the x factor in college admissions

Posted : December 12, 2007
Last Updated : October 13, 2015

the x factor in college admissions

With the increase of applicants applying to college each year, what is going to make an admissions officer take notice of you? Sure, good grades and an impressive SAT/ACT score are definite factors for securing a spot at your top college, but do you have that special something that makes you stand out from the crowd? Check out this guide to understanding the x factor in college admissions.

The Hook
The hook refers to that unique talent or achievement that makes you stick out from other applicants. Student body presidents and yearbook editors are a dime a dozen. Your hook needs to be something more distinctive (especially if you are applying to an Ivy League school).

What's Your Hook?
To find out what your hook is, you should first think about what you have to offer your school of choice. What does the college need that other academically talented students can't give? Are you the star quarterback who also excels in academics? If the school is in need of a good quarterback, then that may be your hook for that school. Do you play an obscure instrument? Maybe the school orchestra is looking to add a new sound to their mix. Do a little research on what the college may be looking for, but don't try to sell yourself in a category in which you don't fit. Admissions officers can tell when you aren't being genuine.

Another way to find your hook is to think about your unusual attributes. Do you have a special talent such as being a stand-up comedian or pastry chef? Do you have any personal achievements such as establishing a community service club at your high school? Do your extracurricular activities involve playing a unique instrument (e.g. daxophone, harp) or sport (e.g. kayaking, underwater hockey)?

Finally, to find your hook, think about which area you have devoted the most time and energy? Schools respond to passion and focus. Are you passionate about photography and spend much of your free time taking photos? Are you dedicated to being the best athlete that you can be? Demonstrating how passionate you are about your area of interest can give you that x factor as well.

Selling Your Hook
Once you know what your hook is, it's time to market it. You should promote your hook to college admissions officers via the following avenues:

  • College application. When completing the activities portion of college applications, be sure to showcase your hook by citing it first on the list.
  • Application essay. Depending on specific essay rules, questions, topics, etc., you may be able to devote your entire application essays to your hook.
  • Resume. The high school resume gives you a more in-depth way to highlight your hook than by just naming it on the application activities list.
  • Letters of recommendation. Ask your mentors to emphasize your chosen hook in their letters of recommendation. Make sure you give your mentors all the information about your hook that they will need to complete their letters.
  • Admissions interview. If you choose to participate in a college admissions interview, be sure to discuss and promote your hook during the interview.

For more information regarding the x factor in college admissions, talk to your high school counselor. He/she may be able to help you dig into your background and experiences to find a hook that may just get you into your top choice college. Good luck!


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