Powerful first sentence. Say something that shocks, interests and tells the reader that the essay will be about. (I didn’t realize I was smart until I won Junior Jeopardy. or My grandmother taught me everything school did not. or My little sister motivated me to be a leader.)
Keep it simple. If your story is about what you learned from running track, then don’t bring in another theme that will distract from the point you want to make.
Details. Tell the reader everything important about yourself. When you say you listened to music, be specific. Sports, hobbies, food, cars, be specific. (My sister and I jumped in the Jeep and clicked on God’s Plan by Drake. Our loud singing and laughing set us up for a great day at school.) Just be sure that telling a college panel you listen to Drake is something you want them to know. Every detail says something about who you are.
Why do we care? A story needs stakes and a change/revelation by the end. Your family emigrated here…great. SO? You failed at track. SO? What have you learned and who have you become because of that? How has the situation informed who you are? We need to see the growth or even the lack of it. But something has to have changed because of the situation.
WHAT IS THE STORY ABOUT? This is the most important. If the reader doesn’t know by the end, then the story is incomplete. A situation (something that happened to you) is not a story. A story shows a narrator that has learned something or changed. Once you know what your story is really about, why you are writing this essay, then all the unnecessary details and tangents need to be cut. Fewer words make the story clearer and stronger.