What are the most boring, non-starters for your application essay, personal statement, or statement of purpose? The openings that use wording from the question, or in the case of general questions, are so common that they will have a narcotic effect on any admissions reader wading through mounds of files.
This morning Accepted’s editors discussed a client’s response to the HBS question "How have you experienced culture shock?" The applicant began her response with "I experienced culture shock when…" What percentage of applicants responding to this question start similarly? Too many. However, if the author from the first word contrasts the culture she comes from with the one that engendered the shock, she would be immediately painting a picture of the situation, differentiating herself from her competition, and making maximal use of each word in an essay with a tight word count.
Another common opening: "I want to be a lawyer(doctor/entrepreneur/fill-in-the-blank) because…" or "I was born in…" Start with an opening that portrays your vision for the future, reveals your preparation for your chosen path, or depicts an illustrative experience from your background. Then swing back and tie this opening to your desire for a legal (or fill-in-the-blank) education or the theme of your essay.
Your opening needs to immediately grab your reader’s attention, introduce your topic, and make effective use of the space. You all have word limits. Your readers have limited attention spans and a pile of other applications staring at them.
Start your essays with an anecdote, a description of a scene, a startling statistic, or an appropriate quote.