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Lesson
Five: Introductions and Conclusons
Writing
Introductions

The introduction is the first sentence of your essay and
it plays the dual role of setting the theme of your essay
and engaging the reader. The introduction should not be
overly formal. You do not want an admissions officer to
start reading your essay and think, “here we go again.”
Although admissions officers will try to give the entire
essay a fair reading, they are only human — if you lose
them after the first sentence, the rest of your essay will
not get the attention it deserves.

General
Tips

  • Don’t
    Say Too Much.
    Just tell the story! Your introduction
    should not be so complex and so lengthy that it loses
    the reader before they even start. You have the rest
    of the essay to say what you want. There’s no need to
    pack it all into the first sentence. This leads to the
    next tip…
      

  • Don’t
    Start Your Essay with a Summary.
    If you summarize,
    the admissions officer does not need to read the rest
    of your essay. You want to start your essay with something
    that makes the reader want to read until the very end.
    Once you have drawn the reader in through the first
    one to three sentences, the last sentence in your introductory
    paragraph should explain clearly and briefly what the
    point of the whole essay is. That is, why you are using
    this person, place, or thing. What does it say about
    you?
      

  • Create
    Mystery or Intrigue in your Introduction.
    It is
    not necessary or recommended that your first sentence
    give away the subject matter. Raise questions in the
    minds of the admissions officers to force them to read
    on. Appeal to their senses and emotions to make them
    relate to your subject matter.

Types
of Introductions

Please
select a link below for examples and descriptions of various
introductions.
  • Academic
    Introduction  
  • Creative
    Introduction
  • Action
    Introduction
  • Dialogue
    Introduction
  • Overarching
    Societal Statements
  • Personal
    Introduction
  • Question
    Introduction
  • Quotation
    Introduction

Note:
The below essays were not edited by EssayEdge Editors. They
appear as they were initially reviewed by admissions officers.

Academic
Introduction:
This is the type of introduction you would
use for a standardized test or a history paper. A typical
standard introduction answers one or more of the six basic
questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. It gives
the reader an idea of what to expect. You should try to
stay away from simply restating the question unless you
are limited by a word count and need to get to the point
quickly. Your basic academic introduction or thesis statement
is best used as the follow-up sentence to one of the more
creative introductions described below.

Examples:

One
of the greatest challenges I’ve had to overcome was moving
from Iran to the United States. Iran was in deep political
turmoil when I left, as it is today.

EssayEdge
Says:
This introduction is clear and to the point, and
will prepare your reader for the ideas you want to discuss.
However, it is rather unexciting and will not immediately
engage your reader. As mentioned, you should try to preface
it with a more creative statement. In addition, it makes
one typical error. One should usually avoid using contractions
in a formal essay, for example, “I’ve.”

Through
all of my accomplishments and disappointments, I have
always been especially proud of the dedication and fervor
I possess for my personal beliefs and values.

EssayEdge
Says:
This is a very effective introduction to an essay
about your personality. Mentioning pride is a good way to
indicate how important your beliefs and values are to you.
In a sentence like this, however, it would be better to
use “Throughout” rather than “Through.” “Throughout” better
expresses the widespread, expansive tone you want to give
this sentence.

Back
to Top

Creative
Introduction:
A creative introduction catches the reader
off-guard with an opening statement that leaves the reader
smiling or wondering what the rest of the essay contains.

Examples:

Imagine
yourself a freshman in high school, beginning your independence.
As the oldest child, I was the first to begin exploring
the worlds of dating, extra-curricular clubs and upperclassmen.
However, one afternoon my parents sat my two sisters and
me down. They said…

EssayEdge
Says:
The power of this introduction is that it places
the reader in your shoes, making him or her more interested
in what takes place in the rest of the essay. Its main mistake
is that its informality gives the essay a slightly hokey
or corny tone. Although a greater degree of informality
is allowed in a creative essay, you must be careful not
to take it too far.

I
am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing
ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my
lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of
heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees,
I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently.
Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

EssayEdge
Says:
This introduction is both creative and effective.
It amuses the reader by listing a bizarre and probably fictitious
set of achievements, thus demonstrating the writer’s imagination
(and poking fun at the admissions process). At the same
time, its light tone avoids sounding too obnoxious. As a
note, you should remember that good use of semicolons will
impress your reader: “I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban
refugees; I write award-winning operas; I manage time efficiently.”

Back
to Top

Action
Introduction:
An Action Introduction takes the reader
into the middle of an action sequence. By not building up
to the story, it forces the reader to read on to find out
not only the significance of this moment in time, but what
led up to and followed it. It is perfect for short essays
where space must be conserved or for narrative essays that
begin with a story.

Examples:

I
promised God I would eat all my peas, but He didn’t care.
A confused eleven-year-old girl, I sat and listened to
my father pace. With each heavy step echoing loudly throughout
the silent house, my family’s anxiety and anticipation
mounted while awaiting news of my grandfather’s health.
My heart racing, I watched the clock, amazed that time
could crawl so slowly. Finally, the telephone interrupted
the house’s solemn silence. I heard my father repeating
the words "yes, yes, of course." He then hung
up the receiver and announced my grandfather’s death and
cancer’s victory.

EssayEdge
Says:
This is the kind of introduction that will immediately
intrigue your reader because it begins with a very unusual
declaration. The image of a little girl eating peas and
hoping to acquire God’s help is charming while hinting at
the solemnity of the situation described.

Surrounded
by thousands of stars, complete silence, and spectacular
mountains, I stood atop New Hampshire’s Presidential Range,
awestruck by nature’s beauty. Immediately, I realized
that I must dedicate my life to understanding the causes
of the universe’s beauty.

EssayEdge
Says:
The first ten words of this essay will catch your
reader’s attention, mainly because they create a mental
image of perfect natural beauty. Note that you should try
to avoid repeating key words. In this instance, it would
be easy to avoid repeating the word “beauty.” You could
simply use “magnificence” or “loveliness” instead.

Back
to Top

Dialogue
Introduction:
Like the action introduction, the dialogue
introduction brings the reader directly into the action,
only this time in the form of dialogue. If you are writing
about an influential figure in your life, you can mention
a quote from this person that exemplifies the importance
that he or she had on your life.

Examples:

"You
must stop seeing that Russian girl, " I ordered my
brother when he returned home last summer from the University
of Indianapolis. Echoing the prejudiced, ignorant sentiment
that I had grown up with, I believed it was wrong to become
seriously involved with a person who does not follow the
Hindu religion and is not a member of the Indian race.

EssayEdge.com Says: Multicultural
awareness is a key aspect of fitting in well at a university,
and admissions officers are very aware of this. Thus, it
is an excellent idea to mention how you expanded your cultural
sensitivity. Beginning the essay by admitting that you were
once less tolerant is a compelling way to demonstrate just
how much you have grown as a person.

On
the verge of losing consciousness, I asked myself: "Why
am I doing this?" Why was I punishing my body? I
had no answer; my mind blanked out from exhaustion and
terror. I had no time to second-guess myself with a terrifying
man leaning over my shoulder yelling: "You can break
six minutes!" As flecks of spit flew from his mouth
and landed on the handle bar of the ergometer, I longed
to be finished with my first Saturday rowing practice
and my first fifteen-hundred-meter “erg test.”

EssayEdge
Says:
The power of this introduction comes from its
attention to detail. The question “Why am I doing this?”
gains support from every horrible detail: the exhaustion,
the terrifying man, and the specks of spit flying from his
mouth! With such strong supporting evidence, the quotation
takes on a life of its own. Your reader will find himself
thinking, “Why would anyone do that? I’d like to find out…”

Back
to Top

Overarching
Societal Statements:
Rather than using a traditional
thesis statement you can put forth a societal observation
that ties into the theme of your essay. This can be very
effective if the statement is unique and gives a glimpse
into how you view the world. It can be detrimental if your
statement is debatable or unclear. Make sure that if you
use this form of introduction that no admissions office
will take offense to it.

Examples:

High
school is a strange time. After three years of trying
to develop an identity and friends in middle school, students
are expected to mature immediately on the first day of
ninth grade.

EssayEdge
Says:
Be careful not to make statements in your introduction
that seem too exaggerated or unrealistic. After all, no
one expects a student to immediately mature on the first
day of ninth grade. Moreover, if your reader senses that
you attained most of your maturity at the beginning of high
school, he or she might be less than impressed with your
character development. It would be better to state, “students
are expected to enter a new environment in which they must
function with far greater maturity.”

To
this day, the United States remains driven by the American
Dream, and we often hear of immigrants who come to this
country to search for opportunities that their native
countries lack. In these tales, immigrants succeed through
hard work, dedication, and a little luck. As idealistic
as the story may seem, I have been fortunate enough to
experience its reality in the life of one very important
man. His example has had great impact on my personal expectations
and goals, and the manner in which I approach my own life.

EssayEdge
Says:
This is an excellent way to introduce a discussion
of a person who has influenced you significantly. Instead
of launching immediately into a list of this man’s excellent
qualities and admirable accomplishments, this introduction
lays the foundation for a comprehensive look at just why
the man had such a profound impact on you. It also places
the most importance on the American Dream, as is fitting
in an essay like this one.

Art
is a reflection of one’s self-identity in the most unaffected
manner. Because art is very personal, it has no right
or wrong. The type of art that has influenced me most
is music.

EssayEdge
Says:
The first two sentences in this introduction set
the kind of tone you want to maintain throughout your essay:
introspective and creative. However, it moves on to a very
boring and stilted structure in the third sentence. To keep
the tone creative, you could replace that sentence with
the following: “Although artistic expression can take many
forms, it is music that has captivated me.”

Back
to Top

Personal
Introduction:
The Personal Introduction takes the reader
directly into your mind. It says, “This is what it is like
to be me. Let me take you to my little world.” Since there
is a little voyeur in even the most stern admissions officer,
this type of introduction can be very effective. It is always
in the first person and usually takes an informal, conversational
tone:

Examples:

At
times, I think the world around me is crumbling to the
ground, but it never does. Like most people, I face the
crunches of deadlines and endless demands on my time,
but I have never encountered the type of adversity that
can crush people, that can drive people crazy, that can
drive them to suicide.

EssayEdge
Says:
This introduction is indeed compelling, but it
raises important questions about appropriate content. Be
careful to avoid writing a personal essay that is far too
personal. You do not want your reader to think that you
might have character weaknesses that prevent you from handling
stressful situations well.

I
chuckle to myself every time I think about this. I am
perceived as a mild-mannered, intelligent individual until
I mention that I am involved in riflery.

EssayEdge
Says:
Did the first sentence of this introduction confuse
you? This was no doubt its intention. By creating a little
mystery in the first sentence, the reader is forced to keep
reading and keep wondering, “what is this kid’s secret?”
until the final word, which pops in the reader’s mind, sort
of like a gunshot: “riflery.”

Back
to Top

Question
Introduction:
Many admissions essays begin with a question.
While this is an easy way to begin an essay, admissions
officers may perceive it as a “lazy introduction.” No one
wants to read an essay that begins with such tacky material
as: “To be or not to be?” or “Are you looking for an applicant
who has drive and determination? Well, I’m your guy.” If
you are going to use a question, make sure that it is an
extremely compelling one and that your experiences provide
answers.

Example:

Influence?
Why is it that the people who influence us most influence
us in ways that are not easily quantified? Through her
work with abused children, my mother has shown me the
heroism of selfless dedication to a worthy cause.

EssayEdge
Says:
With one word, this introduction takes an essay
question about the person who has most influenced you and
turns it back around to the admissions board. In effect,
you are telling them that you have thought about their question
thoroughly. You have thought about it for so long that you
have a couple of questions of your own – questions that
have sparked an interesting commentary.

Back
to Top

 

Quotation
Introduction:
Many writers are tempted to start their
essay with a quote. You should try to resist this temptation,
as most quotes will look forced. Admissions officers will
be turned off if it is apparent that you searched through
a book of famous quotes and came up with a quote from some
famous philosopher about whom you know nothing. The quotation
introduction is most effective when the quote you choose
is unusual, funny, or obscure, not too long, and from those
to whom you are closest. Choose a quote with a meaning you
plan to reveal to the reader as the essay progresses. The
admissions committee is interested in how you respond to
the quote and what that response says about you.

Examples:

John
F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do
for you; ask what you can do for your country." I
see academics as a similar two-way interaction: in the
classroom, I will do much more than take up valuable space.
Because of the broad range of experiences I have had,
my knowledge of many subjects is thorough. These experiences
will help me perform well in any class, as I have learned
how to use my time efficiently.

EssayEdge
Says:
This is a risky quote with which to begin an essay.
After all, it is difficult to imagine a more time-worn or
oft-repeated statement. However, this introduction goes
on to apply this quote in a relatively unique manner. The
contrast between such a standard quotation and such an interesting
application will likely catch your reader’s attention.

"Experience
is what you receive when you don’t get what you want."
I remembered my father’s words as I tried to postpone
the coming massacre. Just as during the fall of the Roman
Empire, my allies became enemies and my foes turned into
partners. In fast and furious action with property changing
hands again and again, I rested my fate on the words of
one man, hoping he would rescue me from this dangerous
tailspin. Do these experts realize the heartbreak they
are inflicting on my young life? While the uncertainty
of tomorrow’s attire is the most pressing concern for
many seventeen-year-olds, I must worry about much greater
issues! It is August 31, the market is down over 300 points
and the value of my stock portfolio is falling fast.

EssayEdge
Says:
Quoting a person with whom you enjoy a close relationship
is generally preferable to quoting a famous source. This
passage’s strength comes from the brief, understated role
that the quote plays. The short statement introduces the
rest of the paragraph and presents the fundamental point,
and then the essay moves on to examine specific details.
This is the ideal role of a quotation.

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to Top

 

Now
it’s your turn. Select one of the above styles (or make
up your own) and try to write an introduction to your essay.
Spend some time picking the right style and choosing the
best words possible.

Go!Continue
to Conclusions

From Essays That Will Get You Into College ,
by Amy Burnham, Daniel Kaufman, and Chris Dowhan. 
Copyright 1998 by Dan Kaufman.  Reprinted by
arrangement with Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.
 
 Go! Get immediate professional help on writing your essay.  
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