By Stephanie Doty

In the past few weeks, we have covered a variety of topics for College Readiness! We hope you’ve enjoyed this series and have found it helpful!

For our final week of our College Readiness series, we are talking about college essays in a bit more detail. Since college essays are relatively short, remember they usually have a 650-word limit, what you say is extremely important. On the Common App, you have given them a lot of information about you, but your essay is where you get to decide how to use that information to convey a story or narrative about yourself.

While this sounds intimidating, it can really be boiled down to working on your hook and letting that influence the rest of your essay. The first sentence of your essay, otherwise known as the hook, lets your reader feel intrigued by your essay. Remember, the readers of your essay are reading thousands of essays written by students just like you, so you will need to really cultivate a strong beginning to grip your reader.

So, let’s begin by going over what you shouldn’t do on your college essay.

Using Words and Works that are not yours:

Firstly, starting your essay with a quote from an author, songwriter, or basically anything that is not your original works will probably not give you an advantage. It could actually be a huge disadvantage. Many of these admission officers will find this type of hook to be particularly blasé. Using different people’s works doesn’t help you establish your story or your better selling points. Stick to your own words and you’ll have a better chance!

Try not to be too Dramatic:

Look, we totally get it. This essay can feel really overwhelming but one advantage you have is that you can edit it. So even though this can be stressful, don’t start your essay with a really dramatic statement. This is an essay, not a play or the beginning of a movie, keep it calmer and you’ll be fine.

At the same time, don’t try to oversell yourself or your opinions by starting with a heavy philosophical critic on the state of humanity that can come off a little too dramatic. Additionally, it does not help you build the narrative on yourself as opposed to just proving that you are stereotypically “smart”.

Focus on your Word Count:

If you don’t have enough words in your essay and you have a title, don’t worry about the title. Your title counts as part of your word count and if it has to go, then let it go. Keep the focus on your essay!

Now, here are some Helpful Hints on what to do for your Essay Hook

Starting from the get-go, remember you want to start your essay with the end in mind. Start Use detailed imagery or suddenly bring your reader into a situation and bring them into your world. Doing this will help your reader understand you and help them empathize with you.

One interesting take for many admission officers is a twist on day to day commonplace things. Simply discussing something that everyone can recognize and diving into it in a deeper, but not obnoxiously philosophical way can really provide your readers with a refreshing topic for them to read about in their sea of essays.

Finally, if all else fails, keep it simple. If it is harder for you to come up with something groundbreaking, be yourself and that can definitely shine through. Unlike exams with essays, you can take your time and try writing the essay from multiple angles. Have someone review it and give you tips. It can feel really overwhelming but if you start not, it won’t have to be.

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