Your essay has to be built step-by-step, just like this building. For her essay, Eva decides to use the compressed narrative structure to tell the story of how she tried and failed to report on the closing of a historic movie theater:. The key to writing your first draft is not to worry about whether it's any good—just get something on paper and go from there. You will have to rewrite, so trying to get everything perfect is both frustrating and futile. Everyone has their own writing process. Maybe you feel more comfortable sitting down and writing the whole draft from beginning to end in one go.
Maybe you jump around, writing a little bit here and a little there. It's okay to have sections you know won't work or to skip over things you think you'll need to include later. I mentioned this idea above, but I can't emphasize it enough: no one writes a perfect first draft. Extensive editing and rewriting is vital to crafting an effective personal statement. Don't get too attached to any part of your draft, because you may need to change anything or everything about your essay later.
Also keep in mind that, at this point in the process, the goal is just to get your ideas down. Wonky phrasings and misplaced commas can easily be fixed when you edit, so don't worry about them as you write. Instead, focus on including lots of specific details and emphasizing how your topic has affected you, since these aspects are vital to a compelling essay. One part of the essay you do want to pay special attention to is the introduction. Your intro is your essay's first impression: you only get one.
It's much harder to regain your reader's attention once you've lost it, so you want to draw the reader in with an immediately engaging hook that sets up a compelling story. You'll probably recognize this term if you studied The Odyssey: it basically means that the story starts in the middle of the action, rather than at the beginning. A good intro of this type makes the reader wonder both how you got to the point you're starting at and where you'll go from there.
These openers provide a solid, intriguing beginning for narrative essays though they can certainly for thematic structures as well. But how do you craft one? Try to determine the most interesting point in your story and start there. If you're not sure where that is, try writing out the entire story and then crossing out each sentence in order until you get to one that immediately grabs your attention.
Anonymous , University of Virginia. This intro throws the reader right into the middle of the action. The author jumps right into the action: the performance. You can imagine how much less exciting it would be if the essay opened with an explanation of what the event was and why the author was performing. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? This type of intro sets up what the essay is going to talk about in a slightly unexpected way.
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These are a bit trickier than the "in media res" variety, but they can work really well for the right essay—generally one with a thematic structure. The key to this type of intro is detail. Contrary to what you may have learned in elementary school, sweeping statements don't make very strong hooks.
If you want to start your essay with a more overall description of what you'll be discussing, you still need to make it specific and unique enough to stand out. Neha , Johns Hopkins University.
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Both of these intros set up the general topic of the essay the first writer's bookshelf and and the second's love of Jane Eyre in an intriguing way. The first intro works because it mixes specific descriptions "pushed against the left wall in my room" with more general commentary "a curious piece of furniture". The second draws the reader in by adopting a conversational and irreverent tone with asides like "if you ask me" and "This may or may not be a coincidence.
I wouldn't recommend this intro—it's a bit of a cliche. When you start writing, don't worry about your essay's length. Instead, focus on trying to include all of the details you can think of about your topic , which will make it easier to decide what you really need to include when you edit. However, if your first draft is more than twice the word limit and you don't have a clear idea of what needs to be cut out, you may need to reconsider your focus—your topic is likely too broad.
You may also need to reconsider your topic or approach if you find yourself struggling to fill space, since this usually indicates a topic that lacks a specific focus. I dialed the phone number for the fourth time that week.
I was hoping to ask you some questions about—" I heard the distinctive click of the person on the other end of the line hanging up, followed by dial tone. I was about ready to give up: I'd been trying to get the skinny on whether the Atlas Theater was actually closing to make way for a big AMC multiplex or if it was just a rumor for weeks, but no one would return my calls.
No one writes a perfect first draft. No matter how much you might want to be done after writing a first draft—you must take the time to edit. Thinking critically about your essay and rewriting as needed is a vital part of writing a great college essay. Before you start editing, put your essay aside for a week or so.
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It will be easier to approach it objectively if you haven't seen it in a while. Then, take an initial pass to identify any big picture issues with your essay. Once you've fixed those, ask for feedback from other readers—they'll often notice gaps in logic that don't appear to you, because you're automatically filling in your intimate knowledge of the situation.
Finally, take another, more detailed look at your essay to fine tune the language. You should start the editing process by looking for any structural or thematic issues with your essay. If you see sentences that don't make sense or glaring typos of course fix them, but at this point, you're really focused on the major issues since those require the most extensive rewrites.
You don't want to get your sentences beautifully structured only to realize you need to remove the entire paragraph. This phase is really about honing your structure and your voice. As you read through your essay, think about whether it effectively draws the reader along, engages him with specific details, and shows why the topic matters to you. Try asking yourself the following questions:.
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Give yourself credit for what you've done well, but don't hesitate to change things that aren't working. It can be tempting to hang on to what you've already written —you took the time and thought to craft it in the first place, so it can be hard to let it go.
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Taking this approach is doing yourself a disservice, however. No matter how much work you put into a paragraph or much you like a phrase, if they aren't adding to your essay, they need to be cut or altered. If there's a really big structural problem, or the topic is just not working, you may have to chuck this draft out and start from scratch. Don't panic!
I know starting over is frustrating, but it's often the best way to fix major issues. Unfortunately, some problems can't be fixed with whiteout. Once you've fixed the problems you found on the first pass and have a second or third draft you're basically happy with, ask some other people to read it.
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Check with people whose judgment you trust : parents, teachers, and friends can all be great resources, but how helpful someone will be depends on the individual and how willing you are to take criticism from her. Also, keep in mind that many people, even teachers, may not be familiar with what colleges look for in an essay.
Your mom, for example, may have never written a personal statement, and even if she did, it was most likely decades ago. Give your readers a sense of what you'd like them to read for , or print out the questions I listed above and include them at the end of your essay. After incorporating any helpful feedback you got from others, you should now have a nearly complete draft with a clear arc.
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At this point you want to look for issues with word choice and sentence structure:. A good way to check for weirdness in language is to read the essay out loud. If something sounds weird when you say it, it will almost certainly seem off when someone else reads it. In general, Eva feels like her first paragraph isn't as engaging as it could be and doesn't introduce the main point of the essay that well: although it sets up the narrative, it doesn't show off her personality that well. She decides to break it down sentence by sentence:. Problem: For a hook, this sentence is a little too expository.
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It doesn't add any real excitement or important information other than that this call isn't the first, which can be incorporate elsewhere. Solution: Cut this sentence and start with the line of dialogue. I was hoping to ask you some questions about—". Problem: No major issues with this sentence. It's engaging and sets the scene effectively. Solution: None needed, but Eva does tweak it slightly to include the fact that this call wasn't her first.
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