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How to have a witty introduction without seeming childish?


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i've been agonizing over the introduction of my SOP for days.  I'm trying really hard to go in a direction other than the typical childhood story or quote introduction, but it is very difficult!  i'm trying to be more witty and creative, but i'm afriad that this may come off as childish or immature, especially since i'm trying to keep my intro as short as possible.  any thoughts on being creative yet remaining professional, or advice for a creative introduction in general?

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What I would recommend (speaking not as an accepted grad school applicant, yet, but as an English tutor who has seen many people through letters, scholarship applications, etc, and who has so far never had an abstract/research proposal of my own rejected *crosses fingers*):

 

You want to tell a cohesive story. Some of this is done in subtle ways--for instance, I prefer (and usually recommend) to keep the narrative's voice* and tense** consistent throughout.

 

* If you spend the first paragraph talking about what you did at age 12, it should be with the wisdom and hindsight of your current age. Focusing on how cool you thought it was at age 12 doesn't tell the committee anything; letting them know that you are self-motivated enough to follow your passion and dedicated enough to do it for a Really Long Time tells them a lot more about your potential for graduate success. This wisdom (and self-awareness, I think) should thread itself through the entire application. This will create consistency of voice. It will make you sound confident. You will present yourself as someone who has their sh*t together. ;)

 

**This is just mechanical grammar stuff. If you want to use quotes, one of the big no-nos that people do is drop in a quote and then fail to provide enough justification for its use. This makes the reader wonder why the quote was included when they should be thinking about how much they like you. Many successful essays have been written that use the opposite approach--using a quote and then spending the rest of the essay referring back to it as a theme--but care must be taken not to spend the entire essay justifying it instead, as that takes the focus away from you and your accomplishments. This is why I usually recommend integrated quotes (..."so I picked myself back up, brushed myself off, and went 'once more unto the breach,' as Shakespeare put it" - cheesy example, but that's an integrated/embedded quote). This will create consistency of tense, whereas if you use a quote by itself...some quotes are written in past tense, but you may be telling your story in present, etc. Doesn't sound like it's a big deal, and a committee might not point it out by name ("gee, these don't have matching tenses. PASS." Yeah right!), but a well-constructed story will outshine a heavy-handed one any day of the week.

 

Anyway, integrated quotes help with the professionalism in many cases.

 

Also remember that a deft, professional, engaging intro doesn't have to be witty or creative; if your greatest quality is your passionate drive to succeed, for instance, just making sure that the committee sees that represented in the way you write might be a very good hook of its own.

 

Good luck!

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There's much the reader will be anticipating.. You want to attend, you feel you are qualified, you like their school.. blah blah blah.

 

"Why do I care?" 

 

Think about that for a bit. Why are you different? What is unique? How are you not Applicant #237b in Rubric-Scoring Group G being assessed by Faculty ID #'s 742, 27, and 1098. 

 

Think about all the things you don't have to say because everyone else in Rubric-Scoring Group G all have those things in common. Talk about what is unique and interesting. Is it a story from when you were 12? Or is something last week or even last month? What if it's not a story, but rather an idea you feel needs to be expressed? A guiding principle perhaps?

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