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. Part of the reason that they 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. They feel that in order to appear mature and worldly their essays must contain profound insights and sweeping observations.
Do not fall into this trap! One of the biggest complaints that our admissions officers had were essayists who tried to say and do too much in their introductions. "Just tell the story!" was repeated like a mantra in response to essayists who were trying too hard to impress. Many of these essays (not included in this book) would have been vastly improved had they simply removed their introductions altogether.
Do yourself a favor and forget about beginnings and endings during the first stages of writing. Just dive straight into the body of the text without bothering to introduce your themes or set the scene. The reason this technique works is that when you have finished writing the rest of your rough draft, you may discover that you dont need an introduction at all. But isnt that risky? Maybe. But believe it or not, more essays have been ruined by forced and unnecessary introductions than have been ruined by the lack of one. Largely this is because of the misconception of what an introduction is supposed to accomplish.
This is especially true if you are basing your essay around a story. It might feel risky or uncomfortable just letting the story stand on its own without being introduced first, but beginning with action is always a good idea as long as the action is tied closely into the points you are trying to make throughout the rest of the essay.
Leading the Way
The most important part of any beginning is, of course, the lead. Leads play the dual role of setting the theme of your essay and engaging the reader. The introduction should not be overly formal or stilted. You do not want an admissions officer to start reading your essay and think, "here we go again." Although admissions officers will try to give the entire essay a fair reading, they are only human - if you lose them after the first sentence the rest of your essay will not get the attention it deserves.
Just as you should not worry about your introduction until you have gotten an initial draft on paper, you should not begin by writing your lead unless you are feeling inspired about a particular line. Often, you will spot a good one floating around in the middle of your first draft of the essay, so dont waste time worrying about it until you have the bulk of your essay on paper.
There are many different kinds of effective leads. All of the examples below were taken from the essays in our database.
Closing Your Case
The final sentence or two of your essay is also 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 those words and thoughts count.
The most common close used in personal statements is the standard close. The standard close either summarizes the main points of the essay or asserts (or reasserts) the writers desire or qualifications to attend medical school. Some examples of standard closes include:
"I firmly believe my experiences in law, engineering, civic activity, and political activism will allow me to be a creative and contributing member of the intellectual life at ____________. Thank you for your consideration."
"Your consideration of my application is in all reality a review of my efforts to fulfill my four-year, two-fold plan. I hope you find, as I believe, that I come well-prepared."
"I have the capability, the perspective, and the commitment to become a lawyer; I am prepared to take on the social and civic duties that this vocation demands."
"Through obtaining a law degree, I hope to join many others in the struggle for our rights and dignity, and strive within an imperfect court system toward the goal of greater equality within the law."
If you have introduced a clever or unusual thought or image in the first paragraph, try referring 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 essayist, for example, closes with:
"If I were to write an article on myself, it would be one of overcoming self-inflicted personal adversity, becoming the person I always knew I could be, and ending with a successful first year of law school."
This writers reference to writing an article on himself relates back to his opening paragraph about the way his life might look through objective eyes. This stylistic touch of referring back to this in his close wraps the essay up nicely and shows that time was spent in planning and structuring.
Another essayist also does this, and then adds an extra touch by ending his final sentence in a question which relates back to his introduction about his decision to decline the opportunity of graduating two years early:
"I would not trade those years for any "jump-start" on my career. Besides, who would really want to hire a 22 year old lawyer anyway?"
Adding a bit of humor at the end was a nice way for him to show the committee that he doesnt take himself as seriously as the rest of his essay might indicate. It plays the crucial role of humanizing him and making his essay personal.
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