How to write a killer introduction

We just saw how thousands of students sabotage their applications by starting off with worn-out clichés and boring dictionary definitions…

You now know not to do that – but what should you do instead? 

How should you start your introduction?

There are honestly lots of good approaches…but the best, by miles, is the specific example approach.

This involves taking a real story or experience from your own life, and explaining how it led to your subject interest. 

Here’s an example from a management applicant we helped last year:

Interning at the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD), I watched their ten-person executive team manage a 3000+ employee company. Each section of the bank was divided into departments; each department appointed a manager; goals were set, deadlines decided, tasks delegated; and, almost as if by magic, all 3000+ employees were able to cooperatively move the company forward. To better understand how companies like EBRD are run, I read Amazon’s company biography, the Everything Store. I learnt how CEO Jeff Bezos empowers his employees to think big and speak up if they disagree. Bezos’ management practices have scaled Amazon into the world’s biggest retail site, and shown me the importance of management in the real world.

It starts with the student’s real, personal experience as an intern at a European Bank. He saw management in practice, and this motivated him to research further, reading the Everything Store.

And from here, he realised the importance of management.

This is a clear, believable, interesting story behind the student’s choice to study management. 

No clichés! No dictionary definitions. It’s completely personal to the student, totally original and believable – I actually believe this student wants to study management.

He didn’t just randomly choose the subject because he needed something to put down for UCAS – he’s actually seen management in real life, given us a specific example at the bank…and then taken the initiative to read a book on it…and even lists out a specific lesson he learnt after reading it. 

He’s clearly genuinely interested in his subject – and the specific details he provides really make his motivation believable.

Here’s another experience example from an economics student we helped in a couple years back: 

After the 2008 financial crisis, entire roads in my grandparents’ home town were deserted. Both of my grandparents lost their incomes, and close friends fell into long-term unemployment. Across Spain, unemployment rose steadily, reaching a record 6.2 million in 2013, obliging the Spanish government to rescue two failed banks. The economy regressed so suddenly and I was driven to understand why. I discovered Keynes’ Paradox of Thrift: worried about the crisis, Spanish locals were saving more, but this was decreasing aggregate consumption further, ironically deepening the recession. The power of these counter-intuitive insights motivated me to study economics at degree level

Here the student doesn’t use her own experience, she uses her grandparents’ experience instead – but it still has the same effect.

Yet again, she’s super-specific. She gives specific examples of her grandparents’ job losses and the exact unemployment figures in Spain. And then she tells us how she had to understand why this was happening.

She finds an answer in a specific theory by Keynes, and this answer motivated her to study economics further.

The specific details make her story interesting and believable – she seems like she’s really interested in economics! Enough to research all these tiny specific details about Spain’s economy and the theory behind it.

Here’s another intro from an anthropology & sociology student from last year:

When I visited Istanbul, I was instantly struck by the mix of Western and Islamic influences. In the day we celebrated the traditions and festivities of Ramadan, but in the night the city came to life with obscene rap lyrics and glamorous women. In Egypt, I visited ancient museums and saw the pyramids; but in the city centre I saw giant shopping malls and non-stop consumerism. I want to learn how these different people and cultures have evolved, how they function and how their traditions can survive as our world continues to change.

A lovely selection of specific experiences from Istanbul and Egypt. From here the student explains how these different cultures and people have motivated her to learn more.

Once again, it’s those specific details that make her introduction believable and convincing. She seems genuinely interested in learning more about culture and anthropology.

That said, we could definitely further improve this introduction with even more specific examples – like the name of the shopping mall she saw, any specific theories from anthropology or sociology she’s looked into…but the intro still works – I believe she’s genuinely interested in learning more about these cultures because of the detail in her specific examples.

Finally, here’s one from a medicine student: 

Waiting in the operating theatre for six hours, watching a septal myotomy, made me realise the mental fortitude and composure necessary to be a successful doctor. The height of attention and intense stress was palpable, as repeated complications surfaced, threatening the patient’s precarious situation. The surgical team, however, were unphased, solving every complication until the patient was in the clear. The coordination and resilience shown consolidated my ambition to become a doctor. 

Once again, no clichés, but a specific experience that led the student to study medicine. Not because his mum’s a doctor, not because he “likes helping people”, but because of a specific experience, standing inside an operating theatre, seeing first-hand a life/death surgical procedure – an experience that inspired him to study medicine.

None of the introductions you’ve seen are “perfect” – they can all still be improved & tweaked.

But they do all do the job, very well. Each took a strong, specific personal experience from the student’s real life, and convincingly explained how it led them to their chosen subject!

In Part 3 of the Perfect Statement Course, we’ll show you how to do exactly the same – even if you’re totally clueless on what experience to use!