Updated: Dec 9, 2021
Make your essay more interesting and meet the word limit!
Case Study vs. Backstory
You should start and end your essay with your case study: a single, specific event that represents a broader growth or change.
If any backstory is necessary, don't put it in the intro. You aren't legally obligated to tell a story in chronological order.
Let's say your essay is about a sand castle competition you entered. Here's a bad intro:
When I was in elementary school, I had this idea that I wanted to be a sand sculptor. Of course, I didn't know that was the name for it at the time, but the idea came from going to the beach one day and seeing some teenagers building a sand castle. A few years later, when I was in middle school, I would bring Ziploc bags full of sand to class and practice making little buildings on my desk. Then in high school, one of my teachers noticed that I had a real talent for sculpting sand when I made a sand Eiffel Tower while she was telling us about her summer Paris trip.
Be honest, did you read that whole paragraph?
Probably not; it was really boring. It was just backstory: going chronologically through elementary school, middle school, and high school. The case study isn't even mentioned.
Instead, imagine starting like this:
Big enough to fit a family and fragile enough to bury them alive—I'd put every last grain of effort into my sand castle. Now it was time for the judges to decide if it had been worth it.
Some of you might recognize this as in media res (starting in the middle), but that's not the only option.
You can start as early as the moment that leads to the case study:
When I was younger, I didn't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. So imagine my surprise when my physics teacher told me after a lab that I had a real talent for sand sculpting—and handed me a flyer to the national sand castle competition!
Starting with your case study will help you meet the word limit and make your hook more engaging.
So, here's the question: Do you need to delete your intro? Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!