The introductory paragraph is where you define your theme and hook the reader and hope to provide enough information to keep them interested for the entire two pages. No pressure! There is no room for fluff so be sure to get to the point quickly and outline where the reader will be going for the rest of the personal statement by noting the main ideas that will answer the personal statement question you have been given.
In order to do this well, you have to know where the rest of the personal statement is headed, so it might be good to first prepare an outline and then you can identify the main ideas to hit in the introductory paragraph. Sometimes, this paragraph is even written last or revised after the personal statement is drafted.
This is where you will hopefully hook the reader with something so interesting or intriguing that they will stay engaged with what you have to say throughout your personal statement. Some ideas include:
- An amusing anecdote;
- A thought-provoking question;
- An interesting observation; or even
- Something provocative or controversial.
If you do want to take a risk by going beyond what you feel might be a safe response, just make sure it reflects who you are and provide a balanced and well-reasoned out argument for why you have this alternative perspective.