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How to write an Application Essay that engages your reader

by Jocelyn Johnson, on Jul 21, 2021 8:13:17 PM

Here's a 3-step process to write admission and scholarship essays that keep your readers (aka admissions officers) engaged from the first sentence to the very last word.

1) Begin with a Magnet

The magnet is your first sentence. Like a magnet in real life, it draws your readers into your world and invites them to share your story.

What do you think about these two magnets? 

Sometimes, it’s the lives of others that bring out the best in you. (sounds pretty boring, right?) 

I sat down at the base of the tree, whistling her favorite tune and listening to the birds echoing me. (makes you want to read more, right?)

You want to draw your reader in from the first sentence! 

2) Have a clear Pivot

A pivot is a turning point, where you risk something, learn something, grow, change, or take action.

It was then I realized that even the simplest of actions could change the world, even if it’s just the world of one person. (clunky; needs tightening)

I looked back at the girl. She was walking away with her head bowed. I looked ahead at the woods in front of me, and took a deep breath. “Hey!” I called back to her, and held out my hand, “Quick, come with me!” (a bit more action and energy, right?)

A successful pivot reveals a turning point when you had to make a choice. And from that point, it shows a clear before and after in your actions.

3) End with a Glow

A glow is the last sentence of your essay. A great glow leaves a lasting impression for the reader to remember you and want to know more. 

I couldn't agree more with Hubert H. Humphrey, who wrote, “The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” (boring and general)

I threw my hand up in the air, holding up three fingers in remembrance of my fallen friend, and found within me a new resolution to make it through. (much stronger)

A successful glow keeps the reader in the action, which lets them draw their own conclusions as they experience the moment with you. Channel your inner Shonda Rhimes, whose epic endings keep viewers coming back for more, and end your essay leaving your readers wanting to know more about you. 

Using this 3-beat structure as a guide, you’ll keep admissions officers engaged from the beginning to the end of your essay. With nearly every application essay requiring a word count limit, there’s no room for filler words or sentences.  So make every word count!

Go to College Admission Essays Made Easy.

For more info about college admission and scholarship essays and interviews, sign up for self-paced courses and our award-winning StoryBuilder writing platform FREE at story2.com/college. Want to stay up to date on the latest tips and resources? Follow us @story2 on Instagram!

Jocelyn Johnson is a graduate of Princeton (BA) and Harvard (MEd), Jocelyn worked previously as a counselor at Prep for Prep, Breakthrough NY, and Democracy Prep. A former coach and marketing coordinator for Story2, Jocelyn researched, wrote, and created the voice and tone for many of our most successful blogs.

Topics:college admissionscollege essaysessay writing tips

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