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REACH BOLDLY. Writing a Captivating Essay pt . 1. REACH BOLDLY | October 19, 2013. REACH BOLDLY. Announcements. No REACH BOLDLY next week, but email a ROUGH draft of your essay/outline/ideas by next Saturday. Check-Ins Homework (Essays and Resumes)

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writing a captivating essay pt 1


Writing a Captivating Essay pt. 1

REACH BOLDLY | October 19, 2013



  • No REACH BOLDLY next week, but email a ROUGH draft of your essay/outline/ideas by next Saturday.
  • Check-Ins
  • Homework (Essays and Resumes)
  • Tell your friends about REACH and REACH BOLDLY



How do I start?

personal essays


Personal Essays
  • Roughly 650words
  • Tell colleges who you are, what defines you, what is important to you, and what has shaped you
  • Many drafts
  • Resources:
    • Your mentor
    • English teacher
    • www.NewHavenREACH.com
    • Essays@NewHavenREACH.com


  • Intro
    • Hook
      • En media res
      • Broad statement (Make sure its profound and interesting!)
      • Grip your reader  keep your hook a bit ambiguous
      • Write in present tense
  • Body Paragraphs
    • What’s your story?
    • Not a five paragraph essay
  • Conclusion
    • What does this say about you? What did you learn about yourself?
    • Why are you prepared for college? What can you contribute to the college campus?


  • In media res
    • Don’t waste words describing the story, just jump right into the middle of the setting of the story.
    • Then provide some context for the setting but make the setting interesting!
    • Drive toward your final sentence.
  • A personal theory
    • Get to the story quickly.
    • Share some personal insight about how the world works.
    • Beware general rambling.
  • Be Descriptive!
    • Adjectives
    • Objects
    • Senses
sample intro


Sample Intro

A thin crusted pie with a glazed, orange sweet potato filling rests on the plaid table cloth. The sugary aroma dissipates throughout the kitchen, dressed with spices, a Tony Sachery cookbook, cast iron skillets, and Magnetite pots and pans. The pie rests between an elderly woman, with wide glasses, on one side of the table and the teary child she attempts to console seated on the other side. That young boy is me, and the old woman was my confidant, my mentor, my friend, and my “Grandma,” Mrs. Agnes James.

body paragraphs


Body Paragraphs
  • Do not stick to the 5 paragraph format
  • Get to the meat of the story (the TA part of STAR-L)
  • Zoom out
  • Highlight the transformation
  • Make sure you convey the “Words to Describe You” in your body.
  • Be descriptive
    • Feelings, objects, adjectives, adverbs, etc.
sample body


Sample Body

When I was younger, my parents sent my brother and me to my grandparent’s house for much of the summer.  As a result, Grandma had a significant role in raising me, teaching me not only through her words, but also through her actions. As the daughter of sharecroppers, she placed a special emphasis on work ethic, always reminiscing and discussing her jobs as lunchroom cook, factory worker, mother, and caregiver in her early life.  She would always sit me down, look me in the eyes and say, “Work hard so you can take care of your family,” but I never realized the gravity of her statement until I arrived home one day and noticed a plate of crisp honey-baked ham and Cajun rice on the kitchen counter for me, despite her being bedridden that morning with leg pains, shivers, and cold sweats.  Then I realized the whole meaning behind her actions - her being, and her ethic was for others, and I quickly applied those values to my life, doing as much as I can in school, participating in debate to be politically educated for others, and joining the Community Service Leadership Corp to directly affect others through projects and mission trips. 



  • Bring it full circle
    • Reference a simple artifact from the intro (i.e. the pie, or the table cloth)
    • State what you’ve learned and what you will do moving forward.
  • What will you bring to the college campus?
  • How has the story you’ve told changed you?
  • What do you hope for moving forward?
  • Focus on the R and L portion of the STAR-L
  • This is really a time to re-highlight some of the key words to describe you.
sample conclusion


Sample Conclusion

We had a long conversation, about my performance during my junior year, girls, and life in general. She ended her conversation by saying, “Do your best, ya hear? You have a bright future ahead of you,” and going back to sleep. Those were the last words I heard from my Grandma. When I received the news that she died that cold  February 12th day, I instantly remembered her final words to me and began to reflect on how I fell behind my first semester of junior year. I chose to only do debate, my grades were slipping, and I was getting in more trouble with my family. Instantly, I realized I had forgotten what my Grandma taught me those warm summer days. After reflection, I was resolute to create that bright future my Grandmother envisioned. My second semester of junior year became my best in every way possible, and I believe I owe it to Grandma to embrace the bright future she saw for me. 



  • Start writing early!
  • Put it down for a week, then look at it again.
  • Keep a trashcan close by so you can throw away the messiness in your head.
  • Have multiple people read it such as your REACH Mentor and a college counselor, English teacher, advisor, parent.
www newhavenreach com



Student Resources Section