Attention Getting Strategies For Essays For Scholarships

Writing an essay often seems to be a dreaded task among students. Whether the essay is for a scholarship, a class, or maybe even a contest, many students often find the task overwhelming. While an essay is a large project, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. Following this process is the easiest way to draft a successful essay, whatever its purpose might be.

According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay, there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:

1. Pick a topic.

You may have your topic assigned, or you may be given free reign to write on the subject of your choice. If you are given the topic, you should think about the type of paper that you want to produce. Should it be a general overview of the subject or a specific analysis? Narrow your focus if necessary.

If you have not been assigned a topic, you have a little more work to do. However, this opportunity also gives you the advantage to choose a subject that is interesting or relevant to you. First, define your purpose. Is your essay to inform or persuade?

Once you have determined the purpose, you will need to do some research on topics that you find intriguing. Think about your life. What is it that interests you? Jot these subjects down.

Finally, evaluate your options. If your goal is to educate, choose a subject that you have already studied. If your goal is to persuade, choose a subject that you are passionate about. Whatever the mission of the essay, make sure that you are interested in your topic.

2. Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas.

In order to write a successful essay, you must organize your thoughts. By taking what’s already in your head and putting it to paper, you are able to see connections and links between ideas more clearly. This structure serves as a foundation for your paper. Use either an outline or a diagram to jot down your ideas and organize them.

To create a diagram, write your topic in the middle of your page. Draw three to five lines branching off from this topic and write down your main ideas at the ends of these lines. Draw more lines off these main ideas and include any thoughts you may have on these ideas.

If you prefer to create an outline, write your topic at the top of the page. From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. In this space, make sure to list other smaller ideas that relate to each main idea. Doing this will allow you to see connections and will help you to write a more organized essay.

3. Write your thesis statement.

Now that you have chosen a topic and sorted your ideas into relevant categories, you must create a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader the point of your essay. Look at your outline or diagram. What are the main ideas?

Your thesis statement will have two parts. The first part states the topic, and the second part states the point of the essay. For instance, if you were writing about Bill Clinton and his impact on the United States, an appropriate thesis statement would be, “Bill Clinton has impacted the future of our country through his two consecutive terms as United States President.”

Another example of a thesis statement is this one for the “Winning Characteristics” Scholarship essay: “During my high school career, I have exhibited several of the “Winning Characteristics,” including Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Organization Skills, through my involvement in Student Government, National Honor Society, and a part-time job at Macy’s Department Store.”

4. Write the body.

The body of your essay argues, explains or describes your topic. Each main idea that you wrote in your diagram or outline will become a separate section within the body of your essay.

Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure. Begin by writing one of your main ideas as the introductory sentence. Next, write each of your supporting ideas in sentence format, but leave three or four lines in between each point to come back and give detailed examples to back up your position. Fill in these spaces with relative information that will help link smaller ideas together.

5. Write the introduction.

Now that you have developed your thesis and the overall body of your essay, you must write an introduction. The introduction should attract the reader’s attention and show the focus of your essay.

Begin with an attention grabber. You can use shocking information, dialogue, a story, a quote, or a simple summary of your topic. Whichever angle you choose, make sure that it ties in with your thesis statement, which will be included as the last sentence of your introduction.

6. Write the conclusion.

The conclusion brings closure of the topic and sums up your overall ideas while providing a final perspective on your topic. Your conclusion should consist of three to five strong sentences. Simply review your main points and provide reinforcement of your thesis.

7. Add the finishing touches.

After writing your conclusion, you might think that you have completed your essay. Wrong. Before you consider this a finished work, you must pay attention to all the small details.

Check the order of your paragraphs. Your strongest points should be the first and last paragraphs within the body, with the others falling in the middle. Also, make sure that your paragraph order makes sense. If your essay is describing a process, such as how to make a great chocolate cake, make sure that your paragraphs fall in the correct order.

Review the instructions for your essay, if applicable. Many teachers and scholarship forms follow different formats, and you must double check instructions to ensure that your essay is in the desired format.

Finally, review what you have written. Reread your paper and check to see if it makes sense. Make sure that sentence flow is smooth and add phrases to help connect thoughts or ideas. Check your essay for grammar and spelling mistakes.

Congratulations! You have just written a great essay.

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When you write a college application essay, you want to “grab” the attention of your reader from the start.

My favorite writing technique to hook readers is to engage them with an anecdote, which is a real-life moment or incident.

You might have already written your essay, and not noticed that you have one of these magical anecdotes down low.

Chances are you started your essay telling about yourself in your essay, and missed the opportunity to reach out and grab your reader with a real-life anecdote that illustrates your point.

When the most interesting or engaging piece of a news or feature article is down low in the piece, we journalists used to call that “burying the lead.”

And a good editor would spot this and encourage the writer to shift it to the top of the story.

The idea was that you use the most interesting part to draw in the reader, otherwise, what was the point of sharing all the other information if you lose their attention and they stop reading?

Same goes with these essays.

RELATED: My Video Tutorial on How to Write an Anecdote: Part One

Most of the essays in my new collection of sample college application essays, Heavenly Essays, start with anecdotes.

They are my favorite literary writing device when it comes to personal essays. They Show instead of Tell. Showing takes advantage of those concrete details that we can’t resist: the specifics of something that happened.

Ooohhhh, who can resist the juicy stuff?

Then the writer can “Tell” or explain, analyze, reflect, etc., on what happened later in the essay.

One student, however, started her essay by telling about herself, and didn’t share a real-life example of her point until fifth paragraph.

The essay was still strong and interesting (she was accepted to Middlebury College, a top liberal arts school in Vermont!).

But I want you to see if you think it would have had a more compelling introduction if she started with her anecdote (and showed her point).

The idea is that you scour your own writing for the juicy parts, the anecdotes, the interesting moments or real-life examples, and see if you can move them up to the top and start by showing instead of telling.

Then go on to provide some background or context, and explain what they mean (telling).

See what you think. Here’s what she went with, which is in Heavenly Essays:

 

Anonymous
Seattle, WA
Middlebury College, VT

Fearless

Where I come from being religious is unusual; Washington is considered the least religious state in the nation. Very few of my classmates go to church. The few who do probably would find my belief system rigorous and almost radical. Christian Science is most known for the practice of spiritual healing and for me, it is a way of life. It does not only come out in times of need, but is a part of my everyday existence and rids fear from each activity.

Being a religious teenager in a highly secular place can be difficult. Sometimes I have to admit I dread the cliché questions of friends: What do you do when you get sick? Why don’t you go to the doctor? I can’t believe you have never taken any medicine! But I patiently answer these questions and embrace this challenge because spiritual living is crucial to who I am.

For me, being religious doesn’t just mean going to church every Sunday; it is a daily practice and supports a fearless approach to life. Although I may stand out in a crowd, and many of my peers don’t understand my commitment to my religion, I don’t compromise my faith. I have overcome countless scenarios with the help of prayer, including the biking accident I experienced while training for a 350-mile bike ride from New York City to Washington, DC.

(ANECDOTE) Biking along Lake Washington, the trees flew past me and the wind whistled in my ears. The dry smell of summer filled the air, and my legs churned up and down. The wind was at my back, and I felt like I was flying. Seconds later, however, I veered out of control. My bike and I hit the pavement and skidded across the road.

After bandaging the scrapes and resting in bed, I actively prayed to be healed. Supported by my mom and a Christian Science Practitioner, my thought was transformed from fear of the accident to reassurance that I would be okay. My body certainly needed time to mend, but being freed from fear was the central benefit of this healing. I wasn’t afraid to get back on my bike, and I trusted that my cross-country season and school attendance wouldn’t be compromised by my accident.

Although my classmates and peers seemed surprised to see me active again, I knew that my quick recovery was because of my prayer. I rely on my relationship with God everyday, and not just to recover from accidents. For example, when presenting scientific research to an audience of Bahamian government officials last spring, I was fearful of stumbling through my speech. Turning to God, however, I found confidence and assurance that I could deliver my proposal with poise. …

Here is the same essay when you move the anecdote to the beginning (I shifted three paragraphs to the top):

 

Anonymous
Seattle, WA
Middlebury College, VT

Fearless

(Anecdote: Showing) Biking along Lake Washington, the trees flew past me and the wind whistled in my ears. The dry smell of summer filled the air, and my legs churned up and down. The wind was at my back, and I felt like I was flying. Seconds later, however, I veered out of control. My bike and I hit the pavement and skidded across the road.

(Background: Telling) After bandaging the scrapes and resting in bed, I actively prayed to be healed. Supported by my mom and a Christian Science Practitioner, my thought was transformed from fear of the accident to reassurance that I would be okay. My body certainly needed time to mend, but being freed from fear was the central benefit of this healing. I wasn’t afraid to get back on my bike, and I trusted that my cross-country season and school attendance wouldn’t be compromised by my accident.

(More background: Telling) Although my classmates and peers seemed surprised to see me active again, I knew that my quick recovery was because of my prayer. I rely on my relationship with God everyday, and not just to recover from accidents. For example, when presenting scientific research to an audience of Bahamian government officials last spring, I was fearful of stumbling through my speech. Turning to God, however, I found confidence and assurance that I could deliver my proposal with poise.

Where I come from being religious is unusual; Washington is considered the least religious state in the nation. Very few of my classmates go to church. The few who do probably would find my belief system rigorous and almost radical. Christian Science is most known for the practice of spiritual healing and for me, it is a way of life. It does not only come out in times of need, but is a part of my everyday existence and rids fear from each activity.

Being a religious teenager in a highly secular place can be difficult. Sometimes I have to admit I dread the cliché questions of friends: What do you do when you get sick? Why don’t you go to the doctor? I can’t believe you have never taken any medicine! But I patiently answer these questions and embrace this challenge because spiritual living is crucial to who I am.

For me, being religious doesn’t just mean going to church every Sunday; it is a daily practice and supports a fearless approach to life. Although I may stand out in a crowd, and many of my peers don’t understand my commitment to my religion, I don’t compromise my faith. I have overcome countless scenarios with the help of prayer, including the biking accident I experienced while training for a 350-mile bike ride from New York City to Washington, DC. …

* * * * *

 So, what do you think? Did you like one version over the other? My advice is once you have pounded out a rough draft of your college application essay, read through it and if one part is really catchy and interesting, see if you can pop it at the top, and go from there. I think you might be surprised how much better it will be!

RELATED: My Video Tutorial on How to Write an Anecdote: Part One

 

 

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