“The hardest thing about getting started is getting started.” This quote is often attributed to Guy Kawasaki, a marketer who helped popularize Apple’s Macintosh computer.
You’re facing a less daunting task in writing a Personal Statement, but I’m sure Kawasaki’s quote still resonates with you as you stare at your blank doc and wonder how the heck you’re supposed to jumpstart your essay in a memorable way.
The opening line, or sometimes the whole opening paragraph, is often referred to as “the hook” because of its need to grab and pull the reader in. Sometimes the process of writing a hook will stymie students for weeks as they wallow in writer’s block. Reversely, once they have their hook, the rest of the essay sometimes writes itself. It’s that crucial for success.
So how do we start in getting started? Before anything else, here are some common “hook” mistakes to avoid:
It’s far more important for your hook to simply be interesting and show your value as a person! There’s always a way to eventually connect your story (whatever it may be) to the driving principles and core qualities that underlie your future goals.
So, ask yourself the following questions:
These are all real stories from our past students, but they are a minority! Don’t feel bad if you don’t have a story like this! We have many more options for your hook.
Admissions committees (at all levels) LOVE to see this kind of impact. Yours does not have to be as large in scale as the examples above. It just needs to be an example of a time you showed initiative to fill a gap or need in the communities around you.
These forms of personal impact lend themselves to interesting narratives that will show your value to others right away.
Even if this interest doesn’t perfectly connect with your long-term goals, readers respond well to passion. The more specific the details, the better.
We hope these do’s and don’ts for Personal Statement hooks have given you several ideas to jumpstart your essay and highlight your best qualities.
But we also know there’s more to this process than just having a good idea. Stay tuned for our next post where we’ll cover the stylistic qualities of good hooks and give some strong examples!
- Ryan and Rob
P.S. We are in the process of building out the Pathfinder Med School Course - a FREE series of online courses to help students master their applications. Read about it here!