College Essays: The Importance of a Strong Introduction

By on November 1, 2011
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The introduction to your college essay sets the tone for everything that follows.  It is crucial to organize your thoughts effectively in this opening paragraph.  Some students find it easier to go back and write their introduction at the end.  Some students will end up tinkering with the opening line several times, while others will suddenly have a moment of inspiration and come up with an engaging, unique, and relevant opening line.  We’ve seen thousands of college essays, and there are many cases where it is obvious the student tried too hard to come up with a jaw-dropping opening line and it ends up lacking a genuine feel.  While you should certainly try to make your first line or two engaging, make sure you’re being yourself.  Be sure to avoid clichés, which have a tendency of popping up most often in the first couple of sentences when students are trying to think of captivating phrases that they’ve heard before.  It’s important to remember that a memorable first line can’t make up for a mediocre essay, so don’t agonize if nothing comes to mind immediately.  Below are some opening lines from our essay database, along with a note about what makes them so effective.  Realize, however, that these lines are analyzed outside the context of the entire essay.  Analyzing these lines could provide you with some inspiration for incorporating an engaging, memorable opening line into your essay.

BAM! I was startled awake by a— No. I’m just kidding; my story doesn’t begin with a bam or a bang or even a boom. In fact, I’m not certain it has a beginning at all.

Great job by the student playing off of and almost poking fun at the traditional “captivating” first line that begins in the middle of a tense story and makes use of “bams,” “bangs,” and “booms.”

Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants was my favorite book as a young kid.

This is a rather straightforward opening line that simply lists the writer’s favorite book as a child, but by naming an unexpected and comical book the student has immediately drawn the readers in.  Think about some of your quirkier traits, as well as some of the fun things you did as a kid that could captivate readers while at the same time making them smile.

I encountered him by chance. I know neither his age nor his name. His life is a mystery to me, but I do know that he was the most influential figure in my life.

These short, clear, and concise sentences set the stage for what could be a great essay about an influential figure in the writer’s life.  The audience will surely want to know how someone so anonymous could have such a great impact on this student’s life.

Torn papers on the floor. The cold iron stove. Faded carpeting. The blackened window. Shadows obscure the painting of a little girl, who watches a man enter through the sagging doorway.

The college essay is probably unlike any essay you’ve written in your high school classes.  It is important to note that you don’t necessarily need to write in complete sentences.  There is a fair amount of leeway, which allows you to showcase your personality.  This example above starts with short, abbreviated sentences, and is not something you would find in a high school term paper, for instance.  Feel free to explore with different ideas, styles, and ways of structuring sentences that reflects your character.

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One Comment

  1. Andre Tarquinio

    November 6, 2011 at 8:19 am

    This is something I struggled with for nearly a week. I knew what I wanted to write about but I needed a topic sentence that gave the reader a hook line for the rest of the essay. In the end I think I did and I agree that a good introduction can be key for any essay.

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