Scholarship essays are a great challenge to write. Because you may be competing with hundreds or even thousands of other applicants, the first sentence and first paragraph of your essay are extremely important.
Of course, this is not to limit the significance of the rest of your essay; however, the first sentence and first paragraph are the initial part of your essay the reviewer or admissions officer will read. One of the best ways to distinguish yourself from other people is to tell a story (in the first paragraph) or use an anecdote that leads in to the rest of your essay. If you can make it unusual and relevant at the same time, you will likely catch the attention of the reviewer.
Consider this: when you open the pages of a thriller or murder mystery, what will you likely read in the first sentence? It's usually something attention-grabbing, isn't it? Let's take a look at the first sentence of Catherine Coulter's FBI thriller, Whiplash:
Erin used her third-generation lock picks. She knew each one intimately, having successfully, and in excellent time, learned to unlock by the age of six and a half whatever her father hid under her pillow.
Okay, that's two sentences, but I bet you read the second one, too, didn't you? The first sentence is attention-grabbing. Erin is using her third-generation lock pick, but why? Is she from a family of professional thieves? The first sentence or two makes us want to read a little more. Erin knows her lock pick "intimately." That's a very descriptive word, conjuring up any number of fascinating images in our mind about Erin, and this is just the first paragraph. Remember reviewers have to read through stacks of essays. It is a tedious task, at best, so you will want to make their job as enjoyable as possible when it comes to reading yours.
Since scholarship essays and essays to Ivy League colleges are challenging ones to write, I would like to share two links with you. In the first link, you can read the essay of a high-school senior who was accepted to Stanford and five Ivy League colleges. The second link allows you to read admission officers' comments on her essay. It's quite illuminating!