What is a college admissions hook?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

What is a college admissions hook?

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

College Admissions Hook:

A "hook" is another aspect of your admissions file which could be an extra incentive to the admissions office to send you the acceptance letter. Depending on the requirements and priorities of the college, such qualities could include but are not limited to talents such as athletics or music to legacies to development admits to diversity.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

What is a college admissions hook?

A college admissions hook is an special attribute a student will bring to a school. It can be a talent, a specific diversity, or legacy among a host of other items.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

The Right Hook Can Land a Big Fish

In the world of college admissions a hook is the thing that sets an applicant apart. At a selective school that is sifting through a seemingly endless number of highly qualified applicants, a hook is the thing--a specific and special talent (a long snapper in football), a singular accomplishment (any patents on file?), a piece of your story (overcoming a critical illness) that separates someone from the pack and gives the admission office a reason to accept them instead of the 5, 6, or 7 others who could fill that space. Every high school has a student government president, every school has a valedictorian, but there are other, more distinctive things that can set an applicant apart. Not everyone has a distinctive hook. Great all around records still count for a lot, but to have a hook on top of that can be of great value.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

As in writing, a hook is an attention getter

In college admissions, a "hook" is something that makes a candidate stand out in a competitive review process. Students who possess a characteristic, experience or quality that is desired by the institution are said to have a "hook." Perhaps you are a tuba player destined to dot a famous "i." Or, maybe you are interested in pursuing a major that is traditionally under-subscribed. The "hook" question is one that reminds students that admission offices ultimately make decisions that fulfill the needs and mission of their institution.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

The Hook

When most people talk about having a "hook", I believe they are referring to their essay. It's the opening line that catches the reader's attention and makes them want to keep reading. Some people may think it refers to the "spike" in you profile that makes you stand out from the crowd. While you appear well-rounded, there is an area that you are REALLY passionate about, or that makes you really unique aside from the rest of your application. You can't force a "spike", you either have one or you don't.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

A reason for a college to want YOU!

All schools expect to put together a bright freshman class and to do that they review your grades, classes and test scores. But, because there are so many bright students applying each year, they do a finer review of each application looking for those with a "hook". A Hook could be defined as having a special talent. That talent could certainly be athletic- i.e. a state ranked athlete. Or your talent might be in the arts, where you have an extensive theater, music or dance resume. There are many different types of hooks and colleges need to fill their sports teams, their orchestras, debate teams, newspapers etc. with the most talented students possible. Having a hook will not take the place of a poor academic profile, but for those students "on the bubble" it might certainly make the different as to their admissions decision.

Ellen erichards@ellened.com
Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

In education, as in life, the road to success must be paved with conviction and determination

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. - Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States (1872 - 1933) One of the biggest secrets people keep have to do with their failures. What students need to realize is that it is only by failing that you can succeed. Basically, you have to fall flat on your face in order to figure out how to pick yourself up. As one MIT professor asserts, failure is a far more common experience than success. However, upon examination, the people who have achieved great things - without the help of others - all did so by showing great fortitude and determination. Here are some examples: • Winston Churchill failed sixth grade. He was subsequently defeated in every election for public office until he became Prime Minister of England at age 62. He later wrote, "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never, Never, Never, Never give up." (If it weren't for Churchill's power of conviction one must question if his country could have withstood the nightly bombings by the Germans during World War II. He may have truly altered the course of history simply by his perseverance.) • Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded. He famously advised, "Whether you think you can or you can't you're right." • Michael Jordan and Bob Cousy (of the Boston Celtics) were each cut from their high school basketball teams. Jordan once observed, "I've failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed." • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because "he lacked imagination and had no good ideas." He went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. In fact, the proposed park was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff. • Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him "hopeless as a composer." He later wrote five of his greatest symphonies while completely deaf. • Van Gogh sold only one painting during his life - and the buyer was the sister of a friend. That did not stop him from completing over 800 paintings. • The manager of the Grand Ole Opry fired Elvis Presley after one performance and told him, "You ain't going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck." • Decca Records turned down a recording contract with the Beatles with the unprophetic evaluation, "We don't like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out."

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

have a game plan

make sure you leave postive impression to admissions rep during college fair and school visits. without counselor's introduction, you can still communicate with the colleges directly. there was a story about a applicant sending funny postcards to the admissions office everyweek and finally got accepted, he late became one of the David Letterman's successful writer. it was a true story. that's a college admissions hook.

Janelle Braverman
Educational Consultant Independent University Advisors, LLC

What is a college admissions hook?

The hook is any or multiple elements of your profile that stand out and could be used by admissions officers to describe you during committee discussions or written evaluations. As admissions get more and more competitive the hook becomes more elaborate. It’s not enough just to be the valedictorian or the star swimmer. Now it might sound something like: the valedictorian, star swimmer boy who loves poetry and has won several national competitions; or, a girl in the top 10% of her class who has won film competitions for directing and who is graduating one year early to volunteer providing HIV/AIDs Prevention Support at a pre-school in South Africa; or a student who works 40 hours/week to help support their family financially and is still in the top 10% of their graduating class. I should say that these profiles are made up, but represent the caliber of achievement and experience that a competitive applicant to a top university would have. To find your hook, think about 1) activities you’re good at 2) activities you enjoy 3) how to tie it all together.

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

What is a college admissions hook?

A college admissions hook is a special talent or attribute that makes the student stand out from other applicants. Examples of hooks include athletics, legacies, musicians, artists, linguists, or interest in a specific program offered at a particular college.