May 1, 2015

College Essay Tip on Using Anecdotes

Get Into College Blog College Essay Tip Using Anecdotes
The following is an exclusive excerpt from the new college application essay writing guide, Essay Hell’s Writing Survival Kit.

Illustrate Your Main Point

One of the most popular writing techniques used by essay writers is the anecdote. This is a fancy word for telling a real-life story, usually one that lasted only a few minutes and is recounted in a paragraph or two.

An anecdote is one of the most powerful writing tools, especially for personal essays. They are used to “show” readers an example of a point you want to make about yourself, instead of just “telling” or explaining it to them.

Anecdotes also usually involve some type of action, which makes them naturally more compelling to read.

Here’s an example from one of the Sample Essays in Chapter 11 written by student Kaylie Monahan at the end of this book:

Wearing my turquoise-and-red beaded sandals, a braided headband wrapped around my forehead, tan fringy shorts, and an oversized brown shirt emblazoned with a multi-colored tribal symbol, I stepped out of my mom’s car filled with confidence and joy.

My dark, freshly curled hair blew in the warm summer air, and as I marched up to meet my friends, I smiled and flashed a peace sign for fun.

“Who dressed you today?” said one of my friends, giving me the up and down inspection.

In this introductory anecdote, Kaylie gave us an example of the main point she made in her essay: That she was the type of girl who stuck with her unique personal style even though it wasn’t always popular.

Since an anecdote draws the reader in with a real-life moment, anecdotes are powerful “grabbers” for the introductions of college application essays. If you want to write about yourself and one of your main qualities, skills or talents, just start by relaying an example of “a time” that illustrates it.

Find more help on writing college application essays at

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