Leading the Way
Closing Your Case
Beginnings and endings can be the most challenging part of crafting any piece of writing and, in many ways, the most important. The words and images you use must do more than simply announce the theme or topic of your essay they must engage the reader. You do not want an admissions officer to start reading your essay and think, "Here we go again." If, after the first sentence, the admissions counselor does not like what she sees, she may not read on.
Note: All of the examples used in this section have been taken from our database of real admissions essays from applicants who were accepted into top schools.
Leading the Way
Part of the reason that leads and endings are so difficult is that writers tend to worry about them too much. There is so much hype on the necessity of thoroughly introducing the subject and ending with sharply drawn conclusions that anxious essayists compensate by going overboard. You do not have to begin by writing the lead. Often, you will spot the lead floating around in the middle of your first draft of the essay. There are many different kinds of effective leads. You will find examples of some of them listed below. Remember too that if you have segmented your essay into distinct parts with different titles, you need to treat every segment as a separate essay and find an effective lead for each.
Closing Your Case
The final sentence or two of your essay is critical. It must finish your thought or assertion, and it is an important part of creating a positive and memorable image. Endings are the last experience an admissions officer has with your essay, so you need to make that moment count. A standard close merely summarizes the main points you have made. But you should not feel obligated to tie everything up into a neat bow. The essay can conclude with some ambiguity, if appropriate, as long as it offers insights. If you have introduced a clever or unusual thought in the first paragraph, refer back to it in your conclusion. The aim is for the admissions officer to leave your essay thinking, "That was a satisfying read," and "I wish there were more."
One essay, for example, closes with: "So I am not going to take my friends advice. They have their dogs already, and the BMW is ordered. Sorry I am not ready for that." This provides a strong, personal close reflecting back on the writers reluctance to taking advice and following the usual path. This theme opens in the first sentence: "Stop foolin around, old boy. How would an MBA help you? Better get on with your career. Thats what they say. Friends, colleagues, others ", and is reiterated in the middle of the essay "Getting a dog at 35 and the BMW and house that go with it. No thanks...." He could easily have ended with the previous paragraph which sums up the points he made in his essay and is itself a good example of a standard close. But by opting for a more lighthearted approach he not only ties neatly back into his theme, but also leaves the reader with a strong sense of his personality.
Another essayist provides a similarly good example of this technique. The last paragraph reads: "In five years Ive grown more confident, more secure, and more at ease. I wouldnt say Im a different person that I was at twenty, but Im definitely an improved version. Plus the biggest change of all Im a brunette now." The first sentence of this close provides the summary of the points made. The second reiterates back to the question that was asked. The third is like the icing on the cake not only does it tie back to an earlier allusion made in the first paragraph: "I had curly blond hair down to my waist " but it also lets the reader finish with a smile.
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