5 Ways to Start College Essays That Will Impress Admissions Committees


Read on to learn a former admissions officer’s top tips on how to write an impressive college essay introduction! 

Contrary to popular belief, impressive college essays don’t have to start with a tragic event, a groundbreaking revelation, or a life-altering moment. 

The essence of an excellent essay doesn’t depend on the shared experience itself but on how that experience is articulated, the emotions it elicits, and how seamlessly it aligns with the student’s overall narrative and personality.

Nevertheless, figuring out how to captivate the attention of admissions committees who have seen it all can be overwhelming. Drawing from my experience as a former admissions officer who has read thousands of essays, I know what truly resonates with admissions committees and what to steer clear of.

In this guide, I’ll share the six types of introductions that consistently stand out, providing you with tried and true college essay writing tips to help you craft an essay that leaves a lasting impression!

The Importance of a Strong College Essay Introduction

While this advice might sound repetitive, it remains undeniably true: the initial words of your essay can either make or break it. As we sift through thousands of essays, we are actively seeking those that immediately capture our attention. 

Your goal should be to craft an essay that lingers in our minds, leaving an indelible impression that associates you with exceptional writing. The most remarkable college essays are unforgettable; in fact, I can still vividly recall the best essays I’ve read, and they all began with captivating introductions! 

5 Ways to Start College Essays

While I’ve read several wonderful essays with diverse introductions, these five always impress me!

The Mise-En-Scene

A great way to begin your college essay is by plunging the reader right into the heart of the action. Begin with the scene of climax, the pivotal turning point, or even the dramatic conclusion of your narrative. By doing so, you not only captivate your reader’s attention but also urge them to read on to learn the full story!

The Five Senses

You can also begin your essay with a vibrant description that engages all five senses. Delve into what you saw, heard, felt, tasted, and touched to craft an introduction that can transform even the most ordinary of scenarios into an extraordinary narrative.

For instance, you might want to write about your everyday journey to school, a routine that might initially seem mundane. 

Yet, by narrating the crisp clarity of the morning air, the symphony of hurried footsteps that surrounded you, and the burgeoning excitement pulsing through your veins as you took your seat in that first-period class, you can breathe life into this seemingly ordinary scene.

You can paint a meticulously detailed portrait of this moment to convey the sense of belonging you felt within the school’s walls, the profound importance of education to you, and the spark of inspiration that planted the seed of becoming a teacher. This type of sensory-rich introduction can truly engage your readers and put them in your shoes!

The Surprise Ending

Who doesn’t appreciate a good surprise ending? Consider crafting your narrative in a way that initially sets expectations in one direction but, as the story unfolds, cleverly steers it into an unexpected path.

For instance, you could start by vividly describing your vision of a typical high school journey, only to conclude with a twist—perhaps with a simple, “or so I thought.” This tantalizing hint can serve as a gateway into an unforeseen challenge you encountered during your junior year, instantly piquing your reader’s curiosity.

Alternatively, you might compile a list of your academic accomplishments, leaving your readers with a sense that they’ve seen the entirety of your story. Then, with a well-timed revelation, you can assert that these achievements only scratch the surface of your true identity. 

By skillfully deploying these surprise endings, you not only engage your readers’ interest but also invite them to delve further into your story, eagerly anticipating the unveiling of the true narrative that lies beneath the surface.

The Shocker

As I stated previously, you don’t need a tragic or life-altering event to craft a compelling essay. However, starting your essay with the most striking part of your narrative and then explaining its significance is an effective way to intrigue your readers. 

The Philosopher 

The final type of memorable introduction I’ve seen involves a philosophical question. Not the clichéd “I think therefore I am” variety, but more personal ones. We want to get a glimpse into how you see the world around you and what inquisitive questions you have about it, which is why posing these questions works so well. 

The beauty of this approach lies in the expectation that, within your essay, you will not only pose such a question but also provide a meaningful answer. For instance, consider a scenario where your family’s enduring financial hardships have led you to contemplate whether money truly can buy happiness. 

Upon deeper reflection, you realize that it can, in certain ways. This revelation sparks your passion for financial literacy and, ultimately, fuels your aspiration to become a financial advisor, driven by the desire to assist other struggling families.

This type of introduction showcases your unique perspective and illuminates the journey that has shaped your aspirations!

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the success of your essays hinges on maintaining the interest of the admissions committee from the very first sentence to the very last. Employing any of these five introduction strategies equips you with the tools to achieve precisely that! 

By strategically selecting the right opening approach, you not only capture your reader’s attention but also pave the way for a memorable essay journey that will leave a lasting impression on the admissions committee.

If you want an expert to help you write stellar application essays for colleges in the US and across the world, speak to one of our admissions experts at Quad Education today!


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