You already know you want to lure those judges into caring about your essay with an exciting opening, but you also need to leave them with something to remember. The conclusion of your essay is the last part they’ll read, so it will be the freshest thing on their minds when they reflect upon each applicant.
Your conclusion does exactly what the name claims—it closes your essay and brings your message to a big finish. This is a good place to remind your audience of your main idea, but DON’T overdo it! No matter what you may have been taught in freshman composition class, nobody needs to hear you summarize all of the points in your essay. The paper wasn’t that long; I think they can remember. You know that feeling of elation you experience as you exit the theater after seeing a movie where good has triumphed over evil? Do you think the blockbuster would leave you with the same sense of satisfaction if the hero turned to his companion at the end and said:
Over the course of our adventures, we have located the magical arrow, defeated the evil king, and rescued the captive princess. Now, we are free to ride away into the sunset triumphantly… until the sequel, when the Dark Lord shall rise again to be vanquished by us for a second time.
This isn’t good story-telling. Remember that your scholarship essay is YOUR story, so tell it in a way that makes people listen in rapt attention, not roll their eyes and say, “Do you think we’re stupid? You already told us that!”
If you feel the need to summarize your essay in the conclusion, at least present the information in a whole new way. Get out your thesaurus and look up a few synonyms. But please promise me that you will never, ever announce to your readers that your essay is about to end by beginning your final paragraph with “In conclusion…” or “To summarize…” They know it’s over. They can see that the words are about to stop.
“Fine,” you say, “You‘ve told me what not to do, now how ’bout sharing a few tips on the way I SHOULD conclude my essay?”
Your conclusion should definitely link back to your beginning, bringing the essay full circle, but you want to avoid simply repeating your introduction. Remember my example of Sammy, the incompetent six-year-old skydiver? Let’s say that his essay is answering the question, “Tell us about a goal you’ve already set and conquered in your life, and explain the process of your success.” Sam might begin his conclusion by saying:
On the day of my very first sky dive, Mom was waiting on the ground with her cell phone in her hand, her finger poised to dial 9-1-1. I was proud of myself when I proved to her that all enthusiastic leaps of passion do not have to end in pain and disaster. As I complete my education, I will always look back on my skydiving lessons to remind myself that even the wildest, most reckless dreams can be made a reality if I am persistent and dedicated to achieving my goal.
I can’t tell you exactly how you should conclude your essay, because the topics and formats vary drastically from scholarship to scholarship.Your best bet is to determine what information the committee wants from you, and make sure you’ve given it to them, but here are some common questions you might ask yourself as you compose your conclusion:
- What have I learned?
- How can I use this knowledge?
- What are my future goals?
- Why are they important?
- What is my next step?
- How can I encourage my audience to put further thought into my subject?
Check back soon for an example of a cracking conclusion.