Your essay hook is two things: It's the start of a great story, and it's a unique nugget that only you can share. Decide what story you want to start your essay with, and then pick the detail that makes the story unique, interesting, and only yours.
I worked with a student a few years ago whose essay was about a 10-day canoe trip he took with his Boy Scout troop. His first draft started, "The best day I ever had was on my trip to Northern Tier." That's fine, but it doesn't make me open my eyes wider and race to find out more. So we talked about the trip and why it was great and he started telling me stories from that adventure. And he finally laughed and told me that one cold, rainy morning, he stepped out of his tent and sunk into mud--up to his chest. It happened so fast and so dramatically that his troop mates had to come running to pull him out.
"There it is," I told him. "That's your hook. That's the story that makes me want to know more." So he rewrote:
"So it’s 45 degrees outside and I’m up to my chest in mud like a cartoon character in quicksand. My friends are laughing at me. I’m trying to keep my 30-pound backpack from being completely sucked into the muck. I’m pretty sure my shoes are down there somewhere. I’m not really sure how I’m going to get out of this one. By the way, it was the best experience of my life."
Another example: I worked with a student having a hard time with a topic for a prompt about overcoming challenges; all things considered, she's had a pretty challenge-free life. So we sat down and started bouncing ideas, knowing we were looking for unique, attention-catching, and not exaggerated (counselors see right through it).
"I've been fighting with the F chord on my guitar for a long time," she said, "But that's not an essay." And I asked, "You sure about that?" We--mostly she--started outlining where that essay could go and within a few days, she had it: A great hook, a unique topic nobody else would write about for that prompt, and an essay that spoke to who she is as a person without being obvious. She later got emails from two admissions counselors who wrote to say how much they loved her essay, and one said it was passed around his office because they all enjoyed it so much. Read it here.
Everybody has a hook. Think about an experience only you have had, pick your favorite detail, and start writing. Not sure? We can talk through it. I promise, there's a great one.
I greatly appreciate the warmth and professionalism that Kim offered to my daughter. She was always available to offer guidance in an efficient and kind manner. My daughter moved through the college essay writing process with much more confidence and ease due to Kim's support.