How to Start a College Essay About Influences on Yourself

The opening of an essay about personal experience should grab readers' attention and introduce them to the world of the narrator.
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While writing about yourself sometimes implies a sense of informality, a successful essay still requires that the writing be clear and logically organized. The opening must both hook the reader and state the thesis by either implication or outright declaration as to how the person or event influenced you and why it was good or bad. Several strategies exist for completing these tasks, and each has benefits and drawbacks. You'll have to think carefully and decide which strategy is best for you.

1 Open with a Quotation

Offering the exact words of someone who has influenced you and then following up with an anecdote can have a profound, engaging impact on the reader, while at the same time working to establish the voice, setting and tone of the piece. Quotations do run the risk of sounding trite and ambiguous regarding their intents, according to Essay, so always follow up a quotation with an explanation or anecdote to ensure that you communicate the significance effectively.

2 Ask a Question

The risks with questions outweigh the advantages. Again, triteness and avoiding clichés are the primary concerns here, so questions must be fresh and invite interesting perspectives into the significance of the influence on you. Disadvantages aside, however, questions can be effective as a tool to lead the reader toward a generalized theme or to a specific example of an incident that influenced you.

3 Trigger the Reader

Triggers are one of a writer's most useful tools for both hooking readers' attention and getting them to invest emotionally in you as the author. A trigger is any word, phrase, or topic that evokes an emotional response in a reader; to trigger the most readers, you need to use controversial ones. For your essay, identify the topics and words that trigger your emotions most profoundly regarding the event that influenced you, and then use them to heighten the emotional impact of your introduction.

4 Be a Storyteller

No matter if your first line is a quote or a question or a statement, the most effective strategy for hooking the reader and suggesting the theme is by telling a story. The entire essay will be a story about outside influences, and to captivate the audience, you must open with a specific scene that introduces the event or person who influenced you to contextualize the change that eventually took place. Offer concrete physical details and honest introspection, and let the images tell the readers everything else they need to know.

Christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University. His literary work has appeared in "The Southampton Review," "Feathertale," "Kalliope" and "The Rose and Thorn Journal."