Personal Statement Writing Secrets: 8 Ways to Hook the Reader

Personal Statement Writing Secrets: 8 Ways to Hook the Reader

It's always best to start your personal statement with an attention-grabbing intro. There are a lot of ways to do this - and I encourage you to explore other short stories or novels to see how the author has started them - but today I will share with you my top 8 hook-the-reader techniques.

1) Describe an image in a particular moment without giving too much away; use the senses to make the reader feel like they're there:

Instinctively, I hold my breath. The pungent fragrance of roasted coffee beans and the shrill sound of steam whistles from the espresso machines force my senses into overload. Before me are mounds of freshly-baked goodies and colossal stacks of books piled on bookshelves as high as the ceiling.

Then add a sentence that explains what is happening:

Pressing my nose against the glass cover, I don’t budge until the ginormous chocolate-chip cookie is within my possession.

2) Drop the reader into a scene:

I could tell from my mom's tight, white grip it was bad news. She'd just picked up her phone to check a text, and as she read it, her body tensed.

"Your dad won't be coming."

3) Surprise the reader by stating something they totally don't expect:

In the United States, legal adulthood comes at 18, but it is my understanding that adulthood comes through responsibility, tears, laughter, and most of all: parenthood. It is effortless to watch other people’s children grow and flourish, but having my own was a terrifying new world for which I was ill-prepared. I was not ready for my first, Stanley, but now I cannot envision a world without him. Today, I am the proud parent of not one, but seven beautiful, boisterous, carnivorous plants.

4) Make a surprising confession - something you might be judged for:

I’ve recently come to the realization that community service just isn’t for me. Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.

5) State a random personal fact:

I was born with an extra hand - kind of.

6) State a fact that might be unknown to the reader:

Tens of thousands of rubber ducks were lost at sea in 1992 and are still being discovered today.

7) Use a simile or metaphor - make a comparison to help explain a complicated topic:

When it comes to scary teeth, piranhas’ bite is among the most fearsome. Their razor-sharp teeth strip prey’s flesh with the ease of a butcher’s knife.

8) Start with a question that connects to a personal story:

Can a fish be depressed? This question has been floating around my head ever since I spent a night in a hotel across from an excruciatingly sad-looking Siamese fighting fish.



Whether you’ve already started your personal statement or not, these techniques will surely add pizzazz to your introduction. I suggest you play around with each of them until you find one that works for you and your story. And if you’ve already started drafting, read through what you’ve already written because you just might find your opening lines in the middle of your essay.

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