Writing an Intro for the College App Essay What do good introductions have? Hook Transition Thesis Traditional Essay Hook/Transition/Thesis Whats different about the college app essay? Discuss Story Approach
If youre feeling brave to try something new, can be more attention-getting than the traditional format Might have a longer intro section (multiple paragraphs), but has the same basic structure as a traditional essay If this freaks you out, the traditional essay is totally fine. Take what you like and apply it; not all of this information might fit your essay.
Story Approach A killer first sentence: This hook grabs your readers' attention and whets their appetite for your story. A vivid, detailed story that illustrates your eventual insight: To make up for how short your story will be, you must insert effective sensory information to immerse the reader. An insightful pivot toward the greater point you're
making in your essay: This vital piece of the essay connects the short story part to the part where you explain what the experience has taught you about yourself, how you've matured, and how it has ultimately shaped you as a person. Source: https://blog.prepscholar.com/how-to-start-a-college-essay Ideas for Killer First Sentences: Story Style Set the scene Describe lush sensory details that put the reader right into the action
We met for lunch at El Burrito Mexicano, a tiny Mexican lunch counter under the Red Line "El" tracks. (Ted Mullin 06 for Carleton College) Maybe it's because I live in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where Brett Favre draws more of a crowd on Sunday than any religious service, cheese is a staple food, it's sub-zero during global warming, current "fashions" come three years after they've hit it big with the rest of the world, and where all children by the age of ten can use a 12-gauge like it's their job. ( Riley Smith '12 for Hamilton College) Ideas for Killer First Sentences: Story Style
Dialogue Use a direct quote of someone talking in your story "Mum, I'm gay." (Ahmad Ashraf '17 for Connecticut College) "You can handle it, Matt," said Mr. Wolf, my fourth-grade band teacher, as he lifted the heavy tuba and put it into my arms. (Matt Coppo 07 for Hamilton College) Ideas for Killer First Sentences: Story Style
Punchy Short Sentence With One Grabby Detail Long isnt always better! Short, weird sentence that makes you go What? I live aloneI always have since elementary school. (Kevin Zevallos '16 for Connecticut College) I have old hands. (First line from a student in Stanfords class of 2012) Ideas for Killer First Sentences: Story Style
Counterintuitive Statement Make sure youre actually being original/creating a debate with this one. If no one would argue with what you've said, then you aren't making an argument. ("The world is a wonderful place" and "Life is worth living" don't make the cut.) All children, except one, grow up. (J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan) Ideas for Killer First Sentences: Story Style
Lesson You Learned From the Story Youre Telling If you cant think of something original that wouldnt go on a kitten poster, this idea might not be for you. Perhaps it wasn't wise to chew and swallow a handful of sand the day I was given my first sandbox, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. (Meagan Spooner 07 for Hamilton College) Two Hooks NOT to Use in My Class Famous Person Quote
NEVER EVER use a famous person quote as the first sentence for an essay in my class. It usually doesnt provide any original insight and it shows that youre just relying on someone else to open your essay for you. Dictionary Definition Webster defines friendship as No. We all know what friendship means. Except for you, maybe, for starting your essay this way. Follow with a Vivid Story If you go this route (instead of the traditional
hook/transition/thesis, which is fine!), youll want to continue the awesome tone you set in the first sentence with a vivid story Remember to use specific details as you describe what happened Set the scene with sensory details: what do you remember seeing? What did it feel like? Transition/Pivot Sentence
This is the place in your essay where you go from small to bigfrom the life experience you describe in detail to the bigger point this experience illustrates about your world and yourself. Good place for this is at the end of your introductory story Transition/Pivot Examples
That was the moment I realized But in that moment I realized that the self-deprecating jokes were there for a reason. When attempting to climb the mountain of comedic success, I didn't just fall and then continue on my journey, but I fell so many times that I befriended the ground and realized that the middle of the metaphorical mountain made for a better campsite. Not because I had let my failures get the best of me, but because I had learned to make the best of my failures. (Rachel Schwartzbaum '19 for Connecticut College) Transition/Pivot Examples
Extract and Underline a Trait or Value My true reward of having Stanley is that he opened the door to the world of botany. I would never have invested so much time learning about the molecular structure or chemical balance of plants if not for taking care of him. (Michaela '19 for Johns Hopkins University) After the Pivot Write the rest of your essay explaining what you learned and how you can apply the lessons you
learned to your future goals and success Dont forget to write about your future here, people! Link the story to your goals. Examples of Story Intros A blue seventh place athletic ribbon hangs from my mantel. Every day, as I walk into my living room, the award mockingly congratulates me as I smile. Ironically, the blue seventh place ribbon resembles the first place ribbon in color; so, if I just cover up the tip of the seven, I may convince myself that I championed the fourth heat. But, I never dare to wipe away the memory of my seventh place swim; I need that daily reminder of my imperfection. I need that seventh place.
Two years ago, I joined the no-cut swim team. That winter, my coach unexpectedly assigned me to swim the 500 freestyle. After stressing for hours about swimming 20 laps in a competition, I mounted the blocks, took my mark, and swam. Around lap 14, I looked around at the other lanes and did not see anyone. I must be winning! I thought to myself. However, as I finally completed my race and lifted my arms up in victory to the eager applause of the fans, I looked up at the score board. I had finished my race in last place. In fact, I left the pool two minutes after the second-to-last competitor, who now stood with her friends, wearing all her clothes. (From "The Unathletic Department" by Meghan 17 for Johns Hopkins University)
Whats good about that one? Great 1st sentence Lots of detail Good storytelling (builds suspense, unexpected ending, etc.)
Pivot! Examples of Story Intros Biogeochemical. Its a word, I promise! There are shrieks and shouts in protest and support. Unacceptable insults are thrown, degrees and qualifications are questioned, I think even a piece of my grandmothers famously flakey parantha whizzes past my ear. Everyone is too lazy to take out a dictionary (or even their phones) to look it up, so we just hash it out. And then, I am crowned the victor, a true success in the Merchant household. But it is fleeting, as the small, glossy, plastic tiles, perfectly connected to form my winning word, are snatched out from under me and thrown in a pile with all the disgraced, unwinning tiles as we mix for our next game of Bananagrams. Its a similar donnybrook, this time ending with my father arguing that it is okay to use Rambo as a word (it totally is not).
Words and communicating have always been of tremendous importance in my life: from silly games like Bananagrams and our road-trip favorite word game, to stunted communication between opposing grandparents, each speaking a different Indian language; from trying to understand the cheesemonger behind the counter with a deep southern drawl (I just want some Camembert!), to shaping a script to make people laugh. Words are moving and changing; they have influence and substance. From an Essay by Shaan Merchant 19 for Tufts University Whats good about that one?
Great 1st sentence Shows rather than tells Pivot! Piles on specific examples to avoid vagueness Remember
Traditional essay structures are totally okay This story-style essay is a good thing to try if youre feeling brave You can incorporate many of these elements (killer first sentences!) without changing the bulk of the essay you already wrote
I probably want to see you try at least a couple of elements we talked about in your 2nd draft
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