What is a college admissions hook?

As part our College Q & A guide, we decided to ask your questions to the experts. Here are their answers.

Margaret Tung, Strategist, Yale University

A hook is something that makes you tick–or something you’re passionate about that is unique. Maybe you’re really into fly-fishing, maybe you’re into taxidermy (hopefully scientifically, not as a creepy obsession), maybe you’re multi-racial and you’re living in an otherwise homogenous community and you have an interesting experience to reflect on. Basically, what makes you stand out from your peers? Think about who your peers are…maybe on paper you’re a hardcore science nerd, but you’ve volunteered summer after summer at a poetry camp for kids and you’ve published a small book of poems because you have a burning desire to be the next poet laureate, after you save the world through rocket science. But it doesn’t have to be something super extraordinary like that, even. Maybe you’re just good at something–it doesn’t have to be unique–and you care about it so much you touch it in all parts of your life. Say you’re on the high school basketball team and on weekends you coach basketball for youths, or you started a basketball fan club where everyone runs stats and watches plays together and analyzes the game, or you start a weekly basketball game at a hospital for patients in PT who are close to full recovery, or you’ve researched some way to make manufacturing basketballs more sustainable. You see what I mean. An admissions hook is: you love something and you’ve done a lot within your power to get out there and make sure it’s in your life.

Suzan Reznick, Independent Educational Consultant, The College Connection

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