How to Start Your College Essay with a Strong Foundation

College essays can be intimidating, but if you break them down and build them from the ground up, you’ll have a much easier time and a much better final product.

The best way to look at any college essay is to see it as a series of interdependent pieces. Instead of trying to tackle the entire project all at once, break it down into more digestible, individual chunks. Getting started is one of the hardest stages of writing any essay, but if you can get started with the right momentum, you can carry that success throughout your entire paper.

So what’s the best way to get started?

It depends on the type of paper you’re writing and the school you’re writing it for, but for most essays, in order to start with a solid foundation, you have to start with a solid idea. For that, take a look at the prompt question and reduce it down to one core idea: what is it asking you? Usually, these are broad, open-ended questions, so there may not be any reduction necessary.

Next, spend some time brainstorming what you want your response to be. Invariably, you’ll have a lot that you want to say, but for the purposes of this exercise, you should reduce everything you want to say into one, concise sentence. This is going to serve as your ultimate foundation. Take your time with this; you want your sentence to be close to perfect.

Once you have your sentence, use that as the central focus of your essay. Expand on it to make your introduction, and use it for inspiration for your body paragraphs. With every sentence you write in your essay, compare it to your concise intended answer; ask yourself, does this sentence support my main idea? If so, you’re on the right track. If not, you may need to revise.

Starting off with a strong foundation in your concise statement is the best way to gain momentum for the rest of your essay.