How to Begin an Essay: 13 Engaging Strategies

ThoughtCo / Hugo Lin

  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

An effective introductory paragraph both informs and motivates. It lets readers know what your essay is about and it encourages them to keep reading.

There are countless ways to begin an essay effectively. As a start, here are 13 introductory strategies accompanied by examples from a wide range of professional writers.

State Your Thesis Briefly and Directly

But avoid making your thesis a bald announcement, such as "This essay is about...". 

"It is time, at last, to speak the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is this. Thanksgiving is really not such a terrific holiday...." (Michael J. Arlen, "Ode to Thanksgiving." The Camera Age: Essays on Television . Penguin, 1982)

Pose a Question Related to Your Subject

Follow up the question with an answer, or an invitation for your readers to answer the question.

"What is the charm of necklaces? Why would anyone put something extra around their neck and then invest it with special significance? A necklace doesn't afford warmth in cold weather, like a scarf, or protection in combat, like chain mail; it only decorates. We might say, it borrows meaning from what it surrounds and sets off, the head with its supremely important material contents, and the face, that register of the soul. When photographers discuss the way in which a photograph reduces the reality it represents, they mention not only the passage from three dimensions to two, but also the selection of a point de vue that favors the top of the body rather than the bottom, and the front rather than the back. The face is the jewel in the crown of the body, and so we give it a setting." (Emily R. Grosholz, "On Necklaces." Prairie Schooner , Summer 2007)

State an Interesting Fact About Your Subject

" The peregrine falcon was brought back from the brink of extinction by a ban on DDT, but also by a peregrine falcon mating hat invented by an ornithologist at Cornell University. If you cannot buy this, Google it. Female falcons had grown dangerously scarce. A few wistful males nevertheless maintained a sort of sexual loitering ground. The hat was imagined, constructed, and then forthrightly worn by the ornithologist as he patrolled this loitering ground, singing, Chee-up! Chee-up! and bowing like an overpolite Japanese Buddhist trying to tell somebody goodbye...." (David James Duncan, "Cherish This Ecstasy." The Sun , July 2008)

Present Your Thesis as a Recent Discovery or Revelation

"I've finally figured out the difference between neat people and sloppy people. The distinction is, as always, moral. Neat people are lazier and meaner than sloppy people." (Suzanne Britt Jordan, "Neat People vs. Sloppy People." Show and Tell . Morning Owl Press, 1983)

Briefly Describe the Primary Setting of Your Essay

"It was in Burma, a sodden morning of the rains. A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard. We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds fronted with double bars, like small animal cages. Each cell measured about ten feet by ten and was quite bare within except for a plank bed and a pot of drinking water. In some of them brown silent men were squatting at the inner bars, with their blankets draped round them. These were the condemned men, due to be hanged within the next week or two." (George Orwell, "A Hanging," 1931)

Recount an Incident That Dramatizes Your Subject

"One October afternoon three years ago while I was visiting my parents, my mother made a request I dreaded and longed to fulfill. She had just poured me a cup of Earl Grey from her Japanese iron teapot, shaped like a little pumpkin; outside, two cardinals splashed in the birdbath in the weak Connecticut sunlight. Her white hair was gathered at the nape of her neck, and her voice was low. “Please help me get Jeff’s pacemaker turned off,” she said, using my father’s first name. I nodded, and my heart knocked." (Katy Butler, "What Broke My Father's Heart." The New York Times Magazine , June 18, 2010)

Use the Narrative Strategy of Delay

The narrative strategy of delay allows you to put off identifying your subject just long enough to pique your readers' interest without frustrating them. 

"They woof. Though I have photographed them before, I have never heard them speak, for they are mostly silent birds. Lacking a syrinx, the avian equivalent of the human larynx, they are incapable of song. According to field guides the only sounds they make are grunts and hisses, though the Hawk Conservancy in the United Kingdom reports that adults may utter a croaking coo and that young black vultures, when annoyed, emit a kind of immature snarl...." (Lee Zacharias, "Buzzards." Southern Humanities Review , 2007)

Use the Historical Present Tense

An effective method of beginning an essay is to use historical present tense to relate an incident from the past as if it were happening now. 

"Ben and I are sitting side by side in the very back of his mother’s station wagon. We face glowing white headlights of cars following us, our sneakers pressed against the back hatch door. This is our joy—his and mine—to sit turned away from our moms and dads in this place that feels like a secret, as though they are not even in the car with us. They have just taken us out to dinner, and now we are driving home. Years from this evening, I won’t actually be sure that this boy sitting beside me is named Ben. But that doesn’t matter tonight. What I know for certain right now is that I love him, and I need to tell him this fact before we return to our separate houses, next door to each other. We are both five." (Ryan Van Meter, "First." The Gettysburg Review , Winter 2008)

Briefly Describe a Process That Leads Into Your Subject

"I like to take my time when I pronounce someone dead. The bare-minimum requirement is one minute with a stethoscope pressed to someone’s chest, listening for a sound that is not there; with my fingers bearing down on the side of someone’s neck, feeling for an absent pulse; with a flashlight beamed into someone’s fixed and dilated pupils, waiting for the constriction that will not come. If I’m in a hurry, I can do all of these in sixty seconds, but when I have the time, I like to take a minute with each task." (Jane Churchon, "The Dead Book." The Sun , February 2009)

Reveal a Secret or Make a Candid Observation

"I spy on my patients. Ought not a doctor to observe his patients by any means and from any stance, that he might the more fully assemble evidence? So I stand in doorways of hospital rooms and gaze. Oh, it is not all that furtive an act. Those in bed need only look up to discover me. But they never do." ( Richard Selzer , "The Discus Thrower." Confessions of a Knife . Simon & Schuster, 1979)

Open with a Riddle, Joke, or Humorous Quotation

You can use a riddle , joke, or humorous quotation to reveal something about your subject. 

" Q: What did Eve say to Adam on being expelled from the Garden of Eden? A: 'I think we're in a time of transition.' The irony of this joke is not lost as we begin a new century and anxieties about social change seem rife. The implication of this message, covering the first of many periods of transition, is that change is normal; there is, in fact, no era or society in which change is not a permanent feature of the social landscape...." (Betty G. Farrell, Family: The Making of an Idea, an Institution, and a Controversy in American Culture . Westview Press, 1999)

Offer a Contrast Between Past and Present

"As a child, I was made to look out the window of a moving car and appreciate the beautiful scenery, with the result that now I don't care much for nature. I prefer parks, ones with radios going chuckawaka chuckawaka and the delicious whiff of bratwurst and cigarette smoke." (Garrison Keillor, "Walking Down The Canyon." Time , July 31, 2000)

Offer a Contrast Between Image and Reality

A compelling essay can begin with a contrast between a common misconception and the opposing truth. 

"They aren’t what most people think they are. Human eyes, touted as ethereal objects by poets and novelists throughout history, are nothing more than white spheres, somewhat larger than your average marble, covered by a leather-like tissue known as sclera and filled with nature’s facsimile of Jell-O. Your beloved’s eyes may pierce your heart, but in all likelihood they closely resemble the eyes of every other person on the planet. At least I hope they do, for otherwise he or she suffers from severe myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), or worse...." (John Gamel, "The Elegant Eye." Alaska Quarterly Review , 2009)

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The writer of the academic essay aims to persuade readers of an idea based on evidence. The beginning of the essay is a crucial first step in this process. In order to engage readers and establish your authority, the beginning of your essay has to accomplish certain business. Your beginning should introduce the essay, focus it, and orient readers.

Introduce the Essay.  The beginning lets your readers know what the essay is about, the  topic . The essay's topic does not exist in a vacuum, however; part of letting readers know what your essay is about means establishing the essay's  context , the frame within which you will approach your topic. For instance, in an essay about the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech, the context may be a particular legal theory about the speech right; it may be historical information concerning the writing of the amendment; it may be a contemporary dispute over flag burning; or it may be a question raised by the text itself. The point here is that, in establishing the essay's context, you are also limiting your topic. That is, you are framing an approach to your topic that necessarily eliminates other approaches. Thus, when you determine your context, you simultaneously narrow your topic and take a big step toward focusing your essay. Here's an example.

The paragraph goes on. But as you can see, Chopin's novel (the topic) is introduced in the context of the critical and moral controversy its publication engendered.

Focus the Essay.  Beyond introducing your topic, your beginning must also let readers know what the central issue is. What question or problem will you be thinking about? You can pose a question that will lead to your idea (in which case, your idea will be the answer to your question), or you can make a thesis statement. Or you can do both: you can ask a question and immediately suggest the answer that your essay will argue. Here's an example from an essay about Memorial Hall.

The fullness of your idea will not emerge until your conclusion, but your beginning must clearly indicate the direction your idea will take, must set your essay on that road. And whether you focus your essay by posing a question, stating a thesis, or combining these approaches, by the end of your beginning, readers should know what you're writing about, and  why —and why they might want to read on.

Orient Readers.  Orienting readers, locating them in your discussion, means providing information and explanations wherever necessary for your readers' understanding. Orienting is important throughout your essay, but it is crucial in the beginning. Readers who don't have the information they need to follow your discussion will get lost and quit reading. (Your teachers, of course, will trudge on.) Supplying the necessary information to orient your readers may be as simple as answering the journalist's questions of who, what, where, when, how, and why. It may mean providing a brief overview of events or a summary of the text you'll be analyzing. If the source text is brief, such as the First Amendment, you might just quote it. If the text is well known, your summary, for most audiences, won't need to be more than an identifying phrase or two:

Often, however, you will want to summarize your source more fully so that readers can follow your analysis of it.

Questions of Length and Order.  How long should the beginning be? The length should be proportionate to the length and complexity of the whole essay. For instance, if you're writing a five-page essay analyzing a single text, your beginning should be brief, no more than one or two paragraphs. On the other hand, it may take a couple of pages to set up a ten-page essay.

Does the business of the beginning have to be addressed in a particular order? No, but the order should be logical. Usually, for instance, the question or statement that focuses the essay comes at the end of the beginning, where it serves as the jumping-off point for the middle, or main body, of the essay. Topic and context are often intertwined, but the context may be established before the particular topic is introduced. In other words, the order in which you accomplish the business of the beginning is flexible and should be determined by your purpose.

Opening Strategies.  There is still the further question of how to start. What makes a good opening? You can start with specific facts and information, a keynote quotation, a question, an anecdote, or an image. But whatever sort of opening you choose, it should be directly related to your focus. A snappy quotation that doesn't help establish the context for your essay or that later plays no part in your thinking will only mislead readers and blur your focus. Be as direct and specific as you can be. This means you should avoid two types of openings:

  • The history-of-the-world (or long-distance) opening, which aims to establish a context for the essay by getting a long running start: "Ever since the dawn of civilized life, societies have struggled to reconcile the need for change with the need for order." What are we talking about here, political revolution or a new brand of soft drink? Get to it.
  • The funnel opening (a variation on the same theme), which starts with something broad and general and "funnels" its way down to a specific topic. If your essay is an argument about state-mandated prayer in public schools, don't start by generalizing about religion; start with the specific topic at hand.

Remember.  After working your way through the whole draft, testing your thinking against the evidence, perhaps changing direction or modifying the idea you started with, go back to your beginning and make sure it still provides a clear focus for the essay. Then clarify and sharpen your focus as needed. Clear, direct beginnings rarely present themselves ready-made; they must be written, and rewritten, into the sort of sharp-eyed clarity that engages readers and establishes your authority.

Copyright 1999, Patricia Kain, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

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How To Start An Essay

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How to Start an Essay- A Step-by-Step Guide

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Starting an essay can be quite a challenge. It's a hurdle many writers stumble over, yet it's a crucial one. 

Crafting an introduction that's not only attention-grabbing but also compelling is the cornerstone of successful essay writing . 

In this blog, we will explain everything about starting an essay. We will discuss how to begin different types of essays and what are some common ways to start an essay. Additionally, we'll highlight some common mistakes to avoid in your essay's introduction.

So let's get started!

Arrow Down

  • 1. How to Start an Essay Introduction?
  • 2. How to Start an Essay With a Quote?
  • 3. How to Start an Essay With a Question?
  • 4. How to Start an Essay With a Fact?
  • 5. How to Start an Essay With an Anecdote?
  • 6. Words To Start An Essay Introduction
  • 7. Sentences To Start An Essay
  • 8. How to Start an Essay - Examples
  • 9. Other Common Ways of Starting an Essay
  • 10. Mistakes to Avoid When Starting an Essay

How to Start an Essay Introduction?

In academic writing, the only chance to make readers stick to your paper is to start off with an interesting and engaging introductory paragraph.

The introduction typically starts by setting the stage and presenting vital background information about your specific topic.

Make your introduction catchy and interesting to both inform and motivate your readers. In this way, you can make your opening of the essay as compelling as possible.

Here are the steps that you need to follow to create an engaging essay introduction: 

  • Start With an Interesting Hook
  • Provide Background Information 
  • Write Your Thesis Statement 
  • Map the Structure of Your Essay 
  • Edit and Revise at the End 

Let’s explain these steps in detail below.

Step 1: Start With an Interesting Hook 

An essay hook is an opening statement that strives to grab people’s interest and attention. Always start an essay introduction with a hook to make your essay appealing.    Here are different types of hooks that can be used in your introduction paragraph:

  • Rhetorical Questions
  • Or a random funny statement

The kind of hook that should be used in the essay depends on the topic and type of your essay. If addressing a serious and sad issue, do not use a casual or funny statement. It would be better to use quotations or anecdotes for such essays. 

Likewise, if your topic is casual and humorous, try to open your essay lightly and casually.  You can ask a funny question or start with a random funny statement. 

You can also go through an interesting hook example and learn how to start a paragraph with interesting hooks. 

Step 2: Provide Background Information

After starting the introduction with a compelling hook, you need to provide background information about your topic. 

The background information is provided to familiarize your audience with the topic and the main argument. 

Providing background knowledge in the introduction is not as easy as it seems. You have to stop yourself from sharing excess information in the introductory paragraph. This will bore your audience, and they will stop reading for sure.    Just slightly give an idea about your topic and move on. You should not spoil the surprise coming for readers in the body paragraphs. 

Step 3: Write Your Thesis Statement

The last component of an introduction is the thesis statement. It is a 1-2 line sentence statement that sums up the main concept and the argument of your essay.    A thesis statement is considered a road map for your essay and provides your reader with an idea about the essay. It sets the tone of the essay, and the reader gets a slight hint about what they are going to read further. 

The rest of the paragraphs that come before the conclusion are the body of your essay. They contain all the reasons and shreds of evidence that support and back your thesis statement. 

Quick Tip: Always firmly present your argument in the thesis statement. Do not fill it with excessive information. The thesis statement is meant to convey your stance!

Step 4: Map the Structure of Your Essay

This is especially helpful for longer essays as it informs the readers about what is to come in each section of the essay. Keep this part concise and to the point, and give your readers a clear direction of your essay.

If your essay is short or discusses fewer ideas, this step may not be necessary. But, in the case of a longer essay, the mapping will inform the readers about the things being further discussed in the essay.

Step 5: Edit and Revise at the End

Once done with the writing, edit and revise the introduction. Make sure that you have added a compelling hook, adequate background information, and a thesis statement.

Furthermore, keep in mind that your introduction should be according to the type of essay that you are writing. 

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How to Start an Essay With a Quote?

Here is how to start your essay with a quote:

  • Begin with a relevant quote that ties directly to your essay's topic.
  • Provide context for the quote to help readers understand its significance.
  • Properly cite the author, source, and publication date of the quote.
  • Transition smoothly from the quote to your thesis statement.
  • Analyze the quote's meaning and how it supports your argument.
  • Ensure the content of your essay's body aligns with the quote and analysis.

Here are some expert tips for putting a quote at the start of an essay:

  • Avoid adding frequently used quotes that are familiar to everyone.
  • Explain how the quote relates to your main point.
  • Select a quote that your target audience can easily understand and relate to.

How to Start an Essay With a Question?

The easiest way to start an introduction is to ask a question to your readers to engage them immediately. Asking questions gives an image of a one-on-one conversation, which is super effective.    Seeing a question first will make your audience look for the answer in the content. 

A rhetorical question is a good kickstart to your essay, as such a type of beginning is attractive to readers. 

If you start with an intriguing question, the answer of which is not clear, then you should provide the answer within the text. Keep in mind that the rhetorical question does not require any specific reply. 

How to Start an Essay With a Fact?

Including interesting facts or statistics in your introduction helps you to take hold of your readers. Facts and stats are good attention grabbers for any piece of writing. Everyone gets entertained by the interesting and fun facts as they provide the context and background information of the topic. 

For serious issues that are global, you can present shocking statistics or news to instantly grab your reader’s attention. 

Choose facts and figures from credible and trustworthy sources. Your facts should support or prove your point of view or argument being presented later on in the essay. 

Starting an essay with a shocking fact from a credible source is an effective way to start an essay, followed by explanations to convince the readers.

How to Start an Essay With an Anecdote?

Another interesting way to start an essay is with a brief anecdote. It is about setting a short story at the start to show how it reveals the important features of your theme. 

This hook is appropriate to use if you are writing descriptive or narrative essays. The anecdote should be short, simple, and to the point. Make sure it relates to the central idea of your essay. 

Words To Start An Essay Introduction

Here are some effective words and phrases to begin an essay introduction:

  • Intriguingly: Intriguingly, the concept of...
  • Unquestionably: Unquestionably, the most critical issue is...
  • Surprisingly: Surprisingly, the data reveals...
  • Notably: Notably, this phenomenon has far-reaching implications.
  • Evidently: Evidently, the evidence suggests...
  • Arguably: Arguably, one of the most contentious topics is...
  • It is imperative to: It is imperative to address the issue of...
  • Historically: Historically, this problem has persisted for centuries.
  • In today's context: In today's context the relevance of this cannot be overstated.
  • To illustrate: To illustrate, consider the following example….
  • In contemporary society: In contemporary society, the issue of...
  • Remarkably: Remarkably, few have explored the implications of...
  • Undoubtedly: Undoubtedly, this problem warrants immediate attention.
  • Consequently: Consequently, this leads us to question...
  • In light of this: In light of this, it becomes evident that...
  • Fundamentally: Fundamentally, the core issue revolves around...
  • In recent years: In recent years, there has been a growing interest in...
  • In an ever-changing world: In an ever-changing world, it is crucial to consider...
  • To shed light on: To shed light on this matter, we will delve into...
  • As a result: As a result, we are compelled to explore the implications of…

Sentences To Start An Essay

Here are some interesting sentences to start an essay: 

  • Have you ever wondered about the impact of climate change on our planet?
  • In a remote village nestled among the mountains, a young girl's journey began.
  • "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," said Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • Shockingly, 70% of marine life is threatened by plastic pollution.
  • While some embrace technology, others yearn for a simpler, analog life.
  • Democracy, the cornerstone of modern societies, is often misunderstood.
  • A tranquil dawn, with the sun's first rays painting the sky in hues of gold.
  • Did you know that octopuses have three hearts and blue blood?
  • As a child, I often marveled at the stars, wondering about the cosmos.
  • Society teeters on the brink of a digital revolution that will redefine human existence.

How to Start an Essay - Examples

Examining various essay introduction examples provides valuable insights into captivating your reader's interest right from the start. 

Check out these examples for guidance on crafting powerful opening lines.

How to Start an Informative Essay?

How to Start an Analysis Essay?

How to Start an Application Essay?

How to Start an Expository Essay?

How to Start an Analytical Essay?

How to Start an Essay About a Book?

How to start an Opinion Essay?

How to Start an Autobiography Essay?

How to Start an Essay on Climate Change?

How to Start an Essay on Covid-19?

How to Start an Essay About Women’s Rights?

How to Start a Paragraph in an Essay?

The best way to start a paragraph in an essay is to write the topic sentence. The topic sentence tells the reader what the paragraph is going to be about. After the topic sentence, the supporting details are further provided.

Read this example to know how to start a paragraph. 

How to Start a Conclusion in an Essay?

To start a conclusion in an essay, you should write a rephrased thesis statement first. As it is the crux of your whole essay. Further on, the points discussed in the essay can be summarized one by one in the concluding paragraph. 

Here is an example of how to write a conclusion to help you understand this better. 

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Other Common Ways of Starting an Essay

Besides the ones given above, here are some common ways of beginning your essay on a strong and engaging footing.

Stating the Thesis Statement Briefly

Instead of adding your thesis statement plainly, make the tone engaging and keep it brief.

Beginning with an Interesting Discovery

Discoveries and little-known details always interest the readers. They are curious and they want to know more. This makes this kind of essay very interesting and irresistible for your readers.

Describe the Setting of Your Essay

Presenting the setting of your essay to set the mood of your audience. This helps them know where your essay is heading.

Recount an Event

Recount an event to add drama to your essay. This also helps the readers to connect with you on a deeper level.

Use the Narrative Delay Technique

This technique works best in piquing your audience’s interest and keeping them on the edge of their seats. However, do not linger on it too much and use this technique carefully.

Present a Historical Event in the Present Tense

Use historical present tense to add weightage to your narrative. It makes the readers feel as if the event is taking place at the present moment.

Describe a Process Briefly

Describe a process briefly that leads to your main essay topic.

Reveal a Secret

“How to start an essay about yourself for college?”

People are always interested in knowing secrets. This is what makes this technique so good. Use it to reveal some secrets about yourself, if you are writing an essay about yourself.

Present a Comparison between the Past and Present

It is a very effective technique as it helps the readers see the comparison between past and present situations.

Give a Contrast between Virtual & Actual Reality

There are many things that we believe to be true, a.k.a. Virtual reality. This technique helps you in presenting what a myth is and what reality is. Breaking the myths is an effective technique to grab someone’s attention.

Mistakes to Avoid When Starting an Essay

Here are a few mistakes that should be avoided for writing a great essay introduction. 

  • Starting Without a Plan: Launching into your essay without a clear outline is a recipe for confusion.
  • Weak, Generic Hooks: Using clichés or dull openings that fail to grab your reader's attention.
  • Excessive Formality: Overloading your intro with formal language can bore your audience.
  • Info Overload: Bombarding readers with too much background information can overwhelm them.
  • Unclear Thesis: Failing to state your essay's purpose upfront leaves readers puzzled.
  • Irrelevant Quotes: Using quotes that don't connect directly to your topic is a misstep.
  • Ignoring Your Audience: Neglecting your audience's interests can lead to disengagement.
  • Procrastinating Intro: Leaving the intro for last often results in rushed, ineffective beginnings.
  • Repetitive Content: Repeating what's in the body of your essay makes the intro redundant.
  • Skipping Proofreading: Overlooking errors in grammar and punctuation undermines your intro's credibility.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good introduction sentence for an essay.

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A good instruction sentence for an essay is one that captures the reader's attention with an interesting hook. After writing the hook, give them some context by providing background information that will help set up what is to come in later paragraphs or sections of the paper/essay.

Finally, conclude your introduction with a thesis statement that states both concisely and specifically what main point(s) are being made about this topic along with why it matters.

What are 3 ways of starting your essay?

The three most recommended ways to start off an essay are: 

  • Quotation: By a famous person that fits the context of your essay. 
  • Question: That engages the reader to find the answer in your essay. 
  • Facts or Statistics: That is startling so that the reader’s attention can be grabbed. 

What words can you use to start an essay?

Some words that can be used to start an essay are once, next, then, in fact, similarly, or a time word like first, second, third. You can also use sequential transitions to merge your hook to the rest of the introduction paragraph. These transition words include, for example, consequently, for this reason, or another addition transition.

What is a good paragraph starter?

A good paragraph starter is a brief yet complete topic sentence. The topic sentence should adequately give the reader an idea about what is going to be discussed in the rest of the paragraph. The topic sentence should also prove your thesis statement.

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Nova A.

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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What is the purpose of the college essay introduction, tips for getting started on your essay, 6 effective techniques for starting your college essay.

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Have you sat down to write your essay and just hit a wall of writer’s block? Do you have too many ideas running around your head, or maybe no ideas at all?

Starting a college essay is potentially the hardest part of the application process. Once you start, it’s easy to keep writing, but that initial hurdle is just so difficult to overcome. We’ve put together a list of tips to help you jump that wall and make your essay the best it can be.

The introduction to a college essay should immediately hook the reader. You want to give admissions officers a reason to stay interested in your story and encourage them to continue reading your essay with an open mind. Remember that admissions officers are only able to spend a couple minutes per essay, so if you bore them or turn them off from the start, they may clock out for the rest of the essay.

As a whole, the college essay should aim to portray a part of your personality that hasn’t been covered by your GPA, extracurriculars, and test scores. This makes the introduction a crucial part of the essay. Think of it as the first glimpse, an intriguing lead on, into the read rest of your essay which also showcases your voice and personality. 

Brainstorm Topics

Take the time to sit down and brainstorm some good topic ideas for your essay. You want your topic to be meaningful to you, while also displaying a part of you that isn’t apparent in other aspects of your application. The essay is an opportunity to show admissions officers the “real you.” If you have a topic in mind, do not feel pressured to start with the introduction. Sometimes the best essay openings are developed last, once you fully grasp the flow of your story.

Do a Freewrite

Give yourself permission to write without judgment for an allotted period of time. For each topic you generated in your brainstorm session, do a free-write session. Set a time for one minute and write down whatever comes to mind for that specific topic. This will help get the juices flowing and push you over that initial bit of writer’s block that’s so common when it comes time to write a college essay. Repeat this exercise if you’re feeling stuck at any point during the essay writing process. Freewriting is a great way to warm up your creative writing brain whilst seeing which topics are flowing more naturally onto the page.

Create an Outline

Once you’ve chosen your topic, write an outline for your whole essay. It’s easier to organize all your thoughts, write the body, and then go back to write the introduction. That way, you already know the direction you want your essay to go because you’ve actually written it out, and you can ensure that your introduction leads directly into the rest of the essay. Admissions officers are looking for the quality of your writing alongside the content of your essay. To be prepared for college-level writing, students should understand how to logically structure an essay. By creating an outline, you are setting yourself up to be judged favorably on the quality of your writing skills.

1. The Scriptwriter

“No! Make it stop! Get me out!” My 5-year-old self waved my arms frantically in front of my face in the darkened movie theater.

Starting your essay with dialogue instantly transports the reader into the story, while also introducing your personal voice. In the rest of the essay, the author proposes a class that introduces people to insects as a type of food. Typically, one would begin directly with the course proposal. However, the author’s inclusion of this flashback weaves in a personal narrative, further displaying her true self.

Read the full essay.

2. The Shocker

A chaotic sense of sickness and filth unfolds in an overcrowded border station in McAllen, Texas. Through soundproof windows, migrants motion that they have not showered in weeks, and children wear clothes caked in mucus and tears. The humanitarian crisis at the southern border exists not only in photographs published by mainstream media, but miles from my home in South Texas.

This essay opener is also a good example of “The Vivid Imaginer.” In this case, the detailed imagery only serves to heighten the shock factor. While people may be aware of the “humanitarian crisis at the southern border,” reading about it in such stark terms is bound to capture the reader’s attention. Through this hook, the reader learns a bit about the author’s home life; an aspect of the student that may not be detailed elsewhere in their application. The rest of the essay goes on to talk about the author’s passion for aiding refugees, and this initial paragraph immediately establishes the author’s personal connection to the refugee crisis.

3. The Vivid Imaginer

The air is crisp and cool, nipping at my ears as I walk under a curtain of darkness that drapes over the sky, starless. It is a Friday night in downtown Corpus Christi, a rare moment of peace in my home city filled with the laughter of strangers and colorful lights of street vendors. But I cannot focus. 

Starting off with a bit of well-written imagery transports the reader to wherever you want to take them. By putting them in this context with you, you allow the reader to closely understand your thoughts and emotions in this situation. Additionally, this method showcases the author’s individual way of looking at the world, a personal touch that is the baseline of all college essays.

how can you start a essay off

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4. The Instant Plunger

The flickering LED lights began to form into a face of a man when I focused my eyes. The man spoke of a ruthless serial killer of the decade who had been arrested in 2004, and my parents shivered at his reaccounting of the case. I curiously tuned in, wondering who he was to speak of such crimes with concrete composure and knowledge. Later, he introduced himself as a profiler named Pyo Chang Won, and I watched the rest of the program by myself without realizing that my parents had left the couch.

Plunging readers into the middle of a story (also known as in medias res ) is an effective hook because it captures attention by placing the reader directly into the action. The descriptive imagery in the first sentence also helps to immerse the reader, creating a satisfying hook while also showing (instead of telling) how the author became interested in criminology. With this technique, it is important to “zoom out,” so to speak, in such a way that the essay remains personal to you.

5. The Philosopher 

Saved in the Notes app on my phone are three questions: What can I know? What must I do? What may I hope for? First asked by Immanuel Kant, these questions guide my pursuit of knowledge and organization of critical thought, both skills that are necessary to move our country and society forward in the right direction.

Posing philosophical questions helps present you as someone with deep ideas while also guiding the focus of your essay. In a way, it presents the reader with a roadmap; they know that these questions provide the theme for the rest of the essay. The more controversial the questions, the more gripping a hook you can create. 

Providing an answer to these questions is not necessarily as important as making sure that the discussions they provoke really showcase you and your own values and beliefs.

6. The Storyteller

One Christmas morning, when I was nine, I opened a snap circuit set from my grandmother. Although I had always loved math and science, I didn’t realize my passion for engineering until I spent the rest of winter break creating different circuits to power various lights, alarms, and sensors. Even after I outgrew the toy, I kept the set in my bedroom at home and knew I wanted to study engineering.

Beginning with an anecdote is a strong way to establish a meaningful connection with the content itself. It also shows that the topic you write about has been a part of your life for a significant amount of time, and something that college admissions officers look for in activities is follow-through; they want to make sure that you are truly interested in something. A personal story such as the one above shows off just that.

Cliche College Essay Introductions to Avoid

Ambiguous introduction.

It’s best to avoid introductory sentences that don’t seem to really say anything at all, such as “Science plays a large role in today’s society,” or “X has existed since the beginning of time.” Statements like these, in addition to being extremely common, don’t demonstrate anything about you, the author. Without a personal connection to you right away, it’s easy for the admissions officer to write off the essay before getting past the first sentence.

Quoting Someone Famous

While having a quotation by a famous author, celebrity, or someone else you admire may seem like a good way to allow the reader to get to know you, these kinds of introductions are actually incredibly overused. You also risk making your essay all about the quotation and the famous person who said it; admissions officers want to get to know you, your beliefs, and your values, not someone who isn’t applying to their school. There are some cases where you may actually be asked to write about a quotation, and that’s fine, but you should avoid starting your essay with someone else’s words outside of this case. It is fine, however, to start with dialogue to plunge your readers into a specific moment.

Talking About Writing an Essay

This method is also very commonplace and is thus best avoided. It’s better to show, not tell, and all this method allows you to do is tell the reader how you were feeling at the time of writing the essay. If you do feel compelled to go this way, make sure to include vivid imagery and focus on grounding the essay in the five senses, which can help elevate your introduction and separate it from the many other meta essays.

Childhood Memories

Phrases like “Ever since I was young…” or “I’ve always wanted…” also lend more to telling rather than showing. If you want to talk about your childhood or past feelings in your essay, try using one of the techniques listed earlier (such as the Instant Plunger or the Vivid Imaginer) to elevate your writing.

CollegeVine has a peer essay review page where peers can tell you if your introduction was enough to hook them. Getting feedback from someone who hasn’t read your essay before, and thus doesn’t have any context which may bias them to be more forgiving to your introduction, is helpful because it mimics the same environment in which an admissions officer will be reading your essay. 

Writing a college essay is hard, but with these tips hopefully starting it will be a little easier!

how can you start a essay off

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how can you start a essay off

How to Start a College Essay – 12 Techniques and Tips

August 1, 2023

how can you start a essay off

Your college tours are scheduled, you’re knee-deep in SAT/ACT prep , application deadlines are quickly approaching, and then it happens: writer’s block hits you hard. You’re stumped, wondering how to start a college essay. It’s all too easy to overthink it when acceptances are on the line. But don’t fret! We’ve got you covered with 12 tips and techniques, plus answers to common questions like: Can I start my essay with a quote? Should I try to sound as smart as possible? Is it okay to use humor?

Keep reading for all you need to know about how to start a college essay:

  • Common Mistakes to Avoid

How to Start a College Essay: The Content

How to start a college essay: the style.

  • More Resources

How to Start a College Essay: Common Mistakes to Avoid

Since admissions readers are looking to be surprised and engaged right away, it’s safest to avoid these overused techniques.

1) Pulling out the dictionary

Chances are, your reader already knows the definition of the word you’re tempted to copy and paste from Merriam-Webster . Unless you’re starting with a word in a non-English language or a word that 98% of the population truly does not know, there’s no need to turn to the dictionary. Assume your reader is a smart person who is already in the know.

2) Choosing clichés

Clichés are boring in writing because they’re, well…cliché. Before you tell an admissions reader that all that glitters isn’t gold or there’s a silver lining to every cloud, remember that their job involves reading hundreds if not thousands of college essays. The way to impress them is to stand out as someone with unique insights, opinions, or creativity. Not sure if the phrase you’re using is trite or overused? Look it up online and see if there is an overabundance of results.

How to Start a College Essay (Continued) 

3) beginning broadly.

Since the dawn of time, students have been starting essays too broadly. Your college admissions essays are about you, your experiences, your values, and your goals. So, starting with general statements like “Different cultures have different traditions and values” or “We have to be the change we want to see in the world” don’t center you as the topic of your essay. If you’re writing your essay about, say, your Polynesian identity and your love of Hula dance or the summer you spent making vats of soup for a food kitchen, jump right into sharing a vivid memory from those experiences instead.

4) Leading with a quote

“Can I start my college essay with a quote?” is one of the most common questions we get. The problem with starting with a quote is the same as starting too broadly: you don’t center yourself as the topic of your essay. Since college essays are short, the quote itself and the many sentences it will take to transition to the rest of your content will eat up precious word count. Unless it’s a deep-cut quote that’s highly particular to you and your niche interests, quotes anywhere in your essay can come across as cliché.

A stand-out college admissions essay will grab your reader’s attention and immediately give them a sense of who you are, what you value, and what’s unique about you. Trying to decide how to start a college essay? First, take a look at our guide to the Common App Prompts . Then, use one of these five techniques to brainstorm content:

1) Share a challenge you’ve overcome

Since college is all about growth and learning, one tried and true strategy is describing a challenge you’ve overcome that you’ve learned a lot from. Example:

For my first three months of middle school choir, I was nothing more than a ventriloquist’s dummy, mouthing words with no sound coming out. I was terrified to use my voice. Then, one fateful morning, Mrs. Garcia asked me to solo in front of the whole class.

A strong essay about a challenge you’ve overcome will explain who you were before, how you overcame the challenge, and who you are now. Taking this approach allows you to demonstrate that you’re able to rise to meet challenges, learn through difficulty, and apply yourself even when you’re uncomfortable. A word of warning though: avoid writing about very common challenges like pushing yourself to beat your cross-country time, studying for the SAT/ACT or other big tests, or transitioning from middle to high school. Since so many students share these experiences as common ground, these topics will make it hard to stand out from the crowd.

Want even more tips on writing about a challenge you’ve overcome? Check out our full guide to the Overcoming Challenges prompt.

2) Show your funny side

Yes, humor works well in college essays! Poking fun at one of your quirks or (inconsequential) shortcomings can be a great way to reveal your personality. Example:

Every day, I begged. At bedtime, at breakfast, for my birthday, for Christmas—I begged for a skateboard. Mom said it was too dangerous, Dad thought they were too noisy, but still I dreamed of cruising the neighborhood and learning to ollie in our driveway. My 14th birthday was the day my begging finally ended. It was also the day I learned I have absolutely no sense of balance.

Opening with a humorous story paints a vivid picture of you right away, but where you take it from there matters. You probably wouldn’t want to write a whole essay about breaking your tailbone and this isn’t the right forum for a stand-up routine. But you could take an opening like this in a variety of directions that reveal more meaningful truths about you. For example, after this opener, this writer could go on to:

  • Talk about other new skills they tried that they were able to land better than an ollie.
  • Describe how they learned about balance in other avenues of their life.

3) Clear up a misconception about you

Although college essays are brief, you’ll want to squeeze in as much depth and breadth as you can. Starting by addressing an assumption or stereotype you’ve faced can be an efficient and engaging way to move past the superficial. Example:

Blonde. Four foot eight. Size five feet. Strangers and well-meaning friends sometimes offer me a booster seat or ask if I need help carrying heavy things. Little do they know I can deadlift 135 pounds. My first teen powerlifting competition is coming up this spring.

Clearing up a misconception allows you to surprise your admissions reader and share something meaningful about yourself in one stroke. When using this strategy, think about all the different layers of your identity. What assumptions do others make of you and what might casual acquaintances or strangers be surprised to learn? A word of warning: steer clear of being too critical of others. Although stereotypes and assumptions are difficult to bear, for this essay, you’ll want to focus on you —your accomplishments, skills, and passions—instead of others.

4) Invite us in

Are Shabbat dinners with your whole extended family the highlight of your week? Do you feel most alive when you’re at your keyboard composing a new song or when you’re at a Robotics Club meeting, throwing out wild design ideas with your team? When you invite us in, you’re letting your reader in on the places you’re most at home, most excited, or most yourself. Example:

When I was seven years old, my grandma sat me down at her sewing table and taught me how to sew back on the button that had popped off my sweater. I can still feel her hands on mine, showing me where to place the needle. It was the first of what became weekly lessons on backstitching, basting, hemming pants, and embroidery. I didn’t know it then, but it was the first day of my journey into fashion design.

To brainstorm for this technique, list experiences that have helped shape your values, goals, and interests. Think of things you do every week but also once-in-a-lifetime events. You’ll want to begin this essay by choosing one meaningful experience to share in the beginning of your essay. Use vivid details that help a reader imagine the experience for themselves and then explain why this experience matters to you.

5) Nerd out about a problem you’ve solved

If you’ve hit the library stacks to find the answer to a burning question, stayed after class to ask your teacher for more homework, worked with a student club to improve a campus issue, or concocted your own science experiment, this might be the essay tactic for you. Example:

As a volunteer at my local pet rescue, I surprised myself by becoming a crusader for birds. Dogs and cats were adopted all the time, but the parrots, cockatiels, and parakeets sat in their cages for ages, chattering away and waiting for their forever homes. I realized it was an issue of awareness: no one knew our shelter rescued birds. Thirty YouTube tutorials and one online digital marketing class later, I had developed a ten-step social media strategy.

A great way to share your unique interests, this technique lets you showcase the curiosity and eagerness to learn you’ll be bringing with you to college. To brainstorm for this essay, think of times when you’ve worked solo or with a team to discover something new or solve a tricky problem. As you write about this experience, describe the initial problem, any difficulties you encountered, and the strategies you used to find a solution.

We’ve covered essay content, but you may still be wondering how to start a college essay that grabs your reader’s attention. Here are three key style tips that will help breathe life into your writing:

1) Share a story

As you can probably tell from the examples above, we recommend starting your essay off with an engaging story. Before you tell a reader that you’re an introvert who also loves performing in musical theater, you’ll want to tell the tale of the first time you braved the spotlight. Before you explain that you plan to major in political science, describe the town hall meeting you attended in the 7 th grade that started it all.

2) Use vivid descriptions

When we read, we’re most engaged when we feel like we can clearly imagine the scene. To draw a reader in, use the same storytelling strategies that fiction writers use: sensory descriptions, concrete details, and passing time.

  • Sensory descriptions: Describe the smell of your mother’s biryani cooking on the stove, the temperature of the air at the start of your first half marathon. Sight, sound, smell, touch, taste. Engage as many of the five senses as you can.
  • Concrete details: Concrete details are particular descriptions of places, people, and objects. If you’re describing a service trip to Honduras, describe the buildings, streets, and food you ate so your reader can imagine it.
  • Passing time: Making time pass means ensuring you have a clear sense of the beginning, middle, and end of your story. To keep things clear, put your details in linear order and make sure to include temporal transitional phrases like “When I was six years old,” “Later, in high school,” and “Now, as I reflect back.”

3) Use your own voice

When you’re wondering how to start your college essay, it can be tempting to write in the same style you use for academic essays. But the college essay is a personal essay, not an essay for school. For this style of writing, you’ll want to be clear, thoughtful, and grammatically correct, but you’ll also want to be personable, engaging, and, most importantly, yourself. With that in mind, skip the SAT vocabulary words and opt for a more conversational tone instead.

How to Start a College Essay: More Resources

Looking to learn even more about how to start a college essay? If you’re ready to get started on your supplemental essays, check out our walk-through of the Why This College essay and explore our blog posts discussing the supplemental essay prompts for 50+ schools . You may also wish to read our piece on How to End a College Essay .

  • College Essay

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Christina Wood

Christina Wood holds a BA in Literature & Writing from UC San Diego, an MFA in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis, and is currently a Doctoral Candidate in English at the University of Georgia, where she teaches creative writing and first-year composition courses. Christina has published fiction and nonfiction in numerous publications, including The Paris Review , McSweeney’s , Granta , Virginia Quarterly Review , The Sewanee Review , Mississippi Review , and Puerto del Sol , among others. Her story “The Astronaut” won the 2018 Shirley Jackson Award for short fiction and received a “Distinguished Stories” mention in the 2019 Best American Short Stories anthology.

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how can you start a essay off

How To Start A College Essay: 10 Strategies That Worked

Student writing on laptop

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/17/23

Looking for tips on starting a college essay? Read on to learn the best ways to start an essay with examples. 

College application essays can be some of the most intimidating parts of the college admissions process. You may even find yourself wondering how to start an essay for college. But don’t panic. This is your chance to show your personality amid a sea of other applicants. 

More than all of your other application materials, your essay should be unique and personal. It is about you and is your chance to show who you are to colleges beyond the numbers. You will have your grades and educational background, but the essay is your chance to give admissions officers a taste of the personality behind them. 

No matter the topic , most successful essays tell a personal story about the applicant and why they would be a good candidate for admittance. Whether you’re writing a transfer essay , a personal statement, or an essay for a scholarship , you’ll need to learn the basics of successful essay writing. 

Knowing how to start a college essay will make your whole experience much easier. Our guide will cover the purpose of your college essays, how to start an essay, and best practices for crafting winning essays. 

Girl on computer

10 Effective Ways to Start a College Essay

There are many different ways that you can begin your college essay. Choosing something unexpected may help you stand out from other applicants! Here are some interesting ways to start essays that will help you grab the reader’s attention right away.

1. The Striking Description

Starting with a vivid description can be an excellent opener to seize your reader’s attention:

Example: “ Brown, crumpled leaves were heaped in the corners of the small, cold room. As I walked in, the smell of woodsmoke filled the air .”

This example of a bold opening instantly creates an image in the mind . The reader can easily begin to see themselves in the setting as the writer engages their senses — both sight with “brown, crumpled, small” and smell with “woodsmoke.” 

This creates an interesting sensory experience for your reader and helps grab their attention right from the beginning of your essay. If you’re just learning how to begin an essay, this is a great opener to try your hand at. 

You can try to create very unusual or disturbing imagery to really grab your reader’s attention, but be careful. Remember that reading the college essay is a subjective experience. If you disgust or upset your admissions officer, they might be less likely to accept you.

2. The Mystery 

question marks

Begin by setting up questions your essay will answer . This “mystery” method ignites the reader’s sense of curiosity, which will motivate them to keep reading.

Example: “ The knife was on the countertop. It shouldn’t have been there .”

This example leaves the reader full of questions. “Whose knife?”, “Why shouldn’t it be there?” These are questions the essay will answer later on. It can be confusing and intriguing – they don’t know what’s going on and want to read on to understand. 

This method can be very effective for opening your college essay. It creates mystery and poses questions — just make sure you answer each of those questions throughout the essay. Your goal is to intrigue the reader, not leave them feeling puzzled!

Take this example from a real-life, successful college application essay:

“ I live alone — I always have since elementary school. ” ( Kevin Zevallos , Connecticut College)

This gives an unusual detail that immediately poses questions — why would a child be living alone? It compels the reader to keep reading to find out more.

3. Direct Address 

You can start your essay with a direct question to your reader to stand out from other essays the admissions committee will read:

Example: “Does every life matter? Do you think so?”

This example poses a divisive philosophical question and then turns it directly on the reader, seemingly putting pressure on them to answer. This can be a risky maneuver but is also very effective. Breaking the fourth wall can be quite shocking! 

Acknowledging your situation as a writer for your college essay  — ”when I began this essay…” — is closely related to this method, but you should use it cautiously. If overdone, it can easily become banal. However, if you think you have a way to use it for a killer opener, it can have excellent results.

4. The Anecdote 

Using an anecdote or a short personal story can be an endearing way to begin your college essay. With this method, the writer shares an experience or an anecdote that highlights their strengths or unique perspective.

Example: “When I was five, I had a toy cat I dragged everywhere. We were inseparable! I begged my mom until I was 10 to get our first real cat, Luna, and my obsession with animal care began.”

The purpose of using an anecdote is to introduce yourself and your core traits immediately. This example is excellent because the writer uses a personal story to lead into their interest in animal care, which in this case is relevant to their choice of degree. 

5. The Funny One

If appropriate, you can start your essay with a humorous anecdote or a witty comment to set the tone for your essay. Only use this method if it’s true to your personality, as it’s easy for humor not to come across in an essay.

Example: “Managing to break free from my mother’s grasp, I charged. With arms flailing and chubby legs fluttering beneath me, I was the ferocious two­ year old rampaging through Costco on a Saturday morning. My mother’s eyes widened in horror as I jettisoned my churro; the cinnamon­ sugar rocket gracefully sliced its way through the air while I continued my spree.”

This example comes from Brittany Stinson’s famous Costco college essay that got her into five Ivy League schools. Using a funny story in your college essay is a risk and should only be undertaken by strong writers with a good sense of humor. When done right, adding humor to your essay can equal a home run. 

male student smiling while holding papers

6. The Thoughtful Quote

Famous quotes are out, but that doesn’t mean all quotes are off the table. One impactful way to start your paper is to begin with a quote that plays a significant role in your story.  

This could be a quote from any “main character” in your essay, such as a friend, family member, or teacher, that was said at a pivotal moment in your journey.

Example: “‘You’re not that important, nobody’s thinking about you. In a good way - you know? You can wear whatever you want.’ 

My best friend Sadie looked at me with a smile as I threw on my fourth outfit option. Maybe she was joking, but those words follow me to this day. Getting caught up in the opinions of others is silly, everyone’s got their own things to worry about! This mindset would later allow me to pursue my passion, and start my business. 

In this example, the quote chosen comes from a personal story and represents an important shift in the writer's state of mind. To really drive the message home, recalling the quote and the end of the essay would help to create a memorable piece of work. 

While famous quotes are often repetitive and forgettable - using a unique one from a personal story is an excellent way to stand out.

7. The Multilingual One

speech bubbles

If you’re speaking about your upbringing or culture, one way to immediately intrigue the reader and nod to the main themes of your essay is to write in your native tongue for the opening sentence. This could also work if the main theme of your essay involves you learning a language.

Example: “Je t'aime, mon petit chou!” My mom called to me as I got ready for my first day of English school.

In the above example, the reader uses their first language to immediately tell the reader about themselves. Make sure to only use this method if speaking multiple languages ties into the key theme of your story.

8. The Three Pillars

This method can be applied to any of the above strategies. The very first line is only a part of your essay opening. When crafting your intro, rely on three things:

  • An initial hook
  • A description of your essay’s content and what story are you going to tell
  • A pivot, where you show how you allude to the challenge of your paper

Example: “When I was 9, I had an obsession. Every day I would run outside and collect as many leaves and plants as I could to press, dry, and organise them. It wasn’t until many years later that I realised this simple hobby would be indicative of a diagnosis: autism.”

Your pivot will usually take the form of a thesis statement, where you set out the point you will make with your essay. This doesn’t necessarily mean you spoil the whole thing; you are just setting up the thing you’re going to say later. 

From your opening paragraph, your reader should be engaged, aware of the story or content you are going to describe, and aware of the broad point you will try to make with your essay in relation to the prompt question.

9. The Date, Time, and Place

January month on calendar

Simple, yet effective. Sometimes, the best way to start an essay is to begin by setting the scene in the most bare-bones way possible: by listing the date, time, and place that your story begins. You can even throw in another fact so long as it lends itself to your story.

Example: “June 26th, 2010 

Swan Creek, Michigan

Population: 2,406

Population feels like: 5”

In this example, the writer sets us up to understand that they are from a small town and that the essay will discuss something significant that happened on this date in that place. It immediately makes the reader curious about what you’ll say! Just make sure that if you use this intro, your event is shocking enough to warrant it.

10. Start Halfway Through

Before we look at some real-life examples of successful college application essays , a last piece of advice is to not start writing your essay at the beginning. Starting your essay halfway through your story can be confusing yet impactful if done correctly. Then, you can include the beginning of your story in paragraph 2.

Example: “Ow!” my principal yelped, the entire weight of my project collapsing over him. I was mortified, and in deep trouble.”

Clearly with this intro, something needs to be set up for the opening paragraph to make sense. What “project”? Why is it falling? These are the questions your reader will want to know and that you can answer in your essay.

woman working on computer

10 College Essay Introduction Examples That Worked

Let’s take a look at some good opening sentences for college essays that worked! These examples of how you can begin your essay are from our essay database and actually got people into college using the methods above. 

Example Intro #1

“ My father said I didn’t cry when I was born. Instead, I popped out of the womb with a furrowed brow, looking up at him almost accusatorially, as if to say “Who are you? What am I doing here? While I can’t speak to the biological accuracy of his story — How did I survive, then? How did I bring air into my lungs? — it’s certainly true that I feel like I came preprogrammed with the compulsion to ask questions .” - Marina, Harvard

Why this intro worked: First, its initial line gives us an unusual, personal factoid about this person that immediately poses questions about the person — why didn’t they cry? What does this suggest about them? — that draws in the reader. 

Secondly, it’s pretty funny. The image of a frowning baby instantly puts your reader in a good mood, making it likely the reader will enjoy reading the essay and feel a connection to you. 

Then, the essay ends with a little hint of its meaning with the “compulsion to ask questions.” This is a fantastic move, going straight from the hilarity of an image as a baby to how it relates to the aspects of the applicant that are relevant to their college admission. 

Example Intro #2

In this next example of a Princeton University application , the applicant creates a provoking twist to draw in the reader:

“ People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is…uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable. ”

Why this intro worked: This is an extremely effective opening. Its vague opening line immediately creates mystery and poses questions, drawing in the reader. Then, the benign questions are a setup for the vitriolic “you terrorist,” making it yet more shocking and upsetting. 

We mentioned before how you might want to avoid this, but here is an example of where it works. The applicant sets up their argument on uncomfortable truths using clever writing techniques and their real-world experiences. 

students writing on paper

Example Intro #3

In this successful Harvard essay example intro, the writer recalls a challenging time dealing with heavy subject matter. 

“On my parents’ 22nd wedding anniversary, we received the dreaded call. My grandfather, my father’s father, had succumbed to Covid-19. He died alone due to Covid restrictions. He and my grandmother had flown from [STATE] to [CITY] so that my grandmother could have a hip replacement at [HOSPITAL NAME]. He contracted Covid while in [CITY]  and, in a tragic twist of events, he ended up dying in that very same hospital. When a loved one passes away, they are torn away from us, leaving a tear in our lives where they once were. In Judaism, we tear our clothes in mourning to symbolize our pain and sorrow. Sadly, the tears in our family fabric happened long before my grandfather died from Covid.”

Why this intro worked: This opening is straight to the point and effective due to its honesty. In admissions essays, don’t be scared to talk about difficult subjects. We’ve all experienced grief, loss, and trauma in our own ways, so choosing a story about this can help the reader learn a lot about you and how you manage to cope. 

Example Intro #4

Here’s another intro example from a Harvard student’s essay.

“The grand piano beckons me as I climb the stage to perform. Trained fingers avidly seek the first keys. My heart beats staccato, my breath syncopates with excitement. No time to stall, I attack the first note…”

Why this intro worked: In this essay, the writer chooses to open with descriptive language. The way they paint the scene is captivating and leaves the reader on the edge of their seat, waiting to find out what comes next. Sometimes, a short intro can be the most effective; don’t worry about including all the details right off the bat.

Example Intro #5

Here’s an intro example from a successful “Why Us?” essay for Columbia. 

“Watching Spider-Man fighting bad guys in New York made me want to do the same. I can be a superhero through my work as an architect, by designing spaces that improve communities and the well-being of others. Opportunities to research the connection between systemic issues and architecture compels me to Columbia.”

Why this intro worked: This intro is memorable because of the simple childhood movie reference and the unique way the student views his passion for architecture. Referencing a favorite film, can help the reader easily connect to your application. Just be careful that whatever you reference makes sense within your essay. 

Example Intro #6

Take a look at this sample intro to an extracurricular essay for Stanford: 

“Music is my life as much as my life is music. I can see what both are in their simplest manner during that moment of a symphony orchestra when all the instruments are listening to how the trumpet plays a note, and the piano answers each time. Someone plays, someone else answers, all throughout the song. It’s a conversation, in which they acknowledge each other's presence, thus giving each other life.”

Why this intro worked : The student’s passion for music is bursting through their words in this intro! It’s clear that they care deeply about music throughtheir use a unique metaphor: a conversation. This is a creative choice and serves to set this essay apart. 

sheet music

Example Intro #7

Here’s an example from a Dartmouth essay: 

“POP! POP! POP! I’m reminded of a childhood vacation in Aruba with kids around me tossing firecrackers, but the hand pushing me firmly from behind told me these weren’t firecrackers. The authoritative voice of one of our [CONFERENCE NAME] members telling us to “Run!” confirmed that these were gunshots and that we were in imminent danger in the heart of [CITY].”

Why this intro worked : This essay opens with an action-packed scene, drawing the reader in immediately. The fast pace encourages you to keep reading and promises a compelling story to come. This is a writing technique known as in medias res (Latin for “in the midst”), and is an effective opening strategy for your college essay!

Example Intro #8

Here’s another intro example from an essay written for MIT: 

“Right foot back, along with your weight, then put your weight back on your left leg, throwing yourself slowly forward and bringing back your right foot. Repeat with the left foot. That’s the first basic salsa movement I learned from some lessons taken with my mother when we accompanied my sister to her therapy in [CITY].”

Why this intro worked : This is a great example of a mystery opening. The reader is intrigued by the movement descriptions but doesn’t fully understand what it means until the writer mentions salsa dancing. It’s creative and attention-grabbing!

Example Intro #9

This intro example was written when applying to the UPenn Wharton School: 

“The book I’d swept off my father’s desk in middle school was my first glimpse into business as Wharton professor Barbara Kahn’s The Shopping Revolution appeared before me. An avid shopper myself, middle school me was sold.”

Why this intro worked : In addition to providing a great image and a subtle sense of humor, this opening is great because it ties into the school without being obvious, with a quick mention of a Wharton professor, making the student’s passion for UPenn clear.

book shelves in library

Example Intro #10

Check out this sample introduction from a Princeton applicant: 

“It began with a tree. At age 7, I was digging up soil to help plant trees at [NAME OF ORGANIZATION]. It was blazing hot outside in the brutal [CITY] sun, yet somehow my heart was burning hotter - I had never felt a rush so fiery, so warm, so… euphoric. And I knew: this was the start of something new.”

Why this intro worked : This intro’s intriguing first sentence invites questions from the reader and then dives right into a passionate description by the author. The setup here masterfully sparks the reader’s imagination as to where this essay could be going! 

College Essay Introductions to Avoid

Let’s discuss what you shouldn't include in the start of your essay. First, remain authentic. Avoid using famous quotes or anything that didn’t directly come from your experience. 

Second, look to the great writer George Orwell. He had some excellent advice on making writing unique that you can implement in your college application. 

With everything you write, ask yourself these questions : 

  • What am I trying to say?
  • What words will express it?
  • What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  • Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

These are all fantastic questions to ask yourself. If you can interrogate your drafts using this advice, you are sure to improve your college essay’s quality. If you don’t think that will be enough to guide you, Orwell also provided six “rules” — they are more guidelines than rules — that can provide more rigid advice: 

  • “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

Obviously, some of these rules can sound pretty outdated — who says barbarous anymore? — but don’t let that distract you from the solid advice. Orwell’s questions and rules basically break down to this: Of everything you write, ask what you are trying to achieve and why you are making each choice. 

You want your writing to precisely express, as much as it can, your own thoughts and opinions, rather than trying to seem clever with big words or coasting by using worn-out phrases.  

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about crafting a stellar college essay introduction.

1. Why Does the Start of My College Essay Matter?

Admissions officers process tens of thousands of applications every year, so you need to stand out, and the best place to do that is by seizing your reader’s attention at the very beginning. 

2. What Should be the First Thing You Write in a College Essay?

The first thing you include in your college essay depends on the topic. However, no matter what topic your essay is about, you should be able to grab the reader’s attention right away and set up the story of your paper. The “who, what, when and where,” should be clear within the first 5 sentences. 

3. How Can I Start A College Essay About Me?

Our personal statement (or other essays discussing your personal life) should start by introducing key factors of who you are that are relevant to the essay. Remember, college essays are the place for colleges to get to know you! 

Just make sure not to include too much irrelevant background information and focus on the story of how you became interested in the college/degree you are applying for.

4. How Do I Begin A Narrative Essay? 

There are various ways to begin a narrative essay. You might choose to begin with vivid description, a bit of punchy dialogue, or in medias res with some attention-grabbing action.

Final Thoughts

There’s a whole lot of information included here that can be pretty overwhelming. And while this may not have alleviated your tensions, it should teach you how to start a college essay. 

The most important thing is this: If you can authentically talk about yourself, you’ve already made the best contribution to your college essay possible. Colleges are interested in who you are and not so much in your ability to learn writing techniques online. 

That said, if you’re looking for ways to express yourself and stand out among other applicants, the tips listed here can help. Good luck!

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How to Start a Persuasive Essay: Best Tips and Tricks

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Here’s a dilemma: you work so hard on your persuasive essay, do in-depth research, develop strong arguments, but in the end, you get a low grade. And all this happens because your introduction isn’t convincing enough. As you can see, understanding how to start a persuasive essay in an effective manner is crucial. Fortunately, you are in the right place. Keep reading our guide to find useful tips on beginning a persuasive essay. From crafting an irresistible hook to formulating your main statement, you will find plenty of helpful suggestions. By the way, we’ve got some good examples to share. So let’s get started.  

Importance of Knowing How to Start a Persuasive Essay

Before discussing how to start off a persuasive essay, you should keep in mind that you must hook your audience from the very beginning. Your reader should understand what you are going to say and why it is important. Still, you shouldn’t lay all your cards on the table and reveal your arguments. Your main thesis statement should be presented after some context. An introduction is used to convince the reader not just of your opinion, but of the entire paper being worth reading. Therefore, one should take an especially reasonable approach. Further, we will share some helpful tips on drawing up a good introduction and give real examples.  But first, be sure to prepare a persuasive essay outline template .

How to Start a Good Persuasive Essay: Main Elements

Before starting a persuasive essay, you should think about its structure in detail. An introduction will be effective if you compile it based on our scheme. When drawing up an introductory part, you should include such elements:

  • Background information (context)
  • Main definitions (if there are any)
  • Topic-related thesis.

This structure makes it possible to convey any idea in a concise way. Remember: An opening paragraph should be short while writing a persuasive essay . All you need is to present a clear idea which will potentially hook the reader. Giving some hint on the gist of writing will be enough.

Starting a Persuasive Essay with a Hook

One idea that always works is starting a persuasive essay with a hook. You should make it clear about your topic in advance. Thus, you will attract reader’s attention. You should choose a strong sentence that will hook your addressee and may give them a particular idea. You can start persuasive essays with any question related to your topic or with an interesting fact. Quite often students use statistical data or quotes of some experts in their field of knowledge. This is the first step towards persuasion. It demonstrates that the subsequent text won’t be inferior. But just having an effective hook won’t be sufficient, so you should gradually prepare your reader. And we will learn more about this in the next section. In the meantime, have you already considered hiring a persuasive essay writer ? Our writers are academic-savvy and can create a great persuasive essay quickly and efficiently. 

Background Information in Persuasive Essay

In an introductory paragraph of a persuasive essay after the hook, we recommend outlining some topic’s context. Focus reader’s attention on background information. Here’s what you can include to develop your topic further:

  • Historical or geographical facts
  • Key characteristics.

This section should not only familiarize your readers with some background facts that you have researched. You also should smoothly lead to a thesis statement.

How to Write a Persuasive Essay Thesis

Your writing should begin with a strong persuasive essay thesis statement. Your thesis should introduce the topic and offer your viewpoint on some matter. Besides, it should list several arguments you are going to discuss in the main body. This statement will complete an introduction. Then, you will proceed to presenting the gist of an essay. Keep in mind several things that make a persuasive essay thesis stronger. First of all, a claim that you make should be debatable. This means that other people may have an opposing viewpoint. Secondly, your thesis statement should have a reasonable scope. Don’t make it too narrow, and, yet, this statement should be focused. Now that you know what elements should be included in your persuasive essay introduction, let’s discuss some writing tips.  

How to Start a Strong Persuasive Essay: Main Tips

While working on your text, you will surely need tips on how to start a persuasive essay. By following our hacks, you will be able to convey important information to readers. Based on our experience in preparing academic texts, we have developed some recommendations. Our writing tips will make your persuasive essay introduction as informative and attractive as possible. Meanwhile, some of these suggestions may be applied to other types of academic writing.  

Tip 1: Brainstorm Your Topic Before Starting a Persuasive Essay

Don’t rush to start writing right away – you should think about some good persuasive essay topics to begin your essay. The most effective way is to work on any topic in line with the purpose that you have set for yourself. Focus on any subject that you are genuinely interested in and do preliminary research. Make sure you have enough supporting facts that prove your opinion. Follow these steps to make your persuasive essay topic irresistible:  

  • Summarize well-known facts on your topic.
  • Highlight controversial points.
  • Prepare points for further argumentation.

This way, you will know whether you should conduct any additional research. Besides, you will know if there is enough information that can convince readers of your point of view.

Tip 2: Provide a Hook for Your Persuasive Essay Introduction

An introduction of persuasive essay won’t be complete without a hook. If you fail to include it, such paper will unlikely captivate reader’s attention. A catchy hook helps to break the ice between your writing and readers. In turn, an increased attention ensures that your audience understands your topic well. Here are several things you may include in your hook to make it more effective:  

  • Quotes It’s a good idea if they relate to the topic and bring readers to the main subject.
  • Joke It is a great opportunity to dilute this formal environment and create some positive vibe.
  • Question It is good when it’s rhetorical and makes readers think. In fact, this will help you involve readers in an action or some kind of dialogue.
  • Statistics It works, if numbers are related to your research. Choose the most relevant data.
  • Counterargument Starting with an opposite opinion is a great way to refute this counterargument from the very beginning. This technique helps you intrigue readers at an early stage.

These recommendations may help you create a good hook that will attract readers, so use them wisely.

Tip 3: Create a Context for Your Persuasive Essay

When working on your persuasive essay introduction, be sure that you provide some background on the topic. Put readers in some context. You are more than welcome to use any statistical facts, numbers or in-depth definition. Historical or biographical details will work as well. Your task is to set an exact direction of thoughts. But don’t reveal any arguments and proofs in this section – you will do that later. Mention why this problem should be investigated, with more precise explanations being provided in body paragraphs. With the clear context, it will be much easier to perceive any idea. On top of that, given the proper background, there should be no doubts about your argument. Consider our best college essay writing services to speed the process up.

Tip 4: Write a Thesis Statement for Your Persuasive Essay Intro

How to start a persuasive essay thesis? It is easy: just write 1-2 sentences that clearly describe your main claim. Remember that your whole essay will be based on this statement. So, when crafting the thesis statement, make sure that you will be able to prove it. Make it sound logical – your statement shouldn’t be based on some blind guesses. Readers should understand your point and what they will find in the following paragraphs. Feel free to list your arguments, but don’t overdo it with extra details. Save more room for in-depth thoughts that will be covered in body paragraphs.  

Tip 5: Start Persuasive Essay Briefly

Start a persuasive essay with some brief information on what one will learn from the text. Choose the main theses, provide them in a concise way, so as not to overload the reader’s mind. Mention the importance of your topic – your reader should be convinced that this essay is worth reading. Although your opinion should be arguable, this doesn’t mean that you can write vague sentences. Refer to those facts that resonate with your central statement. Long story short, be concise and stay on point. Buy essay online  that may be of help to you if anything seems too vague right now.  

Tip 6: Be Convincing in Your Persuasive Essay Introduction

When you try to start a persuasive essay, chances are that you will come across advice to use credible references. While this is all good and well, we suggest focusing more on the convincing arguments – your personal opinion. Indicate that your paper has been written based on personal experience and resulted from your own research. With this approach, the fact that it includes your thoughts won’t surprise anyone. You shouldn’t write about the truths known to everyone interested in this topic. You should better provide your ideas on why your thesis is correct. Explain why you have decided on this position. This is a polemical style that will trigger a number of debates.  

Persuasive Essay Introduction Examples

If you don’t know how to start a persuasive essay, examples will surely be useful for you. After all, this is a good opportunity to get acquainted with successful patterns and include the best of them in your text. For instance, you can see ways of structuring arguments in an actual example and use it as the basis for your own essay. Still, you should choose your own arguments related to the topic. It all may sound complicated. For this reason, we will introduce an example of what a convincing introduction structure may be like.  

How to Start a Persuasive Essay About a Book: Example

Before finding out how to start a persuasive essay about a book, decide on the literature. However, regardless of any genre and author, your topic will be dedicated to providing your opinion. Focus on your position and provide 3 arguments that you will discuss further. Our example will help you make it clear.

Example of essay introduction about a book

Persuasive Essay Introduction on Gun Control: Example

Your opinion on such an important topic as gun control should sound convincing. Before deciding on how to start a persuasive essay on gun control, make readers believe you have chosen some weighty thesis to develop further. Let’s look at an example.  

Example of persuasive essay introduction on gun control

How to Start Off a Persuasive Essay About Debates: Example

It is not difficult to work out the topic of debates. But before you find out how to start off a persuasive essay about debates, highlight the thesis that you support. You should specify the purpose of an essay in an introduction and avoid unsupported value judgments.  

Example of persuasive essay introduction about debates

Starting a Persuasive Essay on Too Much Homework: Example

Before deciding on how to  write a persuasive essay  on too much homework, you should keep in mind that this topic is quite unusual. To define your position, you should prepare strong arguments; statistics will make an especially good hook.  

Example of persuasive essay introduction about too much homework

Writing a Persuasive Essay on Starting a Colony: Template

To write an introduction of a persuasive essay on starting a colony, you should take on a strong stance on this matter. Be clear and convey the need for this action. Give general arguments, referring to historical practice – this will convince an audience to accept your point.

Example of introduction of a persuasive essay on starting a colony

Final Thoughts

An introduction of a persuasive essay should be effective. After all, it’s the first thing that the readers will see. So, to make a persuasive essay introduction informative and convincing, you should make arguments clear and prepare your arguments. Include such elements in your introduction:

  • Hook to attract the readers’ attention
  • Personal opinion and proprietary research
  • Thesis statement.

By using the above-listed recommendations, you will create a really high-quality introduction for an essay, where you will specify your position and convince readers of the topic's importance. BTW, a free essay maker might help you generate a persuasive essay. Use it to simplify the process.

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If you are struggling with your persuasive essay, entrust this task to our academic writers. Share your requirements and our experts will work miracles in a timely manner.

FAQ About Persuasive Essay Introductions

1. what comes first in a persuasive essay.

When writing a persuasive essay introduction, you should indicate the problem you are going to cover. Specify some types and characters that are important to readers. Don’t forget about presenting your personal achievements and opinions. But make sure that you don’t dilute your first paragraph. An introduction should be to the point, just like the rest of writing.

2. How to start a persuasive essay about littering?

Before deciding on how to start a persuasive essay about littering, you should  outline  the issue. In our case, this is litter that pollutes our planet, with its influence having already been proven by hundreds of studies. Highlight the fact that litter doesn’t only harm our planet in general, but also does affect us directly. Prove it by an argument that it accumulates in the environment. These can be the places we work, live and have fun in, which is harmful to our health.  

3. How can I create a hook for an essay about refugees?

Many people ask how to start a persuasive essay with a hook when it comes to writing a paper about refugees. We recommend describing some feelings and loneliness that this category of people experiences. Make an emotional hook to evoke the readers’ moral side. This will work, and you will get readers interested. After all, this is the most important aspect of any type of writing.

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Daniel Howard is an Essay Writing guru. He helps students create essays that will strike a chord with the readers.

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105 Best Words To Start A Paragraph

words to start a paragraph, explained below

The first words of a paragraph are crucial as they set the tone and inform the reader about the content that follows.

Known as the ‘topic’ sentence, the first sentence of the paragraph should clearly convey the paragraph’s main idea. 

This article presents a comprehensive list of the best words to start a paragraph, be it the first, second, third, or concluding paragraph.

Words to Start an Introduction Paragraph

The words you choose for starting an essay should establish the context, importance, or conflict of your topic.

The purpose of an introduction is to provide the reader with a clear understanding of the topic, its significance, and the structure of the ensuing discussion or argument.

Students often struggle to think of ways to start introductions because they may feel overwhelmed by the need to effectively summarize and contextualize their topic, capture the reader’s interest, and provide a roadmap for the rest of the paper, all while trying to create a strong first impression.

Choose one of these example words to start an introduction to get yourself started:

  • The debate surrounding [topic]…
  • [Topic] has garnered attention due to…
  • Exploring the complexities of [topic]…
  • The significance of [topic] lies in…
  • Over the past decade, [topic] has…
  • The critical question of [topic]…
  • As society grapples with [topic]…
  • The rapidly evolving landscape of [topic]…
  • A closer examination of [topic] reveals…
  • The ongoing conversation around [topic]…
Don’t Miss my Article: 33 Words to Avoid in an Essay

Words to Start a Body Paragraph

The purpose of a body paragraph in an essay is to develop and support the main argument, presenting evidence, examples, and analysis that contribute to the overall thesis.

Students may struggle to think of ways to start body paragraphs because they need to find appropriate transition words or phrases that seamlessly connect the paragraphs, while also introducing a new idea or evidence that builds on the previous points.

This can be challenging, as students must carefully balance the need for continuity and logical flow with the introduction of fresh perspectives.

Try some of these paragraph starters if you’re stuck:

  • Building upon previous research…
  • As [source] suggests, [topic]…
  • Analyzing [topic] through [theory]…
  • Considering the impact of [policy]…
  • Delving deeper into [topic]…
  • Drawing from [author]’s findings…
  • [Topic] intersects with [related topic]…
  • Contrary to popular belief, [topic]…
  • The historical context of [topic]…
  • Addressing the challenges of [topic]…

Words to Start a Conclusion Paragraph

The conclusion paragraph wraps up your essay and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

It should convincingly summarize your thesis and main points. For more tips on writing a compelling conclusion, consider the following examples of ways to say “in conclusion”:

  • In summary, [topic] demonstrates…
  • The evidence overwhelmingly suggests…
  • Taking all factors into account…
  • In light of the analysis, [topic]…
  • Ultimately, [topic] plays a crucial role…
  • In light of these findings…
  • Weighing the pros and cons of [topic]…
  • By synthesizing the key points…
  • The interplay of factors in [topic]…
  • [Topic] leaves us with important implications…

Complete List of Transition Words

Above, I’ve provided 30 different examples of phrases you can copy and paste to get started on your paragraphs.

Let’s finish strong with a comprehensive list of transition words you can mix and match to start any paragraph you want:

  • Secondly, …
  • In addition, …
  • Furthermore, …
  • Moreover, …
  • On the other hand, …
  • In contrast, …
  • Conversely, …
  • Despite this, …
  • Nevertheless, …
  • Although, …
  • As a result, …
  • Consequently, …
  • Therefore, …
  • Additionally, …
  • Simultaneously, …
  • Meanwhile, …
  • In comparison, …
  • Comparatively, …
  • As previously mentioned, …
  • For instance, …
  • For example, …
  • Specifically, …
  • In particular, …
  • Significantly, …
  • Interestingly, …
  • Surprisingly, …
  • Importantly, …
  • According to [source], …
  • As [source] states, …
  • As [source] suggests, …
  • In the context of, …
  • In light of, …
  • Taking into consideration, …
  • Given that, …
  • Considering the fact that, …
  • Bearing in mind, …
  • To illustrate, …
  • To demonstrate, …
  • To clarify, …
  • To put it simply, …
  • In other words, …
  • To reiterate, …
  • As a matter of fact, …
  • Undoubtedly, …
  • Unquestionably, …
  • Without a doubt, …
  • It is worth noting that, …
  • One could argue that, …
  • It is essential to highlight, …
  • It is important to emphasize, …
  • It is crucial to mention, …
  • When examining, …
  • In terms of, …
  • With regards to, …
  • In relation to, …
  • As a consequence, …
  • As an illustration, …
  • As evidence, …
  • Based on [source], …
  • Building upon, …
  • By the same token, …
  • In the same vein, …
  • In support of this, …
  • In line with, …
  • To further support, …
  • To substantiate, …
  • To provide context, …
  • To put this into perspective, …

Tip: Use Right-Branching Sentences to Start your Paragraphs

Sentences should have the key information front-loaded. This makes them easier to read. So, start your sentence with the key information!

To understand this, you need to understand two contrasting types of sentences:

  • Left-branching sentences , also known as front-loaded sentences, begin with the main subject and verb, followed by modifiers, additional information, or clauses.
  • Right-branching sentences , or back-loaded sentences, start with modifiers, introductory phrases, or clauses, leading to the main subject and verb later in the sentence.

In academic writing, left-branching or front-loaded sentences are generally considered easier to read and more authoritative.

This is because they present the core information—the subject and the verb—at the beginning, making it easier for readers to understand the main point of the sentence.

Front-loading also creates a clear and straightforward sentence structure, which is preferred in academic writing for its clarity and conciseness.

Right-branching or back-loaded sentences, with their more complex and sometimes convoluted structure, can be more challenging for readers to follow and may lead to confusion or misinterpretation.

Take these examples where I’ve highlighted the subject of the sentence in bold. Note that in the right-branching sentences, the topic is front-loaded.

  • Right Branching: Researchers found a strong correlation between sleep and cognitive function after analyzing the data from various studies.
  • Left-Branching: After analyzing the data from various studies, a strong correlation between sleep and cognitive function was found by researchers.
  • The novel was filled with vivid imagery and thought-provoking themes , which captivated the audience from the very first chapter.
  • Captivating the audience from the very first chapter, the novel was filled with vivid imagery and thought-provoking themes.

The words you choose to start a paragraph are crucial for setting the tone, establishing context, and ensuring a smooth flow throughout your essay.

By carefully selecting the best words for each type of paragraph, you can create a coherent, engaging, and persuasive piece of writing.

Chris

Chris Drew (PhD)

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How to Start a Scholarship Essay

Last Updated: May 26, 2023 References

This article was co-authored by Jake Adams and by wikiHow staff writer, Jessica Gibson . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 90,602 times.

College scholarships can be incredibly competitive and most of them have an essay component. While you may dread writing these essays, they're nothing to fear—the scholarship committee just wants to know a little more about you. With a strong introduction that hooks your reader, you're halfway there! But how do you start a scholarship essay? Here, you'll find some great ideas for how to start, along with some general writing strategies that you can carry through to the rest of your essay.

Sample Introduction and Template

how can you start a essay off

Include the 3 key elements of an introduction.

Get your readers' attention, give an overview, and list a thesis statement.

  • A great intro sentence could be something like, "I never thought I'd have to raise my siblings," or, "On April 7, 1997, my life completely changed."
  • Your overview sentences could go on to say, "My parents struggled to look after us, so I become the only constant in my brothers' lives. I had to grow up fast, but I also learned a lot about myself in the process."
  • Your thesis statement might look like this, "I realized that I have a lot to offer and I'm starting a career in social work. This scholarship will give me the financial support that I need to start my educational journey."

Open with an element of surprise.

Use a surprising or shocking fact about yourself to draw in the reader.

  • For example, you might write: "If you looked at my parents' mantle, overflowing with trophies and medals, you'd probably conclude that I was an athlete. But what you wouldn't know is that I was born with only one leg."

Compare yourself to the scholarship's namesake.

Show what you have in common with the person for whom the scholarship is named.

  • For example, you might write: "Mary Lewis dedicated her life to improving her community with public vegetable gardens. Last year, I worked with fellow disabled students to create a sustainable vegetable garden at our school that was accessible to others with disabilities."

Raise a question.

Ask your readers a question to stir their curiosity about the answer.

  • For example, you might write: "For the past 4 years, I've volunteered with my local hospice. Why would a healthy, athletic young woman want to volunteer with people who are dying? Because I, too, have faced death. I know what it's like to be told you only have a few days to live."

Set the scene dramatically.

This option works well if you have a strong, compelling personal experience.

  • For example, suppose you're writing an essay about rescuing an injured dog and how that made you decide to become a veterinarian. You might write: "I could smell him before I saw him. Small and frail, he limped toward me. His fur was matted and he trembled. His large eyes were full of fear. He pleaded with me for help."

Include quotes with caution.

Use famous quotes only if you can quickly tie them to personal experience.

  • For example, you might write: "Nevertheless, she persisted." I never really understood the meaning of that rallying cry until, at 14 years old, I stood in front of the principal of my school to speak on behalf of myself and other disabled students."

Use buzzwords from the essay prompt.

Highlight important nouns and adjectives that apply to you.

Include a roadmap of your essay.

Share tangible, real-world examples that directly address the prompt.

  • For example, you might write: "My compassion for and special connection to animals spurred me to pursue a career in veterinary medicine." Then, in your essay, you would provide an instance that demonstrated your compassion and another that demonstrated that special connection.
  • Your roadmap doesn't necessarily have to be a "spoiler." For example, if the prompt is to "discuss a book or experience that made you want to be a writer," you might write: "While I'd always loved reading, I never considered writing stories myself until my 7th grade English teacher gave me a book for an extra-credit report." In your essay, you would then go on to discuss the report and name the book. [11] X Research source

Close your introduction with your thesis statement.

Your thesis statement tells your reader the purpose of your essay.

  • For example, if the prompt is to describe what sparked your interest in veterinary medicine, your thesis might be: "My experience rehabilitating stray dogs sparked my interest in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine."

Write in your own voice.

Let the reader know who you are from the first line.

  • Focus on standing out, not writing like everyone else. Although you can look at samples of other winning scholarship essays to get ideas, make sure the words in your essay are your own.
  • Your own perspective is key. For example, if you're a person of color, don't try to "whitewash" your essay. Scholarship committees like diversity, so if you try to cover up your identity, you're only hurting yourself.

Make your sentences active and concise.

Use short sentences and action verbs to make your writing pop.

  • For example, you might write: "I strive to demonstrate my passion for the environment every day. In my sophomore year, I started the recycling program at my school. As president of the environmental club, I teach fellow students what they can do to help save the world we live in."

Expert Q&A

Jake Adams

  • Make your introduction short and sweet. The general rule is that the introduction should be about 10% of the total word count of your essay—this usually isn't many words! [16] X Research source Most scholarship essay introductions only have 3-4 sentences. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
  • Have friends or family read your essay—they can give you tips on how to make it stronger. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how can you start a essay off

  • Typos can ruin an otherwise beautiful essay! Make sure you proofread carefully. [17] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

You Might Also Like

Write a Statement of Purpose

  • ↑ https://scholarshipowl.com/blog/apply-for-scholarships/scholarship-essay-introduction/
  • ↑ https://www.owens.edu/writing/scholarship/
  • ↑ https://www.nitrocollege.com/blog/how-to-start-a-scholarship-essay
  • ↑ https://www.thecollegemonk.com/blog/scholarship-essay-introduction
  • ↑ Jake Adams. Academic Tutor & Test Prep Specialist. Expert Interview. 20 May 2020.
  • ↑ https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/ways-to-make-your-scholarship-essay-stand-out
  • ↑ https://www.internationalstudent.com/essay_writing/scholarship_essaysample/
  • ↑ https://online.maryville.edu/blog/how-to-write-a-scholarship-essay/
  • ↑ https://libanswers.library.cqu.edu.au/faq/169732
  • ↑ https://www.southuniversity.edu/news-and-blogs/2013/05/8trickstowritingstandoutscholarshipessays

About This Article

Jake Adams

To start a scholarship essay, open with an interesting story, experience, or anecdote to draw your reader in. Then, connect your opening to the broader topic or question you'll be addressing throughout your essay. If you need some inspiration for a good introduction, read the essays written by the previous winners of the scholarship you're applying for. Just make sure you use your own voice and experiences to write your essay so it comes across as authentic. To learn how to conduct research for your scholarship essay before you write it, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    Step 1: Hook your reader. Step 2: Give background information. Step 3: Present your thesis statement. Step 4: Map your essay's structure. Step 5: Check and revise. More examples of essay introductions. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.

  2. 13 Engaging Ways to Begin an Essay

    State an Interesting Fact About Your Subject "The peregrine falcon was brought back from the brink of extinction by a ban on DDT, but also by a peregrine falcon mating hat invented by an ornithologist at Cornell University.If you cannot buy this, Google it. Female falcons had grown dangerously scarce. A few wistful males nevertheless maintained a sort of sexual loitering ground.

  3. How To Start a College Essay: 9 Effective Techniques

    For many, getting started is the hardest part of anything. And that's understandable. First, because it turns whatever you're doing into a reality, which raises the stakes. Second, because where you start can easily dictate the quality of where you end up. College essays have their own special brand of DTDT.

  4. Beginning the Academic Essay

    The writer of the academic essay aims to persuade readers of an idea based on evidence. The beginning of the essay is a crucial first step in this process. In order to engage readers and establish your authority, the beginning of your essay has to accomplish certain business. Your beginning should introduce the essay, focus it, and orient readers.

  5. How to Start a College Essay Perfectly

    The Bottom Line: How to Start a College Essay. The college essay introduction should hook your reader and make her want to know more and read more. Good personal statement introductions will contain the following features: A killer first line. A detailed description of an experience from your life.

  6. Learn How to Start an Essay In 5 Simple Steps With Examples

    Step 1: Start With an Interesting Hook. An essay hook is an opening statement that strives to grab people's interest and attention. Always start an essay introduction with a hook to make your essay appealing. Here are different types of hooks that can be used in your introduction paragraph: Quotation.

  7. How to Write an Essay Introduction (with Pictures)

    Make a brief outline of the essay based on the information presented in the introduction. Then look at that outline as you read the essay to see how the essay follows it to prove the writer's thesis statement. 2. Keep your introduction short and simple.

  8. How to Write a Great College Essay Introduction

    Good example. I wiped the sweat from my head and tried to catch my breath. I was nearly there—just one more back tuck and a strong dismount and I'd have nailed a perfect routine. Some students choose to write more broadly about themselves and use some sort of object or metaphor as the focus.

  9. How to Start an Essay With a Quote: 14 Steps (with Pictures)

    5. Hook your reader. Think of a quotation as a "hook" that will get your reader's attention and make her want to read more of your paper. The well-executed quotation is one way to draw your reader in to your essay. [2] 6. Ensure that the quotation contributes to your essay.

  10. How to Start a College Essay to Hook Your Reader

    Set a time for one minute and write down whatever comes to mind for that specific topic. This will help get the juices flowing and push you over that initial bit of writer's block that's so common when it comes time to write a college essay. Repeat this exercise if you're feeling stuck at any point during the essay writing process.

  11. How to Start a College Essay

    1) Share a story. As you can probably tell from the examples above, we recommend starting your essay off with an engaging story. Before you tell a reader that you're an introvert who also loves performing in musical theater, you'll want to tell the tale of the first time you braved the spotlight.

  12. How to Start a College Essay

    4. The Anecdote. Using an anecdote or a short personal story can be an endearing way to begin your college essay. With this method, the writer shares an experience or an anecdote that highlights their strengths or unique perspective. Example: "When I was five, I had a toy cat I dragged everywhere.

  13. How To Start An Essay (With 20 Great Examples)

    3. Create a mysterious atmosphere. "Moths that fly by day are not properly to be called moths; they do not excite that pleasant sense of dark autumn nights and ivy-blossom which the commonest yellow-underwing asleep in the shadow of the curtain never fails to rouse in us.". - Virginia Woolf - Death of the Moth. 4.

  14. How to Start a Scholarship Essay (With Examples)

    The first sentence of the essay is what makes the reader want to continue reading. Engage the reader by appealing to the senses. Create a sense of wonder in your essay, making the reader want to learn more about you. Keep the ending of the essay in mind as you craft the beginning.

  15. How to Start a Narrative Essay

    So, please, start your essay off on an interesting foot. Please. Think of the children. A good hook sentence grabs your audience and refuses to let go. It sets the tone for the rest of your story. It gets under your reader's skin right from the beginning and starts to stir those feelings that your narrative essay intends to address.

  16. How to Start a Persuasive Essay: Tips & Examples

    Tip 2: Provide a Hook for Your Persuasive Essay Introduction. An introduction of persuasive essay won't be complete without a hook. If you fail to include it, such paper will unlikely captivate reader's attention. A catchy hook helps to break the ice between your writing and readers.

  17. 105 Best Words To Start A Paragraph (2024)

    Words to Start an Introduction Paragraph. The words you choose for starting an essay should establish the context, importance, or conflict of your topic. The purpose of an introduction is to provide the reader with a clear understanding of the topic, its significance, and the structure of the ensuing discussion or argument.

  18. 12 Ways to Start a Scholarship Essay

    Get your readers' attention, give an overview, and list a thesis statement. Start the intro with an attention-grabbing first sentence to draw your readers in. Then, write a few sentences that summarize what your essay will cover. Finish the introduction paragraph with a short thesis statement that directly answers the prompt.