Did you know admission officers might read around50 essays per day during the application season?
A college application essay is not about your grades and scores, but your personality and who you are beyond school activities. You need to breathe life into it. Drawing attention to your writing, as well as making officers read it, should be your #1 priority.
And this is why essay hooks exist.
They are the first 1-2 sentences of your introduction, aimed at grabbing a reader’s interest. To stand out from the crowd of other applicants,begin your essay with a captivating opening line.
But how do you do that? How do you make your essay stand out among the other 49?
Make your essay sound beautiful from the jump. Similes or metaphors in the introduction would signal that you are a great author whose works are interesting to read. Certainly, any stylistic devices you use should be relevant andnon-plagiarized/paraphrased.
America’s elephant in the room is the high rate of poverty.
This hook doesn’t fit all academic papers, but don’t be afraid of implementing it in your personal application essay. A humorous start grabs a reader’s interest, but it doesn’t mean your entire work should be comedic.
It was Christmas of 1995 when my parents taught me a valuable lesson: always expect the unexpected.
Give Interesting Facts
Such hooks surprise readers with something they might not have known. Provide a definition or fact related to the topic or arguments you are going to discuss in your essay, and that will make people want to keep on reading and learn more.
Ancient Egyptians used heavy eye makeup to keep evil spirits at bay.
Rhetorical or not, questions attract interest better than anything: they make people think, wonder and continue reading your essay with the hope to find answers. That is why, if you decide to use a question as a hook, make sure to come up with the one engaging critical thinking rather than simple yes-or-no answers.
What would you do if you could play God for a day? That’s exactly what I tried to answer.
Reveal Common Misconceptions
Your essay should provide admission officers with new information. A perfect hook would be taking a common fact and demonstrating its false in relation to you. Needless to say, they will be willing to continue reading your essay to find out the details.
While most fitness enthusiasts would tell that it’s fine to drink 1.5-2 liters of water daily, I know they are wrong. Six is my minimum.
Start with Quotations
You can use two types of quotes here:literary citations and quotes from famous people or influencers in the field. A literary quote would be a perfect hook for your application essay, while quoting influencers helps to support an argument you represent in your paper. But make sure the quote is relevant to the topic.
When Hillary Clinton said “We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society,” she inspired me to start volunteering my time to help others.
Some teachers consider this type of essay hooks too cliche and overused. They discourage essays started or finished with words of influencers, not students themselves. So, if you decide to use such hook, find a rare yet relevant quote. Don’t copy-paste the first available saying from a motivational quote website.
Numbers and facts are powerful essay hooks because they demonstrate your awareness on the subject. When reading facts from the jump of your paper, the audience assumes that the entire essay will be well-researched and fact-based. Statistics give tone and set the style to the whole document.
70% of all jobs found today were got through different networking strategies.
Sure, a lip-smacking opening doesn’t make your application essay a masterpiece at once. It grabs attention and creates the first impression about your writing, it makes admission officers decide whether your essay is going to be interesting to read, and it highlights your voice as well as personality.
But to nail down a success, make sure your essay is personal, structured, well-written, and proofread. Check if it includes specific details and examples highlighting who you are, don’t make it sound too formal, and avoid vague language to not make officers get bored while reading it.
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“Hey,” I began, “you have cow eyes. I know that sounds like a bad thing but have you ever looked into a cow’s eyes? They are so deep and brown and beautiful. I’ve looked into a lot a cow eyes because I’m from Wisconsin.”
This dialogue segment is from Malcolm Conner’s winning “Modern Love” College Essay,printedjustacouplemonthsagointheNewYorkTimes. Without dialogue, he might have said “I fumbled with my words, trying to compliment her,” but the dialogue shows his rambling and awkward demeanor instead.
Dialogue is an underutilized tool in the college essay. So many students don’t even consider adding an outdated adage from a parent or a hilarious crack from a high school coach to break up their prose, set the scene or build the profiles of their stories’ characters. And yet, dialogue is one of those devices that can give you a lot of bang for your buck, delivering a punch of personality or a wallop of context using just a few carefully culled utterances. Dialogue is also one of those tools that is easy to waste if you don’t know how to wield it for maximum effect. So when should you use dialogue in your college essay? And when should you avoid it?
If it reveals something specific about a character in your essay. Is your character cranky? A jokester? Is your character selfish? (“You can’t have any.”) Dialogue can telegraph these kinds of qualities to a reader very quickly.
If it helps to move the story forward. Maybe when everything is going great, your friend pulls you aside and says, “I have to tell you something, something bad.”
If it expresses humor or heartache or other emotions in the character’s own words. Is your character a funny grandparent? (“If you eat any more potatoes, Ireland’s gonna come for you, sport.” “Honey, if I had known about senior discounts, I would have let my hair go grey twenty years ago.”)
Don’t use dialogue:
If it is expressing something that is obvious to the reader without adding an additional layer of context or insight to the story or your characters. If it doesn’t tell us anything new about the character, the story may be better without it.
If you’ve already used it a few times in your essay. The impact of dialogue is enhanced when it’s used sparingly — especially in short pieces of writing.
If it takes away from the focal point of your story. Dialogue can be great insight into a character or situation, but if it doesn’t serve a purpose in hitting home your main point, it needs to be cut.
All of this said, of course, there are exceptions to these rules. If used intentionally, as a conscious creative choice, submitting an essay overflowing with dialogue can actually work to amazing effect. For example, maybe your essay is a discussion between you and your former self, between you and your best friend, or you and your parent. In these cases, you should ask yourself: why is this the best way to share my story? If you can answer that question and still believe you’re making the right choice, by all means, continue with your experiment.
Otherwise, the tips above should help you on the road to incorporating the right kind and amount of dialogue into your college essay. When used well, dialogue illuminates. It shows personality. It’s specific. I say, “Do it! Do it! Do it!”