What is it?

It captures a reader’s attention and sets the tone and style of the piece. The hook occurs within the first sentence or two.

Why is it Important?

Unlike your English teacher, admissions officers are under no obligation to finish your essay. Considering their hectic schedules and the sheer volume of essays to be read, something compelling, significant, entertaining, etc. must happen within those first couple sentences, enough to keep the reader’s attention.

How do I create it?

A powerful quotation, paraphrase, or declarative statement:
We’re all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
 Martin Luther King
“Ain’t I a woman?” Sojourner Truth 

Attention grabbing dialogue:
“Listen here baby, this here important –when the police stop you, remember the only thing on your mind should be getting home safe to me. So keep your hands on the wheel and where they can see them, don’t move and don’t speak until told to. Remember baby, out there, they don’t know your heart, all they know is you a young black man.”

A little known or striking fact:
The average kid attends school 180 days each year; multiply that by 12 years and you get a grand total of 2,160 compulsory school days.

A powerful setting:
New York City is a horrible place to be bulimic. It is like living in a mall food court, and not one of those rinky-dink mall food courts. An obnoxiously large mall food court. Think Mall of America, only instead of 500 retail shops there are 500 food court vendors. Greek, Italian, Chinese, Mongolian, African, Latin, and millions of other delicacies. All within 100 feet of your front door. For those days when 100 feet seems too far a commute, no worries. They all deliver, free of charge.

An interesting incident or anecdote related to your story:
I began carrying feminine bags around age 13 — graduating to full on purses around age 21.

An explanation of why your story is worth reading:
In preparation for this show I did a significant amount of research, most of it unpleasant — like the weeks I spent combing the internet for stories about unarmed black men shot down by the police — talk about depressing, and not your pop-a-Prozac depressing, more like Sarah-McLachlan-Humane-Society-Ad-times-one-thousand depressing.”

A question that will be answered by your thesis, or will catch the reader’s attention and lead toward your thesis topic:
Do Black Lives Matter?


Use this exercise to help you begin and/or analyze your admissions essay.

  • Read the first paragraph of 10 books of fiction and 10 memoirs.
The Hook
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