college application essay

love anecdotes.

Especially for starting narrative essays for college application essays.

They can take a little practice to compose, but what a deceptively powerful writing tool.

Actually, if you start almost any type of writing with an anecdote–from a college essay to a book report to a press release–your message will instantly rise and shine above other written messages competing for readers’ attention.

They are engaging, accessible and they have a wow factor. Even though you don’t mean to be impressive, people often think you are so creative and accomplished when you wield them.

I just think readers are grateful for writing that includes little real-life stories. I know I always am. It’s simple: You want to read them. Who doesn’t want to know what happened next?

Crash Course in How to Write an Anecdote

Here’s a handy list of my posts on anecdotes. Read them all and you should be an expert in no time:

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

How to Write an Anecdote. This post lists the basics of writing an anecdote–from starting at the peak of the action to using sensory details and dialouge.

How to Turn a Real-Life Moment into an Anecdote. Learn how to take something that happened to you and tell it like a story using literary writing techniques.

Find Your “Problems” for Great Anecdotes. Learn how to include something “that happened” in your essays as anecdotes to make them exciting and engaging.

Essay Rocket Fuel: The Anecdote: This post gives an example of an anecdote and how to find the topic for an anecdote to use as an introduction for a narrative essay.

How to Write Grabber Intros using Anecdotes. Hook your reader at the start by engaging them with a mini-story, aka anecdote.

The BIG Difference Between a Story and an Anecdote:  This post explains why a story and an anecdote are not the same thing, and how to use an anecdote to “show” a point instead of just “tell” about it.

How to Find and Tell Anecdotes: This post teaches you how to find a good anecdote to illustrate the main point of your essay.

Become a Storyteller in Less than Five Minutes. I love this post, if I don’t say so myself. It shows you with simple little line drawing how an anecdote fits into a narrative essay.

Grab Your Readers with an Anecdote:  This post walks you through taking a little incident or moment and time and spinning it into a short anecdote. Includes a sample anecdote.

Components of an Anecdote: A good anecdote usually includes scene setting, so the reader can immediately start to visualize where something is happening. And something is happening–like a problem or action.

It also will include details that help the reader step into the moment–hearing, seeing, smelling and feeling what was going on.

The best anecdotes help readers experience the moment or incident by including bits of dialogue so they can get into the writer’s head and feel their pain, joy or other thoughts and emotion.

HOT TIP: To start an anecdote for your narrative essay, begin by letting the reader know WHERE you were (just enough so they get the idea), and then put yourself in the scene.

Then go from there. Example: Sitting at the bus stop, I stepped off the curb…or: Just before midnight, we gathered in a large circle in front of the fire…or: Driving with my friends along the Coast Highway, we stopped at a gas station…While scraping the burnt onions off the grill, I could tell my shift at the White Castle was almost over…

Want to write a killer college application essay? Start with an anecdote. You will leave the majority of other essay writers in your college application dust!

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