essay. 

In such a sentence, we mention a hint about the elements that we will be discussing next.

Check out this list of transition words to write a good transition sentence.

Essay Introduction Template

Essay Introduction Starters

The introduction of your essay plays a crucial role in captivating your readers and setting the tone for the rest of your paper. 

To help you craft an impressive introduction, here are some effective essay introduction phrases that you can use:

  • "In today's society, [topic] has become an increasingly significant issue."
  • "From [historical event] to [current trend], [topic] has shaped our world in numerous ways."
  • "Imagine a world where [scenario]. This is the reality that [topic] addresses."
  • "Have you ever wondered about [question]? In this essay, we will explore the answers and delve into [topic]."
  • "Throughout history, humanity has grappled with the complexities of [topic]."

Here are some more words to start an introduction paragraph with:

  • "Throughout"
  • "In today's"
  • "With the advent of"
  • "In recent years"
  • "From ancient times"

Remember, these words are just tools to help you begin your introduction. Choose the words that best fit your essay topic and the tone you want to set.

Essay Introduction Examples

To help you get started, here are some examples of different essay types:

Argumentative Essay Introduction Examples

In an argumentative essay, we introduce an argument and support the side that we think is more accurate. Here is a short example of the introduction of a short argumentative essay. 

Reflective Essay Introduction Examples

A writer writes a reflective essay to share a personal real-life experience. It is a very interesting essay type as it allows you to be yourself and speak your heart out.

Here is a well-written example of a reflective essay introduction.

Controversial Essay Introduction Examples

A controversial essay is a type of expository essay. It is written to discuss a topic that has controversy in it. 

Below is a sample abortion essay introduction

Here are some more examples:

Essay introduction body and conclusion

Heritage Day essay introduction

Covid-19 essay introduction body conclusion

Tips for Writing an Essay Introduction

The following are some tips for what you should and should not do to write a good and meaningful essay introduction.

  • Do grab the reader's attention with a captivating opening sentence.
  • Do provide a clear and concise thesis statement that outlines the main argument of your essay.
  • Do give a brief overview of the key points you will discuss in the body paragraphs.
  • Do use relevant and engaging examples or anecdotes to support your introduction.
  • Do consider the tone and style that best suits your essay topic and audience.
  • Do revise and edit your introduction to ensure it flows smoothly with the rest of your essay.
  • Don't use clichés or overused phrases as your opening line.
  • Don't make your introduction overly lengthy or complex .
  • Don't include unnecessary background information that doesn't contribute to the main idea.
  • Don't introduce new information or arguments in the introduction that will be discussed later in the body paragraphs.
  • Don't use informal language or slang unless it aligns with the essay's purpose and audience.
  • Don't forget to proofread your introduction for grammar and spelling errors before finalizing it.

Remember to follow the do's and avoid the don'ts to create an impactful opening that hooks your readers from the start.

Now you know the steps and have the tips and tools to get started on creating your essay’s introduction. However, if you are a beginner, it can be difficult for you to do this task on your own. 

This is what our professional essay writing service  is for! We have a team of professional writers who can help you with all your writing assignments. Also, we have a customer support team available 24/7 to assist you. 

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Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

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  • College essay

How to Write a College Essay | A Complete Guide & Examples

The college essay can make or break your application. It’s your chance to provide personal context, communicate your values and qualities, and set yourself apart from other students.

A standout essay has a few key ingredients:

  • A unique, personal topic
  • A compelling, well-structured narrative
  • A clear, creative writing style
  • Evidence of self-reflection and insight

To achieve this, it’s crucial to give yourself enough time for brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.

In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through every step in the process of writing a college admissions essay.

Table of contents

Why do you need a standout essay, start organizing early, choose a unique topic, outline your essay, start with a memorable introduction, write like an artist, craft a strong conclusion, revise and receive feedback, frequently asked questions.

While most of your application lists your academic achievements, your college admissions essay is your opportunity to share who you are and why you’d be a good addition to the university.

Your college admissions essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s total weight一and may account for even more with some colleges making the SAT and ACT tests optional. The college admissions essay may be the deciding factor in your application, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

What do colleges look for in an essay?

Admissions officers want to understand your background, personality, and values to get a fuller picture of you beyond your test scores and grades. Here’s what colleges look for in an essay :

  • Demonstrated values and qualities
  • Vulnerability and authenticity
  • Self-reflection and insight
  • Creative, clear, and concise writing skills

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

It’s a good idea to start organizing your college application timeline in the summer of your junior year to make your application process easier. This will give you ample time for essay brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.

While timelines will vary for each student, aim to spend at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing your first draft and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Remember to leave enough time for breaks in between each writing and editing stage.

Create an essay tracker sheet

If you’re applying to multiple schools, you will have to juggle writing several essays for each one. We recommend using an essay tracker spreadsheet to help you visualize and organize the following:

  • Deadlines and number of essays needed
  • Prompt overlap, allowing you to write one essay for similar prompts

You can build your own essay tracker using our free Google Sheets template.

College essay tracker template

Ideally, you should start brainstorming college essay topics the summer before your senior year. Keep in mind that it’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic.

If you want to write about a common essay topic, such as a sports injury or volunteer work overseas, think carefully about how you can make it unique and personal. You’ll need to demonstrate deep insight and write your story in an original way to differentiate it from similar essays.

What makes a good topic?

  • Meaningful and personal to you
  • Uncommon or has an unusual angle
  • Reveals something different from the rest of your application

Brainstorming questions

You should do a comprehensive brainstorm before choosing your topic. Here are a few questions to get started:

  • What are your top five values? What lived experiences demonstrate these values?
  • What adjectives would your friends and family use to describe you?
  • What challenges or failures have you faced and overcome? What lessons did you learn from them?
  • What makes you different from your classmates?
  • What are some objects that represent your identity, your community, your relationships, your passions, or your goals?
  • Whom do you admire most? Why?
  • What three people have significantly impacted your life? How did they influence you?

How to identify your topic

Here are two strategies for identifying a topic that demonstrates your values:

  • Start with your qualities : First, identify positive qualities about yourself; then, brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities.
  • Start with a story : Brainstorm a list of memorable life moments; then, identify a value shown in each story.

After choosing your topic, organize your ideas in an essay outline , which will help keep you focused while writing. Unlike a five-paragraph academic essay, there’s no set structure for a college admissions essay. You can take a more creative approach, using storytelling techniques to shape your essay.

Two common approaches are to structure your essay as a series of vignettes or as a single narrative.

Vignettes structure

The vignette, or montage, structure weaves together several stories united by a common theme. Each story should demonstrate one of your values or qualities and conclude with an insight or future outlook.

This structure gives the admissions officer glimpses into your personality, background, and identity, and shows how your qualities appear in different areas of your life.

Topic: Museum with a “five senses” exhibit of my experiences

  • Introduction: Tour guide introduces my museum and my “Making Sense of My Heritage” exhibit
  • Story: Racial discrimination with my eyes
  • Lesson: Using my writing to document truth
  • Story: Broadway musical interests
  • Lesson: Finding my voice
  • Story: Smells from family dinner table
  • Lesson: Appreciating home and family
  • Story: Washing dishes
  • Lesson: Finding moments of peace in busy schedule
  • Story: Biking with Ava
  • Lesson: Finding pleasure in job well done
  • Conclusion: Tour guide concludes tour, invites guest to come back for “fall College Collection,” featuring my search for identity and learning.

Single story structure

The single story, or narrative, structure uses a chronological narrative to show a student’s character development over time. Some narrative essays detail moments in a relatively brief event, while others narrate a longer journey spanning months or years.

Single story essays are effective if you have overcome a significant challenge or want to demonstrate personal development.

Topic: Sports injury helps me learn to be a better student and person

  • Situation: Football injury
  • Challenge: Friends distant, teachers don’t know how to help, football is gone for me
  • Turning point: Starting to like learning in Ms. Brady’s history class; meeting Christina and her friends
  • My reactions: Reading poetry; finding shared interest in poetry with Christina; spending more time studying and with people different from me
  • Insight: They taught me compassion and opened my eyes to a different lifestyle; even though I still can’t play football, I’m starting a new game

Brainstorm creative insights or story arcs

Regardless of your essay’s structure, try to craft a surprising story arc or original insights, especially if you’re writing about a common topic.

Never exaggerate or fabricate facts about yourself to seem interesting. However, try finding connections in your life that deviate from cliché storylines and lessons.

Common insight Unique insight
Making an all-state team → outstanding achievement Making an all-state team → counting the cost of saying “no” to other interests
Making a friend out of an enemy → finding common ground, forgiveness Making a friend out of an enemy → confront toxic thinking and behavior in yourself
Choir tour → a chance to see a new part of the world Choir tour → a chance to serve in leading younger students
Volunteering → learning to help my community and care about others Volunteering → learning to be critical of insincere resume-building
Turning a friend in for using drugs →  choosing the moral high ground Turning a friend in for using drugs →  realizing the hypocrisy of hiding your secrets

Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and they typically spend only a few minutes reading each one. To get your message across, your introduction , or hook, needs to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to read more..

Avoid starting your introduction with a famous quote, cliché, or reference to the essay itself (“While I sat down to write this essay…”).

While you can sometimes use dialogue or a meaningful quotation from a close family member or friend, make sure it encapsulates your essay’s overall theme.

Find an original, creative way of starting your essay using the following two methods.

Option 1: Start with an intriguing hook

Begin your essay with an unexpected statement to pique the reader’s curiosity and compel them to carefully read your essay. A mysterious introduction disarms the reader’s expectations and introduces questions that can only be answered by reading more.

Option 2: Start with vivid imagery

Illustrate a clear, detailed image to immediately transport your reader into your memory. You can start in the middle of an important scene or describe an object that conveys your essay’s theme.

A college application essay allows you to be creative in your style and tone. As you draft your essay, try to use interesting language to enliven your story and stand out .

Show, don’t tell

“Tell” in writing means to simply state a fact: “I am a basketball player.” “ Show ” in writing means to use details, examples, and vivid imagery to help the reader easily visualize your memory: “My heart races as I set up to shoot一two seconds, one second一and score a three-pointer!”

First, reflect on every detail of a specific image or scene to recall the most memorable aspects.

  • What are the most prominent images?
  • Are there any particular sounds, smells, or tastes associated with this memory?
  • What emotion or physical feeling did you have at that time?

Be vulnerable to create an emotional response

You don’t have to share a huge secret or traumatic story, but you should dig deep to express your honest feelings, thoughts, and experiences to evoke an emotional response. Showing vulnerability demonstrates humility and maturity. However, don’t exaggerate to gain sympathy.

Use appropriate style and tone

Make sure your essay has the right style and tone by following these guidelines:

  • Use a conversational yet respectful tone: less formal than academic writing, but more formal than texting your friends.
  • Prioritize using “I” statements to highlight your perspective.
  • Write within your vocabulary range to maintain an authentic voice.
  • Write concisely, and use the active voice to keep a fast pace.
  • Follow grammar rules (unless you have valid stylistic reasons for breaking them).

You should end your college essay with a deep insight or creative ending to leave the reader with a strong final impression. Your college admissions essay should avoid the following:

  • Summarizing what you already wrote
  • Stating your hope of being accepted to the school
  • Mentioning character traits that should have been illustrated in the essay, such as “I’m a hard worker”

Here are two strategies to craft a strong conclusion.

Option 1: Full circle, sandwich structure

The full circle, or sandwich, structure concludes the essay with an image, idea, or story mentioned in the introduction. This strategy gives the reader a strong sense of closure.

In the example below, the essay concludes by returning to the “museum” metaphor that the writer opened with.

Option 2: Revealing your insight

You can use the conclusion to show the insight you gained as a result of the experiences you’ve described. Revealing your main message at the end creates suspense and keeps the takeaway at the forefront of your reader’s mind.

Revise your essay before submitting it to check its content, style, and grammar. Get feedback from no more than two or three people.

It’s normal to go through several rounds of revision, but take breaks between each editing stage.

Also check out our college essay examples to see what does and doesn’t work in an essay and the kinds of changes you can make to improve yours.

Respect the word count

Most schools specify a word count for each essay , and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit.

Remain under the specified word count limit to show you can write concisely and follow directions. However, don’t write too little, which may imply that you are unwilling or unable to write a thoughtful and developed essay.

Check your content, style, and grammar

  • First, check big-picture issues of message, flow, and clarity.
  • Then, check for style and tone issues.
  • Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Get feedback

Get feedback from 2–3 people who know you well, have good writing skills, and are familiar with college essays.

  • Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your content, language, and tone.
  • Friends and family can check for authenticity.
  • An essay coach or editor has specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and can give objective expert feedback.

The checklist below helps you make sure your essay ticks all the boxes.

College admissions essay checklist

I’ve organized my essay prompts and created an essay writing schedule.

I’ve done a comprehensive brainstorm for essay topics.

I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me and reveals something different from the rest of my application.

I’ve created an outline to guide my structure.

I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.

I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of telling.

I’ve shown positive traits and values in my essay.

I’ve demonstrated self-reflection and insight in my essay.

I’ve used appropriate style and tone .

I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.

I’ve revised my essay , checking my overall message, flow, clarity, and grammar.

I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.


It looks like your essay ticks all the boxes. A second pair of eyes can help you take it to the next level – Scribbr's essay coaches can help.

Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.

Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.

You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.

If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

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College Essay Introduction Examples

College essay introduction examples

Reading some college essay introduction examples is a great place to start if you’re struggling to begin writing your college essay. The college essay is a significant hurdle for many college applicants but reading sample college essays can help inspire your writing. Knowing how to write a killer introduction, though, is the first step, as the introduction of your essay can make or break your entire essay. In this blog, we’ll learn why the college essay introduction is so important, how to structure it and a step-by-step guide on how to write a killer essay introduction. We’ve also included some college essay introduction examples to guide you!

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Article Contents 7 min read

Why the college essay introduction is so important.

Your college essay can be vital to your admission to your top school, and the introduction of your college essay can make it or break it. The introduction of your college admissions essay, or common app essay , is often overlooked, but it is a crucial part of the overall essay. Why? Because your introduction is quite literally the first opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions committee, and you need to make an impression. Getting into college requires more than high grades and good test scores nowadays. You need a well-rounded and impressive application. And to do this you need to know how to write a college essay . To write an essay that stands out from the crowd and makes you a memorable candidate for admission, you’ll need to know how to write an excellent college essay introduction.

The introduction of your college essay is so crucial because it is what first grabs your reader’s attention. Like any good piece of writing, if you don’t snag your reader’s interest in the first sentence, they won’t be inclined to read the rest of your essay. And you need them to be interested and engaged so you can make your point. A college essay counts for a significant portion of your overall candidacy as a college applicant. It can even be your secret to how to get into college with a low GPA . But writing essays is not easy, and introductions can be especially tricky for students to write. This is why plenty of college applicants hire college essay advisors to help them write their common app essays or supplemental college essays .

If you plan to apply to any of the schools which use the common app essay, you’ll be somewhat familiar with the required short essay format and structure. Your college essay will be around 250-650 words maximum, so your introduction needs to be fairly concise. It’s best to keep your introduction just a few sentences long, so you’ll need to be very wise with your words and make the most of each one. You may also want to add a title to your essay. This is not a requirement and should only be included if you think the title adds something significant. Otherwise, leave it out.

Here’s a list of what to include in your college essay introduction:

A college essay needs to have good flow, and this starts in the introduction. This means your \u201chook\u201d sentence needs to connect to the rest of your introduction, and then needs to connect seamlessly to your body paragraphs. Your writing should follow a clear path from your hook to your conclusion. One way to keep good flow is to use a strong transition sentence, but another way is to guide your reader. The second sentence, after your hook, shouldn\u2019t be unrelated or step away from your point, it should lead your reader to the reason why you are writing this essay. ","label":"Good flow","title":"Good flow"}]" code="tab1" template="BlogArticle">

Before any writing can begin, we’ll need to start the brainstorming process. This is essentially gathering and writing down the key experiences, significant moments and important lessons you have learned throughout your life. Everyone’s experiences are unique, and the ideas you write down may vary depending on your situation. If you’re a non-traditional college applicant, you might write about the gap year you took after high school, or why you’re going back to college after years of working in your field. International students might write about their decision to study overseas or their experience with culture shock. First time college applicants may draw on their experiences with summer programs for high school students or the work experiences they’ve included in their high school resume .

Your choice of essay topic or the personal experiences you choose to highlight in your essay may also be influenced by the essay prompt or essay question, if the school provides one. If this is the case, you can reflect on which prompt or question resonates most with you or choose to write more than one essay if more than one prompt resonates. For schools that do not provide a question or essay prompt, you can reflect on your future career goals, personal goals or the reasons why you are applying to college.

Whatever your situation or your story, gather all of the personal experiences you can think of and jot them down. Brainstorming is an important process, but they key is to write down absolutely every idea you can think of to start.

Some personal experiences you might draw from for your brainstorming session could be:

  • What sparked your interest in applying to college
  • What life experiences sparked your interest in a particular field of study
  • What made you interested in a career in this field of study
  • What activities did you partake in growing up that grew your interest in this field
  • What activities did you pursue during high school that grew your interest in this field
  • What solidified your decision to apply to college

Your college essay is at heart a narrative that either answers the essay question or answers the question “why are you applying to this school?” Your essay should take the reader through each stage of your decision, but your introduction’s primary role is to grab the reader’s interest and set the stage. And just like an excellent stage play seizes the audience’s attention from the moment the lights turn on the stage, your essay needs to do the same. Be the narrator of your narrative and share with the audience what will be learned about you from reading your essay.

Here’s a quick guide to brainstorming and writing your college essay introduction

Once your essay is fully outlined, or even drafted, you might write your introduction last. This way you already know what your essay is about and just need to introduce it to the reader. "}]">

Once you’ve drafted your introduction, give it a read. Does the hook sentence grab you? Try reading it aloud and see how it flows into the body of your essay. If it doesn’t pique your own interest, it won’t hold your reader’s! Ask a friend, family member, college advisor or acquaintance to read it and give you feedback on your intro. Try a few different versions of your hook sentence or refine your transition sentence. Make sure your introduction is as strong as can be.

For our college essay introduction examples, we’ve used a few of the common app essay prompts you might see on your application. We’ve included sample introductions for essays from students of various different life experiences and situations to help you!

Prompt: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

My love affair with painting started late in life. After 25 years of working as a science teacher, I never expected my hunt for a pre-retirement hobby to turn into a shift in career path. Painting has become a daily solace for me, and my involvement in my local arts community has opened up career opportunities I never dreamed of. And it has sparked a fascination with the arts and what it can add to my life. This fascination first started when I accepted an invitation from a friend to see her work on display at a local Art Walk.

Prompt: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

I thought I would spend my gap year after high school laying on a beach and getting tan. Instead, I experienced a profound transformation within myself as I immersed myself in a new culture and a new people. A month after my graduation, I was on a plane on my way to Thailand, nothing on my mind except sun and sad. A year after, Thailand sent me home with an entirely new perspective and appreciation for life. When I left home, I was still unsure what I wanted from my life and whether I would apply for college. My wavering feelings were solidified after working with an amazing not-for-profit in some of Thailand’s remote villages, which also lead to the most impactful friendship of my life.

Prompt: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

What I remember most from the night my entire life collapsed was the brightness of the stadium lights overhead. Not the chaos of the crowd or the faces staring down at me, talking over me. I was deaf to all that. The lights were so blinding, so distracting. And I kept thinking, over and over, ‘don’t take me out of the game’. Thoughts that would be strangely prophetic later, in the hospital, when they told me I wouldn’t be able to play the rest of the season, or maybe ever again. My entire life, my expected future, flew off a cliff. In those coming months, I would learn what it really means to start over, to pick yourself back up and keep playing the game. 

To write a killer opening to your college essay, focus on the very first sentence, your “hook”. It should be unique, interesting and “hook” the reader’s attention. It’s the “big idea” or main lesson learned from your college essay. Play around with the sentence length and structure to see what works and try reading the introduction aloud to hear how it sounds to your ear.

Try not to start your college essay introduction with a cliché or a quote. Cliches have been read thousands of times by admissions officers, and they want to see something unique and interesting, not the same old things. And using a quote to start your essay isn’t a good idea, since it is meant to be written in your own words, not someone else’s. 

Writing a good hook takes some work. Try to think of how you would summarize your essay or the personal experience you are highlighting. What was the key lesson you learned? What is at the centre of your motivations? Try writing this topic sentence a few different ways and read it aloud to see how it sounds. 

The introduction of your essay needs to grab your reader’s attention right away. If it doesn’t, the admissions committee won’t want to read the rest of your essay and you’ll have lost them already. As the college essay counts for a significant part of your overall application, the introduction is crucial for your success.

It’s best not to do this, even if the quote is inspirational for you. College admission committees want to hear what you have to say, not someone else.

You can include a title if you choose, but it’s best to leave it out unless the title adds something important to your overall essay.

The introduction of a college essay needs to include a “hook” sentence, a transition sentence, an introduction of your essay content and good flow.

It’s advisable to keep your college essay introduction short and concise. It should make up about 10% of your essay’s word count, so in some cases this is quite short! 

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How to Write a Compelling College Essay Introduction? + [Examples]

EssayEdge > Blog > How to Write a Compelling College Essay Introduction? + [Examples]

This article provides simple yet effective guidance on how to write a college essay introduction. You’ll learn what makes a great introduction and how it should be structured.

Additionally, it offers some examples of successful introductions and do’s and don’ts that will help ensure your intro “wows” the admissions officers and sets the stage for the rest of the essay.

A general rule to follow is this: Move your most compelling experience to the forefront and structure your essay around it.

Table of Contents:

What Makes a Great First Paragraph of an Essay?

The main components of a compelling introduction for a college essay include:

  • An attention-grabbing first sentence that hooks the reader.
  • A vivid yet short story that illustrates your insights and contains effective sensory information.
  • An insightful pivot that serves as a bridge between the life experience you describe and the part where you elucidate the lessons you have learned about yourself, your growth, and the impact of the experience on your personality.

Here’s a Great Outline to Follow:

I. Introduction A. Attention-Grabber B. Personal Connection C. Purpose Statement D. Thesis Statement

How to Start a College Essay [With Examples & Explanations]

1. begin with an attention-grabber.

The opening sentence of your essay should function as a “ hook ,” capturing the reader’s attention and enticing them to continue reading. This sentence should offer intriguing details, pique the reader’s curiosity, or differentiate itself from the rest of the essay in some way.

These are the four most effective ways to do it:

  • By Including an Anecdote or a Personal Story: A short personal insight or experience that relates to the broader theme of the essay and highlights your qualities. Example: “I quickly ran through my speech in my mind. While I waited to present, my hands shook from nervousness, and my entire body began to break out in a cold sweat. As I looked out at my fellow student senators of the Judiciary Committee, I forced myself to take a deep breath. Then I launched into talking about my proposed bill.” Why It Works: In this college essay intro, the author describes a relatable and high-stakes situation – giving a speech in front of peers – that immediately draws the reader in. It also reveals the author’s vulnerability, helping the reader connect with them personally and showing their determination and willingness to take on challenges.
  • By Posing a Rhetorical Question: A question that makes a point rather than elicits a direct answer. It can also be used to emphasize a particular idea. Example: “Who would have ever imagined how far I would come from the days when I was just a quiet little boy with a humiliating speech disorder?” Why It Works: This question highlights the author’s personal growth and transformation, contrasting their past struggles with their present-day accomplishments. Additionally, it creates a sense of curiosity and anticipation, encouraging the reader to continue reading to learn more about the author’s story.
  • By Making a Bold Statement: A b, assertive declaration that often challenges conventional thinking or presents a unique perspective. Example: “I hate to admit it, but I have been doing ballet for the past 10 years, and I am not very good at it.” Why It Works: By admitting their weakness or lack of skill in ballet, the author demonstrates vulnerability and humility, establishing a connection with the reader. The statement also suggests that the author is being honest and genuine about their abilities rather than trying to present themselves in an overly positive way. This helps build trust with the reader and makes the essay more credible and interesting to read.
  • By Adding an Immersive Description: A descriptive scene that allows the reader to fully immerse into a specific moment or setting relevant to your essay. Example: “That’s another worm burner,’ my grandfather remarked, a smile creeping across his face as my fairway shot skipped, low and angrily, in the general direction of the hole. I looked down at where the ball had been; I had hit the top of the ball, a fluke that causes a speedy, low, and wimpy shot.” Why It Works: This immersive description uses vivid sensory details to transport the reader to the golf play scene and create a clear picture in their mind. The phrase “worm burner” is a colorful and memorable way to describe the type of shot the author hit, and the description of the shot skipping “low and angrily” helps to convey a sense of movement and emotion. The author’s action of looking down at where the ball had been and noticing that they hit the top of the ball adds a layer of self-reflection and analysis to the scene, making it more engaging for the reader.

2. Establish a Connection

And what better way to do it than through sharing a brief insight into your background or interests that relate to the story you’re about to tell?

Example: “I am who I am today because of what came after the split: my step-parents. Because I met them at such a young age, my step-parents influenced my personality just as much as my biological parents. In fact, people often tell me that I am ‘just like my dad,’ referring to my step-dad, or that I act ‘just like my mom,’ referring to my step-mom.”

Why It Works: In this example, the author shares a personal experience of growing up with step-parents and how it has shaped their personality. They also describe how people often comment on their similarities to their step-parents, which suggests a close and meaningful relationship. Such a personal connection will undoubtedly resonate with readers who have experienced significant life changes.

3. State the Purpose of Your Essay

In this part of your college essay starters, the committee will expect you to clearly explain why you’re writing this essay and what you want them to take away from it.

Example: “After three years’ of study in the U.S., I’ve decided to apply to Harvard Business School to pursue my dream of achieving high-quality college education to be competent and effective in the world of business.”

Why It Works: This statement clearly outlines the author’s goal of pursuing a college education to become competent in the world of business. The rest of the paragraph provides background for this goal, emphasizing their motivation and determination to move forward.

4. Present the Main Argument or Thesis Statement

This part of your introduction provides a roadmap for the reader. To be successful, it should succinctly summarize the central point you will argue or support throughout the rest of your essay.

Example: “It did not take me long to make up my mind – I wanted to pursue this path in college.”

Why It Works: This statement is clear, focused, and demonstrates the author’s potential for success in college – attributes committees often seek in applicants.

Expert tip: Include specific, descriptive adjectives in your introduction. This will help paint a detailed image in the admissions officer’s mind and make your writing more memorable.

Do’s and Dont’s of How to Start Your College Essay

Here are a few basic do’s and don’ts to help you write a b college admission essay that wins the committee’s hearts from the very first paragraph.

  • Keep It Brief Ideally, limit your introduction to 80-150 words long or up to 20% of the word count of the entire college essay.
  • Use Natural Language and Be Honest The admissions officers want to read your unique, authentic voice . Therefore, try to use language that feels natural and reflects your personality. Additionally, be honest in your writing, and only make assertions you can support with evidence. Example: “First, I have b leadership and entrepreneurial skills. My mom is a businesswoman, and she owns four companies in China. When I was a middle school student, she brought me to listen to the Harvard University MBA lesson. Even though I was just a child, I listened and learned how to manage my time, how to collect the necessary resources to reach a goal, how to set up a goal, and how to achieve it. I bring that knowledge with me, and I act more maturely than my peers. When I was a freshman in high school, I was a class monitor and secretary of the Committee X. When I went to college, I became a CFO of Company X. We earned $500K from that, which we donated to local homeless women.”
  • Write It Last While the introduction appears at the beginning of the essay, writing it first is not always a good idea. If you find the introduction challenging or experience writer’s block, consider writing the rest of the essay first. Later, it will be much easier for you to return to the introduction and add a captivating yet relevant hook.
  • Proofread Your Essay It’s especially important for the introductory part as it provides the first impression to the admissions officer. Any mistake in grammar, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and use of vocabulary in the introduction would be similar to showing up late for an interview for a job and in ragged jeans. Not the kind of impression you want to make, right? Therefore, proofreading your introduction multiple times before sending it off is a definite must.

Here are some tips to make sure your introduction for college essay is mistake-free:

  • Use Grammarly’s spell-checker tool.
  • Ask your English teacher or friend to review your writing.
  • Highlight all the necessary sentences in your introduction and eliminate those that will not alter the effectiveness of your introduction once omitted.
  • Don’t Use Predictable Introductory Techniques The purpose of your introduction is to catch the attention of the admissions officer among the pool of other candidates’ works they have read. This means you must avoid vague sentences, cliches, and formulaic essay writing at all costs. Examples: “The obstacles I’ve experienced have played a significant role in shaping my identity and character.” “In my essay, I will tell you about…” Rather than that, try to be as imaginative as possible to tell your story in a different way, and the hard work will pay off. Example: “I’d like a cheeseburger,’ I stuttered as my friends and I approached the counter of our local Golden Arches franchise. ‘Except minus the burger and extra lettuce, please.’ While the person behind the counter at least tried to hide the look of disbelief, my friends openly questioned my sanity. This automatically launched me into explaining the reasons behind my pescetarian diet, which I enthusiastically described like a docent explaining a masterpiece to museum visitors. I believe that my diet is the culmination of my values and experiences, representing the impetus of who I am. It represents my values of compassion and ethics; it represents my courage to support non-conventional beliefs; and, most importantly, it represents my love for the environment and passion for sustainability.”
  • Don’t Use Multi-Syllable Vocabulary Words Of course, you can include a few advanced words in your writing to impress the admissions officers. However, make sure not to overdo it. Otherwise, your introduction will not only sound unnatural but might also have adverse effects. Remember, the admissions officers want to read your unique, authentic voice in the first place. Examples : spectacular, conscientious, donnybrook, etc.
  • Don’t Overwhelm Your Reader with Details or Irrelevant Data Your introduction should be clear, concise, focused, and relevant to the topic. Therefore, avoid including unnecessary or irrelevant information that doesn’t contribute to your main argument. Instead, stick to the essentials and make every word count. Summarizing your accomplishments, experiences, or qualifications will also do no good.

Melissa S.

Handling Sensitive or Controversial Topics in a Personal Essay

Writing on a topic that’s too controversial or sensitive is always tricky, especially when it comes to college admissions. “Yes, I know that. But how should I start my college essay if it needs to address a topic I’d prefer to avoid?” you might ask.

First and foremost, try to take an honest look at that situation and turn it around so that it’s relatable and demonstrates your growth trajectory. Tell it in the kindest, most authentic way you can. Couple this with how this particular institution would fit that trajectory, and you’re halfway to success!

Another trick when writing about potentially sensitive topics is to be more general about the sensational parts (e.g., describing someone’s illness, injury, or disability). In other words, just provide enough information for the reader to understand what you are talking about, but don’t go into too much detail.

Example: “I grew up in a household where the term ’failure’ was defined as an opportunity to try again. Up until a week ago, this definition was simple for me to uphold. Whenever I failed, I was able to pinpoint where I went wrong and improve until I reached my goal. Then, on September 10, 2023, I received a call from my leader, James, who explained that my nine-month-old Golden Retriever, Toronto, was being career-changed due to anxiety issues stemming from a disability. This meant that he could never be a service dog and, instead, would be put up for adoption.”

A compelling college essay introduction is key to making your candidacy stand out, so there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. However, with proper preparation, creativity, genuineness, and truthfulness, you’ll nail the task!

Write straight into the emotional center of admissions officers, including vivid details that touch upon anything from sight to touch.

Write toward vulnerability. Open up. Share your feelings, thoughts, and opinions, and you’ll definitely make the admissions officer interested in what you have to say.

For more details on how to start a college essay, you can refer to the EssayEdge blog.

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how to write a good intro for a college essay

How to Get the Perfect Hook for Your College Essay

What’s covered:, developing your hook.

  • 5 College Essay Hook Examples

5 Tips and Examples for Crafting a Great Hook

Your essay is one of the best tools available for standing out in a crowded field of college applicants (many with academic portfolios similar to yours) when applying to your dream school. A college essay is your opportunity to show admissions committees the person behind the grades, test scores, and resume. To ensure your college essay receives the full attention of admissions committees, you need to lure them in with a great hook—that is, a compelling opening that makes your audience hungry for more.

You need a strong start to capture the attention of the admission committees. When it comes to college essays, first impressions are everything. In fact, there’s no guarantee that anyone is going to read more than your first sentence if you bore them to tears within a few words, which is why it’s essential to craft an effective and engaging hook.

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for composing an attention-grabbing hook. A well-crafted hook can be anything from an image to an anecdote to an interesting fact while factors like writing style, essay structure, and prompt can all influence what makes for a good hook. That said, memorable hooks share a number of attributes, most notably they draw readers in,  connect with the topic you’re writing about, and leave a lasting impression, often in a creative or unexpected way.

For example, let’s construct a hypothetical essay. Let’s say that after some careful consideration, Jane Doe has decided to write her personal essay about her experience running canine obedience classes. She isn’t quite sure how to start her essay, so she’s practicing with some proven essay hooks. If you’re ready to develop your own hook, check out four of our favorite college essay hook strategies and how they work for Jane below!

College Essay Hook Examples

There are a number of proven strategies that Jane can use to craft a compelling hook. A few tried-and-true hooks include:

1. Open with an Anecdote

People love stories, so it makes sense that telling one is a great way to attract readers. Detailing a relevant anecdote provides context for your essay and can give the reader an idea of what you are up against if you’re overcoming an obstacle or rising to a challenge.

On the day that I told my mother I wanted to start my own canine obedience school, she smiled and muttered something under her breath about the irony of my youthful disobedience and my newfound passion for enforcing rules. What she didn’t know then was that it was not in spite of, but rather because of, my tendency to push the boundaries that I was confident in my ability to succeed.

2. Set the Scene

One fantastic way to get your essay moving and to draw your readers in is to plunge them into the middle of an important scene. Provide readers with descriptive details and dialogue to make them feel like they’re watching a movie from your life and have just tuned in at a critical moment.

I jumped back as the dog lunged for my leg, teeth bared and snarling. “It’s okay, Smokey, it’s okay,” I soothed as I tried to maneuver closer to the post where I had tied his leash. In the back of my head, I heard my brother’s taunts swirling around.

“A dog trainer?” he had scoffed. “What kind of person would hire you as a dog trainer?!”

I pushed the thoughts away and grasped the leash, pulling it tightly to my side as Smokey, surprised by my sudden confidence, fell into stride beside me.

3. Ask a Question

Asking a question at the beginning of your essay can activate your reader’s critical thinking and get them hungry for the answer that you won’t offer until later. Try to come up with a question that’s broad enough that they won’t know the answer right away, but specific enough that it isn’t a generic hook that could work on just any college essay.

How do you respond when you’re faced with a very real physical threat to your safety, yet you literally can’t afford to back down? This is the question I faced on my very first day as a dog trainer.

4. Use a Metaphor or Simile

A metaphor or simile can pull readers in by helping them make connections between seemingly unrelated topics or by encouraging them to think about topics from a different point of view.

Running canine obedience classes is a lot like navigating high school. It’s a dog-eat-dog world with a lot to learn, many personalities to manage, peril around every corner, and everyone anxious to graduate.

Selecting the right hook is a great first step for writing a winning college essay, but the execution is also important.

1. Narrow Down Your Scope

Sometimes the best way to tackle big projects like writing an attention-grabbing hook or captivating college essay is to think small. Narrow down on a specific incident or even a moment that leads into your topic.

It’s my first time teaching a canine obedience class. I’m surrounded by strangers and the dogs are barking so loud I can’t hear myself think, but I have a gnawing feeling that I’m losing control. I put my fingers to my lips and let out the loudest whistle I’m capable of. Suddenly there was silence.

2. Use Adjectives

Adjectives are used to add a description and make your writing clearer and more specific. In other words, they’re the details that make your writing stand out and suck readers in. Jane didn’t simply reward the dog for sitting, she…

It was a battle of wills between me and the eight-month-old Australian Shepherd—defiance was in his sparkling blue eyes, but so was desire for the bit of hot dog hiding in my hand. Reluctantly he sat, earning his treat while I claimed my alpha status.

3. Use Emotion

Use emotion to connect and entice your reader. Emotions make readers feel, pulling them into your essay, and are memorable. You can use them for everything from sharing a fact about yourself to putting the reader in your shoes.

When I was young, I would have been extremely lonely if not for my dog Trevor. I struggled to make friends and Trevor provided companionship, helped me overcome my shyness (he was a great icebreaker), and is responsible for shaping who I am today. When Trevor passed away in high school, I set out to train canine obedience and help dogs become the best versions of themselves—just like what Trevor did for me.

4. Short and Sweet

Admissions committees have a lot of essays to read, so the quicker you get to the point and capture their attention, the better.

Mere moments into my dream job, someone had already peed on the floor and another had bitten a person. Welcome to the life of a dog trainer.

5. Just Start Writing

Sometimes the hook of your college essay isn’t clear. Rather than getting hung up, start developing your essay and see if it adds clarity as to how to best implement a hook. Some students even find that it’s easiest to write a hook last, after writing the body of the personal statement.

Where to Get Feedback on Your Essay Hook

Wondering if you created an effective hook? It’s difficult to evaluate your own writing, especially a line or two you read and reworked numerous times. CollegeVine can help. Through our free Peer Essay Review tool , you can get a free review of your hook, and overall essay, from another student. Then you can pay it forward and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, getting college essay help: important do's and don’ts.

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College Essays


If you grow up to be a professional writer, everything you write will first go through an editor before being published. This is because the process of writing is really a process of re-writing —of rethinking and reexamining your work, usually with the help of someone else. So what does this mean for your student writing? And in particular, what does it mean for very important, but nonprofessional writing like your college essay? Should you ask your parents to look at your essay? Pay for an essay service?

If you are wondering what kind of help you can, and should, get with your personal statement, you've come to the right place! In this article, I'll talk about what kind of writing help is useful, ethical, and even expected for your college admission essay . I'll also point out who would make a good editor, what the differences between editing and proofreading are, what to expect from a good editor, and how to spot and stay away from a bad one.

Table of Contents

What Kind of Help for Your Essay Can You Get?

What's Good Editing?

What should an editor do for you, what kind of editing should you avoid, proofreading, what's good proofreading, what kind of proofreading should you avoid.

What Do Colleges Think Of You Getting Help With Your Essay?

Who Can/Should Help You?

Advice for editors.

Should You Pay Money For Essay Editing?

The Bottom Line

What's next, what kind of help with your essay can you get.

Rather than talking in general terms about "help," let's first clarify the two different ways that someone else can improve your writing . There is editing, which is the more intensive kind of assistance that you can use throughout the whole process. And then there's proofreading, which is the last step of really polishing your final product.

Let me go into some more detail about editing and proofreading, and then explain how good editors and proofreaders can help you."

Editing is helping the author (in this case, you) go from a rough draft to a finished work . Editing is the process of asking questions about what you're saying, how you're saying it, and how you're organizing your ideas. But not all editing is good editing . In fact, it's very easy for an editor to cross the line from supportive to overbearing and over-involved.

Ability to clarify assignments. A good editor is usually a good writer, and certainly has to be a good reader. For example, in this case, a good editor should make sure you understand the actual essay prompt you're supposed to be answering.

Open-endedness. Good editing is all about asking questions about your ideas and work, but without providing answers. It's about letting you stick to your story and message, and doesn't alter your point of view.


Think of an editor as a great travel guide. It can show you the many different places your trip could take you. It should explain any parts of the trip that could derail your trip or confuse the traveler. But it never dictates your path, never forces you to go somewhere you don't want to go, and never ignores your interests so that the trip no longer seems like it's your own. So what should good editors do?

Help Brainstorm Topics

Sometimes it's easier to bounce thoughts off of someone else. This doesn't mean that your editor gets to come up with ideas, but they can certainly respond to the various topic options you've come up with. This way, you're less likely to write about the most boring of your ideas, or to write about something that isn't actually important to you.

If you're wondering how to come up with options for your editor to consider, check out our guide to brainstorming topics for your college essay .

Help Revise Your Drafts

Here, your editor can't upset the delicate balance of not intervening too much or too little. It's tricky, but a great way to think about it is to remember: editing is about asking questions, not giving answers .

Revision questions should point out:

  • Places where more detail or more description would help the reader connect with your essay
  • Places where structure and logic don't flow, losing the reader's attention
  • Places where there aren't transitions between paragraphs, confusing the reader
  • Moments where your narrative or the arguments you're making are unclear

But pointing to potential problems is not the same as actually rewriting—editors let authors fix the problems themselves.

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Bad editing is usually very heavy-handed editing. Instead of helping you find your best voice and ideas, a bad editor changes your writing into their own vision.

You may be dealing with a bad editor if they:

  • Add material (examples, descriptions) that doesn't come from you
  • Use a thesaurus to make your college essay sound "more mature"
  • Add meaning or insight to the essay that doesn't come from you
  • Tell you what to say and how to say it
  • Write sentences, phrases, and paragraphs for you
  • Change your voice in the essay so it no longer sounds like it was written by a teenager

Colleges can tell the difference between a 17-year-old's writing and a 50-year-old's writing. Not only that, they have access to your SAT or ACT Writing section, so they can compare your essay to something else you wrote. Writing that's a little more polished is great and expected. But a totally different voice and style will raise questions.

Where's the Line Between Helpful Editing and Unethical Over-Editing?

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether your college essay editor is doing the right thing. Here are some guidelines for staying on the ethical side of the line.

  • An editor should say that the opening paragraph is kind of boring, and explain what exactly is making it drag. But it's overstepping for an editor to tell you exactly how to change it.
  • An editor should point out where your prose is unclear or vague. But it's completely inappropriate for the editor to rewrite that section of your essay.
  • An editor should let you know that a section is light on detail or description. But giving you similes and metaphors to beef up that description is a no-go.


Proofreading (also called copy-editing) is checking for errors in the last draft of a written work. It happens at the end of the process and is meant as the final polishing touch. Proofreading is meticulous and detail-oriented, focusing on small corrections. It sands off all the surface rough spots that could alienate the reader.

Because proofreading is usually concerned with making fixes on the word or sentence level, this is the only process where someone else can actually add to or take away things from your essay . This is because what they are adding or taking away tends to be one or two misplaced letters.

Laser focus. Proofreading is all about the tiny details, so the ability to really concentrate on finding small slip-ups is a must.

Excellent grammar and spelling skills. Proofreaders need to dot every "i" and cross every "t." Good proofreaders should correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. They should put foreign words in italics and surround quotations with quotation marks. They should check that you used the correct college's name, and that you adhered to any formatting requirements (name and date at the top of the page, uniform font and size, uniform spacing).

Limited interference. A proofreader needs to make sure that you followed any word limits. But if cuts need to be made to shorten the essay, that's your job and not the proofreader's.


A bad proofreader either tries to turn into an editor, or just lacks the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job.

Some signs that you're working with a bad proofreader are:

  • If they suggest making major changes to the final draft of your essay. Proofreading happens when editing is already finished.
  • If they aren't particularly good at spelling, or don't know grammar, or aren't detail-oriented enough to find someone else's small mistakes.
  • If they start swapping out your words for fancier-sounding synonyms, or changing the voice and sound of your essay in other ways. A proofreader is there to check for errors, not to take the 17-year-old out of your writing.


What Do Colleges Think of Your Getting Help With Your Essay?

Admissions officers agree: light editing and proofreading are good—even required ! But they also want to make sure you're the one doing the work on your essay. They want essays with stories, voice, and themes that come from you. They want to see work that reflects your actual writing ability, and that focuses on what you find important.

On the Importance of Editing

Get feedback. Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don't allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others' edits and opinions when they seem helpful. ( Bates College )

Read your essay aloud to someone. Reading the essay out loud offers a chance to hear how your essay sounds outside your head. This exercise reveals flaws in the essay's flow, highlights grammatical errors and helps you ensure that you are communicating the exact message you intended. ( Dickinson College )

On the Value of Proofreading

Share your essays with at least one or two people who know you well—such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend—and ask for feedback. Remember that you ultimately have control over your essays, and your essays should retain your own voice, but others may be able to catch mistakes that you missed and help suggest areas to cut if you are over the word limit. ( Yale University )

Proofread and then ask someone else to proofread for you. Although we want substance, we also want to be able to see that you can write a paper for our professors and avoid careless mistakes that would drive them crazy. ( Oberlin College )

On Watching Out for Too Much Outside Influence

Limit the number of people who review your essay. Too much input usually means your voice is lost in the writing style. ( Carleton College )

Ask for input (but not too much). Your parents, friends, guidance counselors, coaches, and teachers are great people to bounce ideas off of for your essay. They know how unique and spectacular you are, and they can help you decide how to articulate it. Keep in mind, however, that a 45-year-old lawyer writes quite differently from an 18-year-old student, so if your dad ends up writing the bulk of your essay, we're probably going to notice. ( Vanderbilt University )


Now let's talk about some potential people to approach for your college essay editing and proofreading needs. It's best to start close to home and slowly expand outward. Not only are your family and friends more invested in your success than strangers, but they also have a better handle on your interests and personality. This knowledge is key for judging whether your essay is expressing your true self.

Parents or Close Relatives

Your family may be full of potentially excellent editors! Parents are deeply committed to your well-being, and family members know you and your life well enough to offer details or incidents that can be included in your essay. On the other hand, the rewriting process necessarily involves criticism, which is sometimes hard to hear from someone very close to you.

A parent or close family member is a great choice for an editor if you can answer "yes" to the following questions. Is your parent or close relative a good writer or reader? Do you have a relationship where editing your essay won't create conflict? Are you able to constructively listen to criticism and suggestion from the parent?

One suggestion for defusing face-to-face discussions is to try working on the essay over email. Send your parent a draft, have them write you back some comments, and then you can pick which of their suggestions you want to use and which to discard.

Teachers or Tutors

A humanities teacher that you have a good relationship with is a great choice. I am purposefully saying humanities, and not just English, because teachers of Philosophy, History, Anthropology, and any other classes where you do a lot of writing, are all used to reviewing student work.

Moreover, any teacher or tutor that has been working with you for some time, knows you very well and can vet the essay to make sure it "sounds like you."

If your teacher or tutor has some experience with what college essays are supposed to be like, ask them to be your editor. If not, then ask whether they have time to proofread your final draft.

Guidance or College Counselor at Your School

The best thing about asking your counselor to edit your work is that this is their job. This means that they have a very good sense of what colleges are looking for in an application essay.

At the same time, school counselors tend to have relationships with admissions officers in many colleges, which again gives them insight into what works and which college is focused on what aspect of the application.

Unfortunately, in many schools the guidance counselor tends to be way overextended. If your ratio is 300 students to 1 college counselor, you're unlikely to get that person's undivided attention and focus. It is still useful to ask them for general advice about your potential topics, but don't expect them to be able to stay with your essay from first draft to final version.

Friends, Siblings, or Classmates

Although they most likely don't have much experience with what colleges are hoping to see, your peers are excellent sources for checking that your essay is you .

Friends and siblings are perfect for the read-aloud edit. Read your essay to them so they can listen for words and phrases that are stilted, pompous, or phrases that just don't sound like you.

You can even trade essays and give helpful advice on each other's work.


If your editor hasn't worked with college admissions essays very much, no worries! Any astute and attentive reader can still greatly help with your process. But, as in all things, beginners do better with some preparation.

First, your editor should read our advice about how to write a college essay introduction , how to spot and fix a bad college essay , and get a sense of what other students have written by going through some admissions essays that worked .

Then, as they read your essay, they can work through the following series of questions that will help them to guide you.

Introduction Questions

  • Is the first sentence a killer opening line? Why or why not?
  • Does the introduction hook the reader? Does it have a colorful, detailed, and interesting narrative? Or does it propose a compelling or surprising idea?
  • Can you feel the author's voice in the introduction, or is the tone dry, dull, or overly formal? Show the places where the voice comes through.

Essay Body Questions

  • Does the essay have a through-line? Is it built around a central argument, thought, idea, or focus? Can you put this idea into your own words?
  • How is the essay organized? By logical progression? Chronologically? Do you feel order when you read it, or are there moments where you are confused or lose the thread of the essay?
  • Does the essay have both narratives about the author's life and explanations and insight into what these stories reveal about the author's character, personality, goals, or dreams? If not, which is missing?
  • Does the essay flow? Are there smooth transitions/clever links between paragraphs? Between the narrative and moments of insight?

Reader Response Questions

  • Does the writer's personality come through? Do we know what the speaker cares about? Do we get a sense of "who he or she is"?
  • Where did you feel most connected to the essay? Which parts of the essay gave you a "you are there" sensation by invoking your senses? What moments could you picture in your head well?
  • Where are the details and examples vague and not specific enough?
  • Did you get an "a-ha!" feeling anywhere in the essay? Is there a moment of insight that connected all the dots for you? Is there a good reveal or "twist" anywhere in the essay?
  • What are the strengths of this essay? What needs the most improvement?


Should You Pay Money for Essay Editing?

One alternative to asking someone you know to help you with your college essay is the paid editor route. There are two different ways to pay for essay help: a private essay coach or a less personal editing service , like the many proliferating on the internet.

My advice is to think of these options as a last resort rather than your go-to first choice. I'll first go through the reasons why. Then, if you do decide to go with a paid editor, I'll help you decide between a coach and a service.

When to Consider a Paid Editor

In general, I think hiring someone to work on your essay makes a lot of sense if none of the people I discussed above are a possibility for you.

If you can't ask your parents. For example, if your parents aren't good writers, or if English isn't their first language. Or if you think getting your parents to help is going create unnecessary extra conflict in your relationship with them (applying to college is stressful as it is!)

If you can't ask your teacher or tutor. Maybe you don't have a trusted teacher or tutor that has time to look over your essay with focus. Or, for instance, your favorite humanities teacher has very limited experience with college essays and so won't know what admissions officers want to see.

If you can't ask your guidance counselor. This could be because your guidance counselor is way overwhelmed with other students.

If you can't share your essay with those who know you. It might be that your essay is on a very personal topic that you're unwilling to share with parents, teachers, or peers. Just make sure it doesn't fall into one of the bad-idea topics in our article on bad college essays .

If the cost isn't a consideration. Many of these services are quite expensive, and private coaches even more so. If you have finite resources, I'd say that hiring an SAT or ACT tutor (whether it's PrepScholar or someone else) is better way to spend your money . This is because there's no guarantee that a slightly better essay will sufficiently elevate the rest of your application, but a significantly higher SAT score will definitely raise your applicant profile much more.

Should You Hire an Essay Coach?

On the plus side, essay coaches have read dozens or even hundreds of college essays, so they have experience with the format. Also, because you'll be working closely with a specific person, it's more personal than sending your essay to a service, which will know even less about you.

But, on the minus side, you'll still be bouncing ideas off of someone who doesn't know that much about you . In general, if you can adequately get the help from someone you know, there is no advantage to paying someone to help you.

If you do decide to hire a coach, ask your school counselor, or older students that have used the service for recommendations. If you can't afford the coach's fees, ask whether they can work on a sliding scale —many do. And finally, beware those who guarantee admission to your school of choice—essay coaches don't have any special magic that can back up those promises.

Should You Send Your Essay to a Service?

On the plus side, essay editing services provide a similar product to essay coaches, and they cost significantly less . If you have some assurance that you'll be working with a good editor, the lack of face-to-face interaction won't prevent great results.

On the minus side, however, it can be difficult to gauge the quality of the service before working with them . If they are churning through many application essays without getting to know the students they are helping, you could end up with an over-edited essay that sounds just like everyone else's. In the worst case scenario, an unscrupulous service could send you back a plagiarized essay.

Getting recommendations from friends or a school counselor for reputable services is key to avoiding heavy-handed editing that writes essays for you or does too much to change your essay. Including a badly-edited essay like this in your application could cause problems if there are inconsistencies. For example, in interviews it might be clear you didn't write the essay, or the skill of the essay might not be reflected in your schoolwork and test scores.

Should You Buy an Essay Written by Someone Else?

Let me elaborate. There are super sketchy places on the internet where you can simply buy a pre-written essay. Don't do this!

For one thing, you'll be lying on an official, signed document. All college applications make you sign a statement saying something like this:

I certify that all information submitted in the admission process—including the application, the personal essay, any supplements, and any other supporting materials—is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented... I understand that I may be subject to a range of possible disciplinary actions, including admission revocation, expulsion, or revocation of course credit, grades, and degree, should the information I have certified be false. (From the Common Application )

For another thing, if your academic record doesn't match the essay's quality, the admissions officer will start thinking your whole application is riddled with lies.

Admission officers have full access to your writing portion of the SAT or ACT so that they can compare work that was done in proctored conditions with that done at home. They can tell if these were written by different people. Not only that, but there are now a number of search engines that faculty and admission officers can use to see if an essay contains strings of words that have appeared in other essays—you have no guarantee that the essay you bought wasn't also bought by 50 other students.


  • You should get college essay help with both editing and proofreading
  • A good editor will ask questions about your idea, logic, and structure, and will point out places where clarity is needed
  • A good editor will absolutely not answer these questions, give you their own ideas, or write the essay or parts of the essay for you
  • A good proofreader will find typos and check your formatting
  • All of them agree that getting light editing and proofreading is necessary
  • Parents, teachers, guidance or college counselor, and peers or siblings
  • If you can't ask any of those, you can pay for college essay help, but watch out for services or coaches who over-edit you work
  • Don't buy a pre-written essay! Colleges can tell, and it'll make your whole application sound false.

Ready to start working on your essay? Check out our explanation of the point of the personal essay and the role it plays on your applications and then explore our step-by-step guide to writing a great college essay .

Using the Common Application for your college applications? We have an excellent guide to the Common App essay prompts and useful advice on how to pick the Common App prompt that's right for you . Wondering how other people tackled these prompts? Then work through our roundup of over 130 real college essay examples published by colleges .

Stressed about whether to take the SAT again before submitting your application? Let us help you decide how many times to take this test . If you choose to go for it, we have the ultimate guide to studying for the SAT to give you the ins and outs of the best ways to study.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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Master the art of crafting attention-grabbing intros for your essays with these expert tips.

How to write an intro paragraph for an essay

When it comes to writing an essay, one of the most crucial elements that can make or break your piece is the introduction paragraph. This initial portion serves as the launchpad for your entire composition – it sets the tone, captures the attention, and delivers a promise. Crafting a strong intro requires skill, creativity, and a deep understanding of your audience. It’s all about making a memorable first impression, leaving your readers wanting more, and ensuring they stay engaged throughout the rest of your essay.

Setting the stage with compelling language ,

one of the essential techniques for writing a captivating introduction is the use of compelling language. By elegantly blending simplicity with sophistication, you can instantly grab your readers’ attention and entice them to continue reading. Incorporating interesting anecdotes, thought-provoking questions, or powerful quotes into the opening paragraph can offer a glimpse into the core ideas of your essay while leaving a lasting impact. Moreover, carefully choosing descriptive words and employing rhetorical devices can help create an immersive experience, painting a vivid picture in the minds of your audience.

Creating a sense of curiosity and intrigue ,

another effective method for crafting a strong introduction is by piquing the curiosity of your readers. Humans are naturally drawn to mysteries, and by presenting a tantalizing glimpse of the topic or problem you will explore in your essay, you can instantly ignite their interest. Tease your readers with a hint of what’s to come, a juicy secret awaiting to be unraveled, or a surprising fact that challenges conventional wisdom. This sense of intrigue will create a desire within your readers to delve deeper into your essay, to uncover the truths that lie ahead, and to satisfy their intellectual curiosity.

Understanding the Purpose of the Intro Paragraph

The intro paragraph serves as the opening statement of your essay, conveying the main idea and setting the tone for the entire piece. It introduces the topic to the reader and provides a brief overview of what will be discussed. The purpose of the intro paragraph is to grab the reader’s attention, spark their interest, and prepare them for the information that will follow.

In order to achieve its purpose, the intro paragraph should be concise and compelling. It should capture the reader’s attention and make them want to continue reading. It should also provide a clear thesis statement that highlights the main argument or point that will be made in the essay.

One key aspect of the intro paragraph is to establish the context of the topic. This can be done by providing background information, historical context, or relevant facts and statistics. The reader should have a clear understanding of why the topic is important and why they should continue reading.

Another important function of the intro paragraph is to provide a roadmap for the essay. It should outline the main points or arguments that will be discussed in the body paragraphs. This helps the reader understand the structure of the essay and what to expect as they continue reading.

Overall, the intro paragraph serves as a crucial component of any essay. It sets the stage for the rest of the piece and determines whether the reader will be engaged or not. By understanding the purpose of the intro paragraph and crafting it effectively, you can captivate your audience and ensure they are motivated to read your essay in its entirety.

Grabbing the Reader’s Attention with a Hook

Engaging your readers from the very beginning is essential to make your essay stand out and leave a lasting impression. By using a captivating hook in your introduction paragraph, you can effectively grab the reader’s attention and make them want to continue reading.

So, what exactly is a hook? A hook is a compelling and intriguing statement or question that is used at the beginning of your essay to immediately capture the reader’s interest. It serves as a way to draw them in and make them curious about what you have to say.

A strong hook can take different forms. It can be a surprising fact, a thought-provoking quote, a personal anecdote, or a vivid description. The key is to choose a hook that is relevant to your topic and aligns with the tone and style of your essay.

When crafting your hook, it is important to remember that its purpose is to generate curiosity and make the reader want to know more. It should create a sense of anticipation and set the stage for the rest of your essay. By using language that is concise and impactful, you can create a hook that grabs the reader’s attention from the very first sentence.

Additionally, it is important to keep your hook concise and to the point. While you want to capture the reader’s interest, you also want to avoid overwhelming them with too much information right off the bat. A well-crafted hook should be brief yet compelling, leaving the reader wanting to know more about what you have to say.

In conclusion, grabbing the reader’s attention with a hook is an effective way to make your essay more engaging and compelling. By using a statement or question that is intriguing and relevant to your topic, you can draw the reader in and make them eager to continue reading. So, take the time to craft a strong and captivating hook for your essay, and you will be one step closer to creating a memorable piece of writing.

Clearly Stating the Thesis in the Intro Paragraph

Clearly Stating the Thesis in the Intro Paragraph

One crucial aspect of writing a compelling introduction for an essay is to clearly state the thesis. The thesis, which serves as the main argument or point of the essay, should be clearly and concisely presented in the introduction paragraph to capture the reader’s attention.

Emphasizing the importance of explicitly stating the thesis

Effectively conveying the thesis in the introductory paragraph is essential for establishing the focus and direction of the essay. By clearly stating the thesis upfront, the writer can set the tone for the rest of the paper and guide the reader’s understanding of the main argument.

Illustrating the role of the thesis in guiding the essay

The thesis acts as a roadmap for the essay, providing a clear path for the writer to explore the topic and present their supporting arguments. When the thesis is clearly stated in the introduction, it helps the reader anticipate the content and structure of the essay, making it easier to follow along and engage with the ideas being presented.

Strengthening the impact of the introductory paragraph

A well-crafted introduction with a clearly stated thesis not only grabs the reader’s attention but also establishes the writer’s credibility and expertise in the subject matter. It sets the tone for the entire essay, increasing the chances of the reader continuing to read and engage with the rest of the paper.

Highlighting the need for precision and clarity

When stating the thesis in the introduction paragraph, it is crucial to be precise and concise. The statement should be clear, avoiding vague language or generalizations. By being explicit and specific about the main argument, the writer immediately captures the reader’s interest and makes a strong impression.

In conclusion, clearly stating the thesis in the introduction paragraph is vital to the success of an essay. By emphasizing the importance of the thesis, illustrating its role in guiding the essay, and strengthening the impact of the introductory paragraph, a writer can effectively engage the reader and set the stage for a strong and persuasive essay.

Providing Background Information

One of the key elements for creating a compelling introduction is providing background information. This involves offering context or setting the stage for your essay topic. By providing background information, you can help your readers understand the subject matter more effectively and engage them from the beginning.

In this section, we will explore different techniques and strategies to provide background information in your introduction. These approaches will ensure that your readers have a clear understanding of the topic being discussed and why it is important. By offering relevant background information, you can create a strong foundation for the rest of your essay.

There are several ways to incorporate background information. You can start by offering relevant historical or social context to provide a broad overview of the topic. This approach allows your readers to understand the significance of the subject within a wider context and grasp its relevance.

Another effective way to provide background information is by offering statistical or factual data. By presenting relevant statistics or facts, you can demonstrate the importance and scope of the issue at hand. This can help create a sense of urgency and relevance, capturing the attention of your readers.

Additionally, you can share personal anecdotes or stories that relate to the topic. This approach humanizes the subject matter and allows readers to connect on a more emotional level. By sharing personal experiences or stories, you can engage your readers and make them feel invested in the topic you are discussing.

Overall, providing background information is crucial for creating a strong introduction. It helps set the stage for your essay, establish relevance, and engage your readers from the start. By incorporating historical context, statistical data, or personal anecdotes, you can create a compelling and informative introduction that captivates your audience.

Structuring the Intro Paragraph Effectively

Structuring the Intro Paragraph Effectively

Effective structuring of the introductory paragraph is essential for capturing the reader’s attention and setting the tone for the rest of the essay. The way you organize the information in this paragraph can greatly impact the overall impact and clarity of your writing.

To structure your intro paragraph effectively, it is important to first establish a clear and concise thesis statement. This statement should succinctly summarize the main argument or point of your essay. By presenting a strong thesis, you provide the reader with a roadmap of what to expect in the following paragraphs.

In addition to a strong thesis, it is crucial to include a hook or attention-grabbing statement at the beginning of the intro paragraph. This can be a thought-provoking question, a surprising fact or statistic, or even a relevant anecdote. The purpose of the hook is to engage the reader and compel them to continue reading.

Another important element to consider when structuring your intro paragraph is the use of relevant background information. This can help provide context for your thesis statement and give the reader a better understanding of the topic at hand. Be sure to only include necessary information and avoid overwhelming the reader with excessive details.

Additionally, it is beneficial to outline the main points or arguments that will be discussed in the essay. This preview can help orient the reader and provide them with a sense of direction. By clearly outlining the main points, the reader can easily follow your argument and stay engaged with the content.

Lastly, to effectively structure your intro paragraph, be mindful of the overall flow and coherence of your writing. Transition words and phrases can help connect ideas and guide the reader through your argument seamlessly. These words and phrases include “moreover,” “however,” “in addition,” “furthermore,” and “on the other hand,” among others.

In conclusion, structuring your intro paragraph effectively is crucial for capturing the reader’s attention and setting the tone for the rest of your essay. By incorporating a strong thesis statement, an attention-grabbing hook, relevant background information, and a preview of the main points, you can create a powerful and engaging introduction. Additionally, paying attention to the flow and coherence of your writing can enhance the overall impact of your intro paragraph.

Avoiding Common Mistakes in the Intro Paragraph

When crafting the introductory paragraph of your essay, it is important to avoid certain common mistakes that can weaken the impact and effectiveness of your writing. By understanding and avoiding these pitfalls, you can ensure that your introduction grabs the reader’s attention and sets a strong foundation for the rest of your essay.

  • Being overly general: One common mistake is starting your introduction with broad statements or generic information that fails to engage the reader. Instead of providing a vague overview of your topic, strive to present a hook or compelling opening that immediately captures the reader’s interest.
  • Including too much background information: While providing some context for your topic is important, it is crucial to strike a balance and avoid overwhelming the reader with excessive background information. Focus on including only the most relevant and essential details that support the main point of your essay.
  • Using cliches or generic statements: Another mistake to avoid is relying on cliches or commonly used phrases in your introduction. These types of statements can make your writing appear unoriginal and uninteresting. Instead, strive to create unique and thought-provoking openings that stand out from the crowd.
  • Not clearly stating your thesis: Your introductory paragraph should clearly and concisely state your thesis or main argument. Failing to do so can confuse the reader and make it difficult for them to understand the purpose of your essay. Make sure your thesis is prominently featured in the introduction to provide a clear roadmap for your essay.
  • Neglecting to establish relevance: It is essential to establish the relevance and significance of your topic in the introductory paragraph. By clearly conveying why your topic is important and how it relates to the reader’s interests or experiences, you can create a stronger connection and engagement from the outset.

By avoiding these common mistakes in the introductory paragraph of your essay, you can create a strong and captivating opening that sets the stage for the rest of your writing. Remember to be specific, original, and clear in your introduction, and to always consider the needs and interests of your reader.

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How to write an introduction to your essay – A guide by a professional essay writer

I hope you’re having a good semester so far! I'm Drew, a professional essay writer and history graduate. Over my 6+ years writing essays, I've noticed that students often struggle with writing good introductions to their essays. And yes, it is hard – how long should an intro be? What should it say? How much description should be in it?

I thought I'd share my personal formula to writing introductions that I use every single time - here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use it.

Make sure you have researched and planned correctly. In order to write a good essay, you must have researched and made a thorough plan. These are huge parts of the essay writing process and warrant their own guides – check out my research guide here and my planning guide here.

Understand the purpose of an introduction. This, I think, is where most students go wrong. It isn’t that they can’t write a good introduction – it’s that they don’t know what an introduction is supposed to be. So I’ll tell you. An introduction should be a guide for the reader – think of it as a map to your essay, so the reader knows where they’re going and what they’re about to read. In this map, you should reflect to them what your essay is about, how it is going to be structured, and what your overall argument is. Nothing more than that.

Understand what an introduction should not do . An introduction should not be more than 10% - 15% of the total word count of the overall assignment. It should not be more than one paragraph (unless you’re writing a longer piece – i.e. over 4000 words). It should not describe in detail the history and details of the events/theories you are discussing. It should not detail the minutiae of your individual arguments – a brief mention is all you need. It should not be full of citations (this indicates you’re talking too much about the topic, and not enough about your own argument).

First one-two sentences: Context. Begin your essay simply by explaining in brief a key term or concept from the question of your essay. For instance, if I were writing an essay on the Bosnian War (1992-95), I might simply write “After the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1989, the Balkan region erupted into various conflicts. The Bosnian War was the most significant of these wars, killing approximately 200,000 people – making it the deadliest European war since World War II.” Easy. Done. I’ve given the reader some essential and interesting information. There is no need to over-complicate your introduction – remember, it is a map for the reader. The simpler the better.

Third sentence: Focus in on the topic. Here, you’ll want to narrow down the broad topic you introduced in the preceding sentences in order to let the reader know what you’ll specifically be focusing on. For instance, following on from the example before, I may then state: “Many have argued that this war was caused by Serbian nationalism [citation]”.

Fourth sentence: What you will be arguing. Here’s where you’ll present your argument. The best way to do this is to keep it as simple as possible – make it evidently clear to the reader that this is what your essay will be talking about. For instance, you could literally state (following the example above): “However, this essay considers the often-overlooked role of international forces in the beginning of the conflict”.

Fifth-Eight sentences: How you will argue this . You’ve stated what you’re going to talk about, in brief. This part of the introduction should guide your reader, point by point, step-by-step, how you’re going to make the argument you just stated. The best way to do this is to be explicit in your wording. Pretend your reader is stupid and make it as simple as possible for them to understand. For instance, write: “This essay is structured as follows. Firstly, the context of the war will be discussed with special attention paid to the international context. Secondly, Britain’s role will be analyzed, followed by America’s. Finally, the role of these international forces will be compared with other potential causes of the war”. As we can see here, the reader now knows exactly how the essay will progress, which will keep them from getting lost as they read on. It’s simple and isn’t bogged down in definitions and terminology – these details can come later.

Final sentence or two : Your thesis statement . You’ve outlined the structure of your essay in clear and explicit detail. Now it’s time to hit home with your overall argument – your thesis statement. This will relate to your reader what the whole essay will work towards – the culmination of your individual points. It should be kept as simple as possible and the reader should understand this is your thesis statement. For instance: “Ultimately, it is argued that although many other forces were at play, the war would not have begun without the interference of Britain, America and other international forces. This is stark evidence of the continuing importance of globalizing factors in modern warfare.”

Well done – you’ve written a great introduction. That’s all there is to it. The key thing to take from this guide is that the introduction should be a clear, explicitly stated guide to your essay . It’s a sort of “meta” part of your essay – it should be about your argument itself, not the topic at hand. A good introduction allows the reader to read on with confidence and without confusion and frustration – and this will get you higher marks.

Of course, there’s a million different successful ways to write an introduction to an essay, so if you’ve found something that works for you, don’t deviate from it. Introductions appear difficult but are actually deceptively simple when you understand their purpose. This formula works really well for me, so I hope it helps some of you! It will take practice to master, but hopefully is a good starting point.

P.S. I’ve created r/BespokePapers , where I post all my guides in an easy-to-find location. If you liked this one, follow it to be the first to see the next one! Thank you and have a great semester.

30+ Short Essay Examples

Short essay examples.

Writing essays can be one of the most daunting aspects of applying to college. From the personal statement to the extracurricular list to short answer essay questions, the way you communicate your experiences and personality within your application is crucial. Looking at short essay examples is an excellent way to prepare yourself to write your own. In this guide, we’ll provide several short essay examples to help you get a sense of what schools are looking for. 

We’ll break down the differences between short answer essay examples and long essays, give you some college essay tips, and provide a wide variety of short essay examples. Reading short essay examples for college can help you brainstorm how to structure your essays to best represent your personality. In this guide we’ll look at short essay examples from Columbia, Princeton, and many other schools and colleges. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by college application essays, then you’re in the right place!

But before getting into our short essay examples, let’s learn more about different types of essays and their requirements.

Essay Types and Requirements

Writing essays is a crucial part of the college admissions process. Therefore, learning about the different types of essays you’ll need to write in your college applications is a good place to start the process. There are three main types of essays you’ll encounter as you apply to college: personal statement, long/medium essays, short answer essay questions. 

Common App essay

The Common App essay , also known as a Personal Statement, is the most well-known college essay you’ll have to write. So, it is not surprising that most colleges require the Common App essay/personal statement as part of their application process. The word limit for the personal statement is 650 words, and is it usually the longest essay requirement. 

Supplemental essays

Supplemental essays vary in length; however, many colleges will have long/medium essay requirements in addition to short answer essay questions. Generally, long/medium essays are between 200-400 words. That being said, you should always review the essay requirements for each college well before the application deadlines as they will vary. 

Short answer essays

A sub-type of the supplemental essay format are short answer essay questions. It can be easy to leave the short answer essays to the last minute. However, since these essays usually have a word limit of 50-150 words, they can actually be the most difficult to write. Therefore, it’s important to dedicate enough time and energy to your short answer essays as they can help your application stand out. 

This guide will focus on short essay examples and college essay tips for short answer essay questions. Short answer essays can be challenging, especially given the small word limit. Indeed, it can be hard to adequately capture your personality and strengths in such a short format. We’ll cover short essay examples later in this guide to help inspire your writing process!

Short Essays vs. Long Essays

Managing all the different types of essays needed for your applications can be difficult. And, while the short essays may feel like they don’t take as much effort, they are just as important as the personal statement or other longer essays. 

In general, you’ll find long essays take longer to plan and edit. However, the benefit of longer essays is that you have more room to explore your ideas. Alternatively, short answer essays require you to be very intentional with every word. Therefore, they may be trickier to brainstorm and to edit down below the word limit.

Reading examples of college essays can give you a sense of how long and short essays differ, and how you should shift your approach for each. In fact, many of the short essay examples we’ve collected highlight just how impactful short answer essays can be at communicating your unique personality and interests. While long essays grant you more space, short answer essays can quickly help you stand out in the admissions process. 

Together, short and long essays help paint a holistic picture of who you are. Additionally, they help indicate if you’d be a good fit for a specific school. Reading through short answer essay examples can give you a feel of the pace and tone schools are looking for in this type of essay. 

Do all college applications require short essays?

No, not all colleges require short essays! While you research short essay examples, it’s good to keep in mind the essay requirements for each of the schools on your college list. 

You may encounter schools with a mix of short essays and long/medium essays, such as the University of Southern California or UT Austin . Some schools will only have long/medium essays in addition to the personal statement, like Vanderbilt and the University of Chicago . On the other hand, there are schools that don’t have any supplemental essay requirements, like Northeastern and Oberlin . As you make your college list, be sure to review the college admissions requirements for each school. 

What colleges require short essays?

Many different colleges require short essays. Later in this guide, we’ll look at short essay examples from Stanford , Princeton , and Columbia . However, many other schools have short essay questions.

Colleges with Short Essays

  • Brown University requires four short answer essays, ranging from 3 words to 100 words. 
  • California Institute of Technology (CalTech) has three optional short essays with word limits between 50-150 words. Given how competitive Caltech is, researching some short answer essay examples is wise!
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)  requires five short essay responses as part of their application. Responses should be between 100-200 words.
  • University of Southern California has different short essay questions depending on your major. Check out the additional application requirements for the specific school you’re applying to. 
  • University of Notre Dame has five unique short essay prompts, and students have to pick three of them to complete. Each short essay has a word limit of 50 words. Students must also respond to two other essay prompts, and although not necessarily deemed “short” essays, they have word limits of only 150. 
  • Dartmouth College has three separate essay supplements; only one is considered “short” with a word limit of 100 . Reading through college essay ideas can help you brainstorm your best Dartmouth short essay. 
  • Tufts University has two supplemental essay requirements, one of which is considered a short essay. For the Tufts short essay, all students must complete a sentence in 100 words or less explaining why they are applying. Take advantage of Tuft’s guide on tackling the short essay questions. 
  • University of Pennsylvania has two mandatory short answer essays and one that is major specific. Each has a word limit of 150-200 words. 
  • Virginia Tech has four required short essay prompts, each with a 120-word limit. 
  • Occidental College has one 20-word response supplemental essay as well as a 150-200 word essay among their essay requirements.

As you can see, short essays are prevalent in many schools’ essay requirements. Therefore, reading short essay examples will help you with your applications. And remember, be sure to check each school’s specific requirements as every school is different! Writing requirements can also change yearly so search the school’s site for the most up-to-date information.

Examples of Short Prompts

In this section, we’ve compiled several short essay examples for you. For these short essay examples, we’ve included several different answers to each prompt. This will help you see the wide variety of ways you can tackle short answer essay questions. For each prompt, we’ll give you some college essay tips, and break down ways you can approach these short essays. 

The following prompts are all variations on personal interest essays. In general, these short answer essay questions help admissions officers understand your unique perspective and how your interests have shaped your understanding of the world. You can use these short essay examples as a jumping off point to shape your own approach to personal interest short essays. 

Let’s check out the first prompt and three short essay examples that answer it. 

When the choice is yours, what do you read, listen to, or watch? (50 word limit)

Response #1.

Read: The New York Times, Vox, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Quora. Favorite authors include Siddhartha Mukherjee, Atul Gawande, Dushka Zapata, and Zora Neale Hurston. 

Listen: This American Life, The Daily, Radiolab, Invisibilia, U.S. and French pop. 

Watch: The Good Place, Brooklyn 99, YouTube science, baking, and fingerstyle guitar videos.

Response #2

Read: an unhealthy number of self-help books, re-reading Just Kids by Patti Smith, every one of Audre Lorde’s books… 

Listen to: Danez Smith’s slam poetry (my personal favorite? Dinosaurs in the Hood), Still Woozy, Invisibilia… 

Watch: all the television I was forbidden from watching when I was twelve, POSE, ContraPoints, YouTubers criticizing ContraPoints… 

Response #3

Read: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, The Wendigo, How To Write an Autobiographical Novel, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, weekly newsletter

Listen: Shostakovich, Lauv, Atlas, 20-hour-rain soundtrack on Spotify 

Watch: Avatar, Forrest Gump, Schindler’s List, Hachi (if in the mood to cry), any Marvel movie!

These media focused short answer essay questions are very popular as your answer can say a lot about who you are! However, don’t try to be impressive or list things you haven’t actually read or watched – be honest and let your personality come through. 

Now, let’s look at some more prompts and their short essay examples:

Name your favorite books, authors, films, and/or artists. (50 word limit)

I love literature and art that helps me explore my roots and learn to love myself. These works and authors include: The Color Purple, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,

Maya Angelou, Day of Tears, Hope for the Flowers, and Langston Hughes.

What newspapers, magazines, and/or websites do you enjoy? (50 word limit)

I enjoy newspapers and magazines that enable me to learn something everyday. I like National Geographic because it lets me learn more about science. Once it even inspired me to do a self directed project on albatrosses. I also enjoy The Economist as it gives me a well rounded view of today’s politics and economics.

What were your favorite events (e.g., performances, exhibits, competitions, conferences, etc.) in recent years? (50 word limit)

“December 24th, 9pm, Eastern Standard time.” Rent began. I was sitting in between my best friends. We were losing circulation in our hands from holding on too tight and washing off our make-up with our tears. I felt an immense sense of harmony with the play and it was fantastic.

These short essay examples show how robust of an answer you can write with 50 words. Furthermore, they’re great examples of how students are able to expand on their personal interests to create a cohesive story with their essays. Indeed, the best college essay ideas will strengthen your personal narrative, even within short responses! These short essay examples show how much you can learn about an applicant in minimal words.

Moving on from those unique prompts, let’s turn to a favorite among schools. You’re likely to see a version of the following prompt for many different colleges. 

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 word limit)

I live by my motto: “Dare!” in all instances of Truth or Dare.

Apparently, so do the students who brave Secret Snowflake. It spotlights what I love most, Truth or Dare minus the truth. Will I attempt to break the jalapeno eating record? Hop into The Claw in sub-zero temperatures?

We’ve included this Stanford prompt to highlight the ways in which short essay examples for college can also be used to gauge your knowledge about the school you’re applying to. Many college essay tips are school specific , but it’s important to think broadly when reading examples of college essays.

While some college essay advice may apply more to one school than another, many college essay tips can be used across various schools. This prompt highlights the importance of using research to demonstrate your interest in a school. 

In general, you might notice that many short essay examples have quite unique prompts. The following prompt is creative and fun, allowing students to take their response in any direction they want.  

Imagine you had an extra hour in the day — how would you spend that time? (50 word limit)

I’d split my hour two ways, investing time in my own wellbeing and in others. Half I’d spend baking treats for friends, which would double as a personal gift, since I find baking—like running—relaxing and restorative. The second half I’d spend answering Quora questions—something I’ve been meaning to pay forward.

At eight, I dreamed of becoming a YouTuber, documenting life in rectangular video. Each year, this dream drew further from reach.

With extra time, I’d retrieve what time stole. Creating comedic skits or simply talking about my day, I’d pursue what I value most—making others laugh and capturing beautiful moments.

These short essay examples demonstrate how one thought-provoking question can capture someone’s personality and values. College admissions officers use these questions to see how well a student knows themselves and what their priorities are. When reading examples of college essays, try to imagine how your answer will come across to a stranger. What details do you need to include to make sure your thoughts and ideas come across clearly? 

How to write a short answer essay for college?

After reading a couple of short essay examples, you may feel overwhelmed with how to answer the short answer essay questions. When you’re applying to college the short answer questions may be the last thing on your priority list. However, as our short answer essay examples demonstrate, short essays can help your application stand out. 

When you first approach a short essay prompt, feel free to break it down into even smaller parts. What is the core idea you’re trying to convey? Try to answer the prompt in a single answer, or even word, first. You can then use the remaining word count to explain or justify your answer. The best short essay examples get right to the point and communicate the answer clearly and concisely. 

Once you have a version you’re happy with, get some feedback! While the short answer essay examples we’ve included feel effortless, rest assured that they were edited and workshopped. Remember that the short essay examples paint a picture of the applicant– think about what you’re putting forward, and what assumptions the reader may make.

Planning your short essay responses

Despite the small word count, short essay examples for college require thoughtful planning and careful execution. Try reading the short answer essay examples as a college admissions officer might. What story is being told? Is it being told well? 

Then consider the response in the context of an application. Are you trying to highlight your experiences and how they relate to your major? Is there anything you’re proud of that you want to mention? Looking at the short essay examples holistically can help you see how other students have been able to shape a narrative, and, in turn, can help you map out yours. 

As our examples of college essays highlight, it’s important to be precise with your words – each word should have a role and work towards your overall answer. There’s no room for fluff here! 

Things to avoid in your short essay responses!

All of our short essay examples are well-written. However, it can be helpful to know what to stay away from in your responses.

Firstly, and most importantly, avoid generic answers. Have your answers be true to who you are, and allow them to display your unique personality. The short essay examples included in this article show how crucial personality is in the application process. Good short essay examples tell you something about the author and leave you with a better sense of who they are. 

When brainstorming college essay ideas, don’t try to create totally new interests to appear impressive. It’s hard to fake authenticity. As such, owning your experiences and hobbies will be more impactful than inventing them. The short answer essay questions are a tool to help bolster your application – use them that way!

The last thing to avoid when writing short essays is waiting until the last minute to get started. While it may be tempting to focus on your longer essays, it will be obvious to admissions officers if the short answer essay questions were rushed through. The short answer essay examples included here were not written the day of the application deadline – careful planning and drafting are essential! 

What is the format for a short essay?

The beauty of short essays is that there is no single format you have to follow. As demonstrated with our short essay examples, some answers come in list form and others in short paragraph form. So don’t be afraid to experiment with the format of your answers. But remember, answering the prompt directly and quickly will allow you room to explore your rationale – don’t make the college admissions officer search for your answer! 

Researching examples of college essays that experiment with form can help you think outside the box. There is no one formula for short essay examples, so let yourself be creative. With such a limited word count, you don’t have the space to build up to your answer. The short answer essay examples we’ve included here don’t follow the traditional essay format. Don’t be afraid to break away from traditional essay rules – as long as your essay response answers the prompt, it can take on any form!

As previously mentioned, we’ve got some school-specific essay examples in store for you – starting with examples for the Columbia essay.

Columbia Short Essay Examples

The Columbia essay, like all short essays, is an important part of the overall application. The short essay examples below can help you brainstorm your own responses and serve as a guide as you write your own Columbia essay. 

Let’s jump into our Columbia essay examples. Here are the prompts and the short essay examples: 

Columbia Essay Examples Guidelines

For the list question that follows, there is a 100-word maximum. Please refer to the below guidance when answering this question: 

  • Your response should be a list of items separated by commas or semicolons.
  • Items do not have to be numbered or in any specific order. 
  • It is not necessary to italicize or underline titles of books or other publications.
  • No author names, subtitles or explanatory remarks are needed.

List a selection of texts, resources and outlets that have contributed to your intellectual development outside of academic courses, including but not limited to books, journals, websites, podcasts, essays, plays, presentations, videos, museums and other content that you enjoy. (100 words or fewer) 

1984, Oedipus Rex, Antigone, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Kite Runner, Number the Stars, Beowulf, Into the Wild, The Crucible, The Art of Strategy, The New York Times, NBC News, NPR, The Associated Press, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, CNalaysis, Elections Daily, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Split Ticket, FiveThirtyEight, Twitter/X, Yahoo Finance, MarketWatch, Nature, Animal World, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, Mathematical Reviews, Timeline – World History Documentaries, History Matters, Mr. Beat, Oversimplified, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

List a few words or phrases that describe your ideal college community. (150 words or fewer) 

Cultivates conversations that cross all boundaries and borders whether in the dorms of John Jay or at The Forum. 

A community that is collaborative but challenges individuals to be the best versions of themselves. 

Where a homebody can chill with a slice of Koronet pizza or go out for a night on the town. 

A campus spirited with the buzz and excitement of the city yet mellow with the rhythmic clicks and frantic thoughts in the library. 

Full of hands with sore thumbs and paper cuts from flipping through the pages of The Aeneid 

Where an introverted-extrovert can get lost in the crowds of 8 million people or among fellow students on the Van Am Quad. 


List the titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or fewer) 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or fewer) 

The Girls by Emma Cline, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, How to Be a Bawse by Lilly Singh

List the titles of the print, electronic publications and websites you read regularly. (150 words or fewer) 

Time Magazine, (especially the Youtube channel), Vogue,

List the titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or fewer) 

Isolation Tour (Kali Uchis), American Teen Tour (Khalid), Music Midtown (Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish, Rainbow Kitten Surprise) – Freudian by Daniel Caesar, The New York Times Great Hall exhibit at the Newseum, “Pictures of the Year: 75 Years of the World’s Best Photography” at the Newseum – A Changing America at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, “The Future Is…” podcast summer series, Stuff You Should Know (podcast by HowStuffWorks), The Good Place, Mad Men

You’ll notice that all of the Columbia essay prompts are in list format. Therefore, they don’t leave you much room to explain or elaborate on your answers. The lists you create will speak for themselves. These short essay examples highlight the ways you can still create a strong narrative through the lists you make. 

Next, we’ll turn our attention to some great Princeton essay examples!

Princeton Short Essay Examples

Remember, when researching short essay examples for college, it can be helpful to have college-specific short essay examples. Let these short answer essay examples inspire you as you begin brainstorming your response for your own Princeton essay. 

Here are the Princeton essay examples:

What is a new skill you would like to learn in college? (50 words max) 

I would like to learn the important skill of team collaboration in college. Through research programs and student organizations, I will work within a team and navigate diverse perspectives. This will help prepare me for the collaborative complexities of the real world beyond the campus.

What brings you joy? (50 words max) 

One of my hobbies is building election models that predict the results of the next general election. It brings me great joy when I predict the results with profound accuracy, and even if I get some wrong, it’s all part of the unpredictable process—sometimes even my models need a recount!

What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment? (50 words max) 

“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield represents the soundtrack of my life right now. Its lyrics mirror my journey of self-discovery and untapped potential. Lines like “Feel the rain on your skin; no one else can feel it for you” inspire me to embrace my responsibilities and savor life’s experiences.

When reading them as a whole, each Princeton essay should work to create a sense of who you are and what you’re interested in. When writing a Princeton essay, it can be tempting to come across a certain way, or try to mimic what you think college admissions officers want. However, it’s important to remain authentic in your essays and own your interests and passions. These short essay examples demonstrate this – the more authentic your answer, the better your essay will be! 

Below, we’ll wrap up our school-specific essay examples with one final school: Stanford.

Stanford Short Essays Examples

For the Stanford short essays, we’ve included more than one example for each prompt. With such a small word count, you’ll have to be super careful with your Stanford short essays. Read through these Stanford short essays to help jumpstart your writing process . 

Here are some short essay examples for the Stanford short essays: 

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 word limit)

The deterioration of political and personal empathy. There’s been an aggressive devaluing of inclusive mindsets and common ground rules—the kind of solidarity of purpose necessary to accommodate divergent viewpoints, respect evidence, share burdens, and tackle national/international emergencies like climate change and immigration. We are fumbling—in backwards tribalism—while the world burns.

Where’s Waldo books. 

By searching for Waldo, we subconsciously teach children that certain people aren’t meant to belong–they are meant to be hunted. Our brains may be hardwired to notice people who are different, but we are instructed to treat those people differently. 

Searching for Waldo must be consciously unlearned. 

Ignorance poses a paradoxical issue: we can’t solve a problem that we don’t know exists.

For fifteen years, I heard gentrification and thought humanitarian. The Oxford English Dictionary had even taught me that gentrification means “positive change.” How can such atrocities become noticed when our perceptions are so skewed?

Response #4

Greed. The root of all evil. To make momentous strides towards improving societal conditions, people and corporations must put aside their greed. Unfortunately, greed – the deep, dark desire for power and money – is the dominant force at work in many aspects of society, making it society’s most significant challenge.

These short answer essay examples highlight the different approaches you can take when answering this question. These short essay examples get to the point quickly– each example directly answers the prompt within a single sentence (or word), and then uses the remaining space to justify the answer. 

Now let’s look at the second prompt and short essay examples:

How did you spend your last two summers? (50 word limit)

Learned to drive; internship in Silicon Valley (learned to live alone and cook for myself!); Governor’s Honors Program; AAJA JCamp in Detroit; wrote articles for The Borgen Project; lobbied at the Capitol and met Rep. Lucy McBath; Kenyon Review Young Writers in Ohio; read a whole lot.

My goal: Adventure

2015: Moved from North Carolina to Texas (mission trip to Birmingham, Alabama in between), vacationed in Orlando.

2016: Math program at MIT in Boston, engineering program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, mission trip to Laredo, Texas, vacation to northern California including the lovely Palo Alto.

These short essay examples highlight the ways in which you can play with form. The first example is in list form, while the second breaks up the answer into an easily digestible format. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your form with the short answer essay questions – they don’t have to follow a traditional format.

Here’s the third prompt:

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 word limit)

Valentina Tereshkova’s 1963 spaceflight. Tereshkova’s skill, grit, and persistence carried her from working in a textile factory, through grueling tests and training, to becoming the first woman to fly solo in space. Her accomplishment remains symbolic of women’s empowerment and the expanded progress that’s possible with equity in STEM opportunities.

In 2001, Egyptian authorities raided a gay nightclub, arresting 55 men. The prosecutors tried them under fujur laws—initially passed by Egyptian nationalists to counter British ‘immorality’ during colonization. 

Watching the prosecution construct homosexuality as un-Egyptian would illustrate the extent anti-Western sentiment drove homophobia and how similar anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric remains today. 

Most definitely Paganini’s legendary one-stringed performance; one-by-one, his violin strings snapped mid-performance until he was left with only the G-string. Being Paganini, he simply continued to play flawlessly all on that single string!

Change does not happen without courage. I wish I could have witnessed the courage it took for the four A&T students sit in at the Woolworth’s counter in my hometown, Greensboro, North Carolina. I want to see the light overcoming darkness that created a change to last forever.

When applying to college, you may encounter prompts like this one, where you’re expected to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of world events. These short answer essay examples demonstrate how you can display your personality and interests in prompts like these.

Let’s look to the fourth prompt:

What five words best describe you? (5 word limit)

Speak up. Take action. Together.

Peter Parker meets Atticus Finch

The light of the world

Short answer essay questions like these can feel the most challenging, but don’t be afraid to get creative. They are meant to help capture the essence of your personality. These short essay examples for college highlight the ways these answers can have such a big impact, in such a small format.

What makes a short essay statement stand out?

When applying to college, there’s a lot of pressure to make your essays stand out. The best short essay examples help communicate the writer’s personality and interests clearly. Developing your personal writing style is key in having your short answer essay examples stand out. Start early and don’t be afraid to get creative!

It’s also important to consider how your essays will work together.Do they tell a cohesive narrative? Do they work to highlight different experiences but help connect your bigger picture message? Reading short essay examples with a focus on cohesion can help you map out your responses. 

The best way to have your short essays stand out is to plan them out carefully, and make sure they are authentic, demonstrating who you are and what you’re interested in. The best short essay examples feel genuine and convey a core aspect of the writer’s personality. Draft and edit your short essays until they feel right to you! 

Additional Short Essay Tips

In addition to outlining short essay examples for college, we’ve compiled some additional tips to help you get started with your college essay ideas:

1. Have a brain dumping session. 

When reading short essay examples for college, it can feel intimidating if you’re unsure of what to write about. Having a brain dumping session can be a great way to inspire the writing process and help you map out what you want to communicate. Don’t worry about structure or formatting; just free-write and let the words flow! 

2. Edit, edit, edit.

It’s likely that your first draft of short essays will go over the word limit, but don’t worry! The short essay examples included here were not first drafts – they were honed and edited down to their current versions. Keep this in mind as you read short essay examples for college, and be sure to plan enough time for the editing process when writing your own essays. 

3. Be truthful.

One thing all of our short answer essay examples have in common is that they are authentic to the writer. The best short essay examples make you feel closer to the writer. They should allow you to understand the writer on a deeper level. It can be tempting to embellish your short answer essay responses to match what you think a school wants to hear, but authenticity is hard to replicate. Therefore, be true to yourself when writing your short essay responses.

Other CollegeAdvisor Essay Resources to Explore

After you’ve explored the short answer essay examples outlined here, be sure to utilize the many other resources CollegeAdvisor has to offer. In addition to guidance on the overall admissions process , CollegeAdvisor has several other resources on writing essays. After reading these short answer essay examples, you can watch our webinars on essays: Writing About Extracurriculars in Your College Essays and Supplemental Essays . 

CollegeAdvisor also has ample resources on specific colleges. You can find additional short essay examples for Columbia , Barnard , and Stanford , as well as tips and tricks from former admissions officers. If you are looking for college admissions resources, CollegeAdvisor has you covered!

Short Essay Examples – Final Takeaways

While the short answer essays may seem like the easiest part of an application, using the limited word count in a smart, thoughtful way is challenging. The short essay examples for college highlight how impactful short essays can be in building out your overall candidate profile. As you start writing your short essay answers, be sure to remain authentic and truthful. And don’t be afraid to get creative! 

College essay writing can be stressful, but don’t let the short answer essay questions intimidate you– and definitely don’t leave them to the last minute! Take your time, plan thoughtfully, and be confident in your answers. The best short essay examples for college bring out your personality – be bold and rest assured that you’re putting your best foot forward. 

This article was written by senior advisor Jess Klein . Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how can support you in the college application process.

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25 Inspiring College Essay Topic Ideas

June 24, 2024

If you’ve ever wondered what other people write about in their college application essays, you’re not alone. Just as reading a range of novels can expose you to unique takes on similar themes, seeing others’ college essay topic ideas can open you up to new possibilities, spark creativity, and enhance your brainstorming process. Since we read hundreds of essays per year, we wanted to round up a collection of past topics from actual students to inspire your essay-writing endeavors. Moreover, we’ve paired those topics with targeted brainstorming questions that will set you off on your own path to success. Ready? Let’s dive in.

How do I find the right college essay topic ideas?

Like a well-hidden geocache , the right college essay topic ideas can only be uncovered with some effort. In general, the right college essay topic:

  • is interesting and/or exciting to you
  • demonstrates a quality, value, or perspective that can’t be found elsewhere on your application

While deciding, focus on asking yourself the right types of questions. For example, let’s say you’re down to two topics: a moral/ethical dilemma you recently faced, or the nonprofit you started last year. In this scenario, most students may assume they *should* write about the nonprofit–after all, it’s the more “impressive” of the two, right?

However, let’s divorce ourselves from “should.” Instead, ask yourself: if I write this essay, what will admissions officers learn about me that they can’t learn about elsewhere? Through starting this nonprofit, what have I learned about myself? Can I show my reader what I value, or how I handle problems? Or will I basically be re-hashing what is already in my activities list or honors section ?

Alternatively, the ethical/moral dilemma you recently faced completely threw you for a loop. It made you rethink a closely held belief and forced you to confront how you handle challenging situations.

Ask yourself: what will admissions officers learn about me that they can’t learn about elsewhere? What have I learned about myself? Can I handle this subject tactfully—without complaining, blaming others, or coming to a conclusion that feels forced/too neat? Can I be vulnerable?

Be honest with yourself, and a clear winner will emerge.

How do I find “unique” college essay topic ideas?

Every year, our students wonder how to ensure that their essay stands out, often asking us questions along these lines:

How do I make sure that my essay topic is different from everyone else’s?

If I write about my sports injury, will it sound like every other sports essay?

If I write about my parent’s illness, will that be just another sob story?

We get it—it’s natural and normal to be curious about what admissions officers want to hear, or wonder whether particular college essay topic ideas will strengthen your application more than others. While there is some strategy involved with topic selection, the way you write about and reflect on any given topic is usually much more important than the topic itself.

To that end, college essay topics/themes we see on a regular basis include:

  • Coming-of-age, most often a realization that changed their perspective or inspired personal growth
  • A challenging situation or moral dilemma
  • A passion or intellectual curiosity
  • A meaningful aspect of their family/identity/cultural background
  • An important community

We see these topics frequently because they are universal to the teenage experience. This does not make them bad or mean you should avoid them. On the contrary, it makes them classic, timeless, and relatable (remember, you’re trying to create a personal connection with your reader!).

Accordingly, use the above college essay topics/themes as a way to start collecting ideas for your own personal statement, and know you are in very good company if you write an essay on one of them.

Bottom line: you make a college essay topic “unique” by writing about yourself, in your own style and voice, with plenty of detail and specifics. You share what you learned and how you grew. That’s it!

Where can I find examples of college essay topic ideas?

Sometimes, you just need a list of examples. Let’s go back to our geocaching reference above. What the heck is a geocache, anyway? What will you find inside one? Do people use certain types of containers? Perusing a few examples will help you build an idea of what to expect when you go exploring. Okay, I could be looking for anything from Tupperware containers to film canisters…or fake rocks…what?!

Accordingly, in providing you with this list of college essay topic ideas, we want to validate and inspire you. These are real college essay topics developed by real college applicants, so it’s very likely you can connect or identify with at least a few of them. If a topic resonates with or sounds interesting to you, try writing down some thoughts on the associated brainstorming question and see where it takes you.

Inspiring College Essay Topic Ideas

  • Central Story : A parent’s struggle with addiction, and the author’s struggle to cope with the changes happening at home
  • Reflection/Resolution : How the author found themselves again—and learned to cope—by leaning into activities that they loved
  • Brainstorming Question : Has your parent or guardian ever faced a significant health problem, such as a chronic illness, terminal diagnosis, or addiction? How did it impact you?
  • Central Story : After volunteering at a homeless shelter for years, the author realized he had been avoiding personal connection with the men he served meals to
  • Reflection/Resolution : Prioritizing connection, even if uncomfortable, and finding new, tangible ways to understand and assist this population
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever had a perspective-changing volunteer opportunity? If so, what was your perspective before you started, and what is it now?

College Essay Topic Ideas — Continued

  • Central Story : Navigating interactions with customers at a part-time job
  • Reflection/Resolution : Finding ways to connect with and appreciate patrons, and understand how important her job was
  • Brainstorming Question : Do you work in a customer service role? What have been your most memorable interactions, positive or negative? How have they impacted you?
  • Central Story : After years of being a competitive ballet dancer and having aspirations to dance in college, the author is struck with the realization that she does not actually want to be a professional ballerina
  • Reflection/Resolution : Coming to terms with her decision, and embracing who she is without ballet
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever had a college-related or professional goal that changed? Why did it change, and how did you deal with it?
  • Central Story : How a difficult incident during a baseball game changed the author’s relationship with the sport, and pushed him toward new realizations about his future
  • Reflection/Resolution : Embracing his own power to make a difference by immersing himself in research, and discovering new fields that he is interested in pursuing in college
  • Brainstorming Question : Has a particular situation ever shocked or deeply upset you? What realizations did you have about yourself? About others?
  • Central Story : The author’s fiction writing journey and realization that women of color are underrepresented or presented as one-note in most literature
  • Reflection/Resolution : The author’s commitment to crafting characters that not only represented her but reflected her values and beliefs, and creating a writing community in the process
  • Brainstorming Question : Do you have a hobby or passion that you could spend hours a day/week engaging in? How did you get started, and what experiences have been most special/important to you?
  • Central Story : How a strategy-based board game gave the author the skills needed to take a volunteer opportunity to the next level
  • Reflection/Resolution : What the author learned about himself in the process, and the importance of being open to what all types of experiences can teach you
  • Brainstorming Question : What’s your go-to “fun” activity? What (perhaps surprising) skills have you learned from it? Have you been able to apply them in other areas of your life?
  • Central Story : The author’s intensive preparation for synchronized swim team tryouts
  • Reflection/Resolution : How the author dealt with the disappointment of not making the team, and learned important lessons about failure and resilience
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever tried—and failed—at something that took weeks, months, or even years to prepare for? What was that like? How did you cope, and what did you learn about yourself in the process?
  • Central Story : The author’s longing for a stable community after experiencing a housing crisis
  • Reflection/Resolution : How volunteering at a local nonprofit committed to building homes helped him find the community he was searching for, and inspired his future career path
  • Brainstorming Question : What activity is most meaningful to you? How is it enabled you to make an impact on others? How has it impacted you personally?
  • Central Story : The author’s first encounter with coral bleaching, and ensuing environmental activism
  • Reflection/Resolution : How he found balance between activism and his personal life so that he could bring his best self to every project
  • Brainstorming Question : Do you participate in any activities that feel consuming on multiple levels? How do you find balance? Has that been a difficult journey?
  • Central Story : The author’s love of connecting with friends and family through baking, even when the time commitment involved became difficult to navigate
  • Reflection/Resolution : How the author learned to juggle multiple types of commitments, leading to increased joy and intention
  • Brainstorming Question : What personal hobbies are most meaningful to you, and why? Have you ever struggled to find time for your favorite hobby amidst other obligations? How did you navigate that?
  • Central Story : How the author struggled with coming out
  • Reflection/Resolution : How joining a supportive LGBTQ community helped the author make peace with her identity, and also begin helping others who may be struggling with their identity
  • Brainstorming Question : Is there an aspect of your sexual or cultural identity that you’ve struggled to accept? What has that journey been like for you? What actions have you taken along the way, and what have you learned about yourself in the process?
  • Central Story : The author’s determination to help other students feel less isolated and more involved at school, which stemmed from his own early experiences as an immigrant
  • Reflection/Resolution : How the author implemented actual changes that resulted in more connection, school spirit, and personal fulfillment
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever tried to solve a particular issue in your community? What issue did you try to solve, and why? What steps did you take to solve it, and what was the outcome?
  • Central Story : How the author’s early love of Spanish led to learning additional languages
  • Reflection/Resolution : How learning languages has allowed for deeper cultural exploration and appreciation, along with an exploration of the author’s own personal history and goal to pursue linguistics in college
  • Brainstorming Question : Do you already know what you want to pursue in college? How did you come to that conclusion, and what experiences have informed or influenced it along the way?
  • Central Story : How the author’s perfectionism often caused her to avoid trying new things, which she realized after a massive project went sideways
  • Reflection/Resolution : The author began trying new activities outside her comfort zone that introduced her to new interests and inspired further exploration
  • Brainstorming Question : Do you ever feel like you hold yourself back? In what ways? How have you tried to overcome those hurdles?
  • Central Story : The author’s lifelong interest in his favorite animal
  • Reflection/Resolution : What attributes of this animal the author is most fascinated by, how those attributes connect to his own life/experiences, and what he’s learned about himself in the process
  • Brainstorming Question : What are your “favorites”—favorite color, favorite animal, favorite song, favorite movie, favorite place, etc? Why are they your favorite? What can your “favorites” tell us about you?
  • Central Story : How the author’s boredom with piano stemmed from always following sheet music strictly as written
  • Reflection/Resolution : How learning a new musical term—and experimenting with it—enabled the author to find the joy in music again
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you participated in any activities that lost their appeal at some point? How did you react, and what was the outcome?
  • Central Story : The author’s love for a certain childhood craft
  • Reflection/Resolution : How rekindling her love for this craft led to a fascination with repetition and patterns that ultimately inspired her college major
  • Brainstorming Question : As a child, what activities did you love most? Do you still engage in any of them? If so, why are they so important to you?
  • Central Story : The toxic environment within the author’s first school play, which made her start to lose her passion for music
  • Reflection/Resolution : How quitting theater and investing her energy in different, more supportive activities allowed her to reclaim her love of singing
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever quit an important sport, club, or other activity? What led to that decision, and how did you move forward?
  • Central Story : How the author’s love of fashion—and its history—led to a particularly optimistic sewing project
  • Reflection/Resolution : How the process of trial and error during her project—as well as her continued work on it—represents her resilience, passion, and love of learning
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever undertaken a project that didn’t go according to plan? What ups and downs did you encounter, and how did you navigate them?
  • Central Story : How the author confronted her perception of entrepreneurship as well as her own role within her company
  • Reflection/Resolution : How asking difficult questions, conducting research, and being willing to pivot led the author to adjust her mindset and personal philosophy
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever realized that you might need to adjust a previously held belief or perspective? How did you come to that conclusion, and what did you do about it?
  • Central Story : The author’s reluctance and nervousness to return to India, where she spent her childhood
  • Reflection/Resolution : How reconnecting with her culture, especially its literature, led her to embrace herself more fully and even helped inform her future career path
  • Brainstorming Question : Do you ever feel torn between two different worlds or cultural identities? How have you navigated and/or tried to come to terms with that?
  • Central Story : How the author’s self-doubt and fear began to negatively impact her sports performance
  • Reflection/Resolution : How a teammate’s influence enabled the author to start trusting herself, leading to increased self-confidence and new levels of risk-taking
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever dealt with an ongoing struggle that started to take over your life? What enabled you to start adopting a healthier outlook?
  • Central Story : The author’s realization that her method of communication in leadership roles may be hindering, rather than helping, progress
  • Reflection/Resolution : How adjusting her communication methods, focusing on collaboration, and readjusting her perspective led to a new definition of personal and professional success
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever realized that your way of doing things may be negatively impacting a particular group or team? If so, what did you do about it?
  • Central Story : An ethical dilemma that the author experienced while serving on her school paper
  • Reflection/Resolution : How the author arrived at her decision, and what she learned about her own decision-making process
  • Brainstorming Question : Have you ever been confronted with a moral or ethical dilemma? If so, how did you arrive at a decision? Do you regret or stand behind that decision—why or why not?

Final Thoughts — College Essay Topics

After identifying an interesting and personally significant essay topic, you’ll want to focus on further brainstorming as well as execution. Not sure what to do next? College Transitions’ highly skilled essay coaches can help— click here to see available packages or schedule a free consultation.

Additional resources you may find useful:

  • Common App Essay Prompts
  • How to Brainstorm a College Essay
  • 10 Instructive Common App Essay Examples
  • College Application Essay Topics to Avoid
  • How to Start a College Essay
  • How to End a College Essay
  • Best College Essay Help
  • College Essay

Kelsea Conlin

Kelsea holds a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Tufts University, a graduate certificate in College Counseling from UCLA, and an MA in Teaching Writing from Johns Hopkins University. Her short fiction is forthcoming in Chautauqua .

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IELTS Writing Task 2 Essay: Topics, Samples and Tips to Score Band 9!

Are you aiming for excellence in your IELTS Writing? Do you dream of achieving that elusive band 9 score? Look no further! In this blog, we will embark on a journey of transforming your essay writing skills from good to great. Scoring a band 9 in the IELTS Writing module requires not only a strong command of language but also a deep understanding of the assessment criteria and effective writing strategies.

Whether you're a beginner looking to improve or an experienced test-taker seeking that extra edge, this guide will provide you with valuable insights, practical tips, and real examples to help you unlock the secrets of achieving a band 9 in your IELTS essays. So, let's delve into the world of high-scoring IELTS Writing essays and discover how to take your writing prowess to new heights!

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IELTS Writing test syllabus, exam pattern, and duration

Duration: 60 minutes

Writing – Academic

The Academic version of the Writing component consists of two tasks, each addressing topics of broad relevance and suitability for individuals entering undergraduate or postgraduate studies, or those seeking professional registration.

You will be presented with a graph, table, chart, or diagram and are asked to describe, summarise, or explain the information in your own words

You will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument, or problem

You may be asked to describe and explain data, explain the stages of a process, how something works, or describe an object or event

Responses to both tasks must be written in a formal style

Writing – General Training

The General Training version of the Writing component comprises two tasks that revolve around topics of general interest, designed to assess candidates' ability to communicate effectively in common real-life situations.

You will be presented with a situation and asked to write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal, or formal in style

You will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument, or problem. The essay can be slightly more personal in style than the Academic Writing Task 2 essay

IELTS Writing task 2 essay writing – Step-by-step guide for scoring a band 9

Here's a step-by-step guide to the IELTS Writing Task 2 :

Step 1: Understand the task requirements

Carefully read and comprehend the task prompt

Identify the type of essay you are required to write, such as opinion, discussion, or problem-solution

Take note of any specific instructions, word limits, or key points to address

Step 2: Plan and organise your ideas

Spend a few minutes brainstorming and generating ideas related to the task.

Create a clear and coherent outline that includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Organise your ideas logically and decide on the main points for each paragraph.

Step 3: Write an engaging introduction

Begin your essay with a captivating opening sentence that grabs the reader's attention

Provide some background information or context related to the topic

State your thesis or main argument clearly, which will guide the rest of your essay

Step 4: Develop coherent body paragraphs

Commence each body paragraph with a topic sentence that presents the primary concept

Support your ideas with relevant examples, facts, or evidence

Ensure smooth transitions between paragraphs to maintain coherence and flow

Step 5: Showcase language skills and vocabulary

Employ an extensive array of vocabulary and grammatical structures

Demonstrate your ability to express ideas accurately and precisely

Show awareness of cohesive devices, such as linking words and phrases

Step 6: Conclude effectively

Provide a concise summary of the key points addressed in the body paragraphs

Restate your thesis and provide a concise closing statement

Leave the reader with a lasting impression or a thought-provoking question

Step 7: Revise and edit

Allocate time to review your essay for any grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or typos

Check the coherence and coherence of your ideas and arguments

Make necessary revisions to improve clarity, coherence, and overall quality

Step 8: Practice time management

Allocate the appropriate amount of time for each task (Task 1 and Task 2)

Practice writing essays within the given time limit to build speed and efficiency

Monitor your progress and adjust your writing speed accordingly

Step 9: Seek feedback and continuous improvement

Share your essays with a teacher, tutor, or native English speaker for feedback

Identify areas for improvement and focus on enhancing those skills

Regularly practice writing essays to refine your technique and boost your confidence

By following these step-by-step guidelines and consistently practicing, you can improve your IELTS Writing Task performance and work towards achieving your desired band score. Remember, practice and perseverance are key to success in the IELTS Writing module. Good luck!

IELTS Writing Task 2 sample essays to achieve a band score of 9

Here are a few IELTS essay samples for band 9 that demonstrate a high level of language proficiency and can help you understand how to score a band 9. Please note that these are samples for your reference and should not be copied/used as they are presented below:

IELTS Writing Task 2 essay topic: Advantages and disadvantages of technology in education

Introduction: In recent years, technology has revolutionised the education sector, providing both benefits and drawbacks. This essay will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating technology into education and argue that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Body Paragraph 1 (Advantages): One major advantage of technology in education is enhanced learning opportunities. With the help of interactive multimedia tools, students can access a vast range of information and resources, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of complex concepts. Additionally, technology promotes student engagement and active learning, as it enables personalised and interactive teaching methods.

Body Paragraph 2 (Disadvantages) : Despite the numerous advantages, there are some disadvantages to using technology in education. Firstly, excessive reliance on technology may lead to a decrease in face-to-face interaction and hinder the development of crucial social skills. Moreover, the availability of inaccurate or biased information on the internet can pose a challenge in ensuring the accuracy and reliability of sources used for academic purposes.

Body Paragraph 3 (Benefits outweigh drawbacks) : However, the benefits of technology in education far outweigh the drawbacks. By incorporating technology, educational institutions can bridge the gap between traditional teaching methods and the digital world, preparing students for future careers that heavily rely on technological literacy. Furthermore, technology can facilitate distance learning, reaching students who are geographically isolated or have limited access to educational resources.

Conclusion: In conclusion, technology has transformed education by offering enhanced learning opportunities and promoting student engagement. While there are some disadvantages associated with technology, the benefits of incorporating it into education outweigh the drawbacks. It is crucial for educators to strike a balance between traditional teaching methods and technology to maximize the potential of both.

IELTS Writing Task 2 essay topic: Effects of global warming on the environment

Introduction : Global warming, caused primarily by human activities, has become a pressing issue with far-reaching consequences for the environment. This essay will explore the effects of global warming on the environment and argue that urgent action is required to mitigate its detrimental impacts.

Body Paragraph 1 (Rise in temperatures) : One of the most significant effects of global warming is the rise in temperatures worldwide. This leads to the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers, resulting in sea-level rise and an increased frequency of extreme weather events such as hurricanes and heat waves. Moreover, higher temperatures disrupt ecosystems, endangering various plant and animal species.

Body Paragraph 2 (Loss of biodiversity) : Global warming poses a significant threat to biodiversity. As temperatures increase, many species struggle to adapt or migrate to more suitable habitats, leading to their decline or extinction. The loss of biodiversity has severe consequences for ecosystem stability, as each species plays a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance.

Body Paragraph 3 (Environmental degradation) : Another consequence of global warming is environmental degradation. Rising temperatures contribute to the acidification of oceans, damaging coral reefs and marine ecosystems. Additionally, increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere lead to oceanic dead zones, negatively impacting marine life. Deforestation, driven by the need for resources and land for agriculture, exacerbates global warming by reducing the Earth's capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.

In conclusion, global warming has profound effects on the environment, including rising temperatures, loss of biodiversity, and environmental degradation. Immediate and concerted efforts are necessary to address this issue, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting sustainable practices, and preserving natural habitats. Only through collective action can we mitigate the impacts of global warming and protect our planet for future generations.

These sample essays showcase the structure, vocabulary, and coherence necessary to achieve a band 9 score. Remember to practice writing within the time constraints of the IELTS test (40 minutes for the writing section).

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