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Kate Sundquist


5 min read
College Essays , Essay Tips

How to Get the Perfect Hook for Your College Essay

 

Imagine your college application landing in the lap of the admissions committee at your dream school. It’s the end of a long day, and the eyes that gaze upon your application have already scanned through dozens before yours. They glimpse at your transcripts and test scores. They skim through a recommendation. You’re confident you’ve done everything in your power to guarantee you get accepted, but how do you ensure that a tired admissions committee is interested and enthusiastic about your application when it arrives before them at 4:55 PM on a Friday?

 

Your college essay is your chance to set yourself apart from the hundreds of applicants who will likely be submitting academic portfolios similar to yours. It should provide insight into who you are as a person, conveying your unique personality and reflecting what really makes you tick. To make sure that the admissions committee does more than just skim through yours, you’ll need an opening that grabs their attention. You’re going to need a great hook.

 

A hook is an engaging introduction to your college essay that captivates the reader and inspires him or her to keep reading. Put simply, it makes your audience hungry for more.

 

To learn how to craft the hook for your college essay and create an opening that leaves your readers wanting more, read on for our top college essay-opening hooks.

 

Choosing a Topic

Of course, before you can write your hook, you’ll need to know what you’re writing your essay about in the first place. While some students might know their topic right off the bat, others will need more time to reflect. In our post, How to Come Up With an Idea for a Personal Statement , we outline a few different strategies for developing your outline. If you’re still stuck, check out our post Where to Begin? 3 Personal Essay Brainstorming Exercises to get your creative juices flowing.

 

It’s helpful to keep in mind that your personal statement doesn’t have to be about some incredible, earth-shattering experience. Some students get caught up in trying to detail their most impressive achievements or are tempted to exaggerate when they describe the adversity they have faced, but these pressures are actually unwarranted.

 

Instead of writing about something extreme, many students have had success writing about more mundane topics. Think you don’t have anything interesting to write about? Think again. One Yale admit wrote about her love for Papa John’s pizza , earning herself not only a place in the class of 2021, but also a handwritten note from the impressed admissions committee. If you need some more inspiration, check out our post, What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Write About In My College Essay?

 

Ultimately, the best essays are the ones that reflect an interesting, funny, insightful, or inspiring aspect of your personality in a way that engages the audience. 

Developing Your Hook

You’re going to need to start strong if you want to really grab the attention of the admissions committee. When it comes to college essays, first impressions are everything. In fact, there’s no guarantee that anyone is going to read more than your first sentence if you bore them to tears within a few words. But you can grab your reader’s attention right away if you craft an effective and engaging hook.

 

Many times, you won’t get a feel for how to best implement a hook until you have fully developed the rest of your essay. At the very least, you should have a detailed outline of your essay before writing your hook. Some students even find that it’s easiest to write a hook last, after writing the body of the personal statement.

 

For example, let’s take a closer look at a hypothetical essay. Let’s say that after some careful consideration, Jane Doe has decided to write her personal essay about her experience running canine obedience classes. She isn’t quite sure how to start her essay, so she’s practicing with some proven essay hooks. If you’re ready to develop your own hook, check out our six favorite college essay hook strategies and how they work for Jane below!

 


Submit Your College Essay

1. Set the Scene

One strong way to get your essay moving and to draw your reader in is to open in the middle of an important scene, diving in with descriptive details and dialogue. Make the reader feel like he or she is watching a movie from your life and has just tuned in at a critical scene.

Then, once you close the scene, go back and explain its significance or give the reader the background necessary to fully understand its relevance.

 

Example:

I jumped back as the dog lunged for my leg, teeth bared and snarling. “It’s okay, Smokey, it’s okay,” I soothed as I tried to maneuver closer to the post where I had tied his leash. In the back of my head, I heard my brother’s taunts swirling around.

“A dog trainer?” he had scoffed. “What kind of person would hire you as a dog trainer?!”

I pushed the thoughts away and grasped the leash, pulling it tightly to my side as Smokey, surprised by my sudden confidence, fell into stride beside me. 

 

2. Open with an Example

If you’re describing how you developed a certain skill or a quirky achievement, consider opening with a specific example. Then, much like the scene setting above, you can go back and describe its relevance later in the essay.

 

Example:

When Smokey arrived for his first day of obedience training, he was scared of leashes, cats, and pick up trucks. Even the slightest loud noise would cause him to bolt, scampering for the closest hiding spot. He was skittish and wild-eyed, and his owner Maria was at the end of her rope.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to keep him much longer if we can’t work this out,” she confided in me. But Maria had nothing to worry about. I was ready for Smokey.

 

3. Open with an Anecdote

Detailing a relevant anecdote also provides good context for your essay and can give the reader an idea of what you are up against if you’re overcoming an obstacle or rising to a challenge.

 

Example:

On the day that I told my mother I wanted to start my own canine obedience school, she smiled and muttered something beneath her breath about the irony of my youthful disobedience and my newfound passion for enforcing rules. What she didn’t know then was that it was not in spite of, but rather because of, my tendency to push the boundaries that I was confident in my ability to succeed.

 

4. Ask a Question

Asking a question at the beginning of your essay can activate your reader’s critical thinking and get them hungry for the answer that you won’t offer until later. Try to come up with a question that is broad enough that they won’t know the answer right away, but specific enough that it isn’t a generic hook that could work on just any college essay.

 

Example:

How do you respond when you’re faced with a very real physical threat to your safety, yet you literally can’t afford to back down? This is the question I faced on my very first day as a dog trainer.

 

 

Writing a strong hook is the best way to guarantee that your college essay will be reviewed in its entirety and will be an engaging and exciting read for its audience. Taking the time to craft a well-founded and intriguing hook is a smart investment for any college applicant. To learn more about planning your personal statement or writing the best hook possible, consider CollegeVine’s Essay Editing service, which provides personalized help for every step, from brainstorming to final draft.

 

For more about the college essay, check out these important CollegeVine posts:

5 Ways to Tell if You Have a Good Personal Statement Topic

What Is The Appropriate Tone for a College Essay?

Application Ethics: The Importance of Writing Your Own Personal Essay

Whom Should I Ask for Help with My College Essay?

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Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist

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Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine

Short bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.

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Write an Attention-Grabbing Opening Sentence for an Essay

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Write an Attention-Grabbing Opening Sentence for an Essay




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An Introduction to Essay Writing


Introduction

  • Choosing a Topic

  • Writing an Introduction

  • Structuring and Outlining

  • Types of Essays

  • Editing and Improving

Close-Up Of Metallic Hook Against Clear Sky
Natalia Pearson / EyeEm / Getty Images
by

Grace Fleming
Updated March 09, 2018

You can think of the first sentence of your essay as you would a fishing hook. It grabs your reader and allows you reel the person into your essay and your train of thought. The hook for your essay can be an interesting sentence that captures a person’s attention, it can be thought-provoking, or even, entertaining.

The hook for your essay often appears in the first sentence . The opening paragraph includes a thesis sentence . Some popular hook choices can include using an interesting quote, a little-known fact, famous last words, or a statistic .

Quote Hook

A quote hook is best used when you are composing an essay based on an author, story, or book. It helps establish your authority on the topic and by using someone else’s quote, you can strengthen your thesis if the quote supports it.

The following is an example of a quote hook: “A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.” In the next sentence or two, give a reason for this quote or current example. As for the last sentence (the thesis) : Students grow more confident and self-sufficient when parents allow them to make mistakes and experience failure.

General statement

By setting the tone in the opening sentence with a uniquely written general statement of your thesis, the beauty is that you get right to the point. Most readers appreciate that approach.

For example, you can start with the following statement: Many studies show that the biological sleep pattern for teens shifts a few hours, which means teens naturally stay up later and feel alert later in the morning. The next sentence, set up the body of your essay, perhaps by introducing the concept that school days should be adjusted so that they are more in sync with the teenager’s natural sleep or wake cycle. As for the last sentence (the thesis)If every school day started at ten o’clock, many students would find it easier to stay focused.

Statistic

By listing a proven fact or entertaining an interesting statistic that might even sound implausible to the reader, you can excite a reader to want to know more. 

Like this hook: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics , teens and young adults experience the highest rates of violent crime. Your next sentence can set up the argument that it’s dangerous for teenagers to be on the streets at late hours. A fitting thesis statement might read: Parents are justified in implementing a strict curfew, regardless of a student’s academic performance.

The Right Hook for Your Essay

The good news about finding a hook? You can find a quote, fact, or another type of hook after you determine your thesis. You can accomplish this with a simple online search about your topic after you’ve developed your essay .

You can nearly have the essay finished before you revisit the opening paragraph. Many writers polish up the first paragraph after the essay is completed.

Outlining the Steps for Writing Your Essay

Here’s an example of the steps you can follow that help you outline your essay.

  1. First paragraph: Establish the thesis
  2. Body paragraphs: Supporting evidence
  3. Last paragraph: Conclusion with a restatement of the thesis
  4. Revisit the first paragraph: Find the best hook

Obviously, the first step is to determine your thesis. You need to research your topic and know what you plan to write about. Develop a starting statement. Leave this as your first paragraph for now.

The next paragraphs become the supporting evidence for your thesis. This is where you include the statistics, opinions of experts, and anecdotal information.

Compose a closing paragraph that is basically a reiteration of your thesis statement with new assertions or conclusive findings you find during with your research.

Lastly, go back to your introductory hook paragraph. Can you use a quote, shocking fact, or paint a picture of the thesis statement using an anecdote? This is how you sink your hooks into a reader.

The best part is if you are not loving what you come up with at first, then you can play around with the introduction. Find several facts or quotes that might work for you. Try out a few different starting sentences and determine which of your choices makes the most interesting beginning to your essay.


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