30 Days to Freedom

5 Ways to Powerfully End Your College Essay

4 Comments 21 October 2013

The End

by Sophie Herron of Story to College

 

Last Friday we worked on how to identify your Pivot, the key moment or climax of your college essay, as the first step to make sure your essay meets the three requirements of the form: that your college essay needs to be short and energetic, and reveal your character.

 

Today, we’re going to jump right into the next step of revising your essay: The End. We’ll look at the most important dos and don’ts, and 5 techniques you can use in your own essay.

 

We’re working on the end today because:

1. It’s harder to get right than the beginning. Sorry. It just is.

2. Having a good, clear ending helps you write & revise the rest of your story.

3. It’s the last thing an admissions officer will read, so it’s especially important.

 

All right, enough chatter. On to the good stuff.

 

The Most Important Do and Don’t of College Essay Endings

DO: End in the action.

 

End right after your pivot, or key moment. I constantly tell students to end earlier–end right next to your success! (Whatever “success” means, in your particular essay.) Think of the “fade-to-black” in a movie–you want us to end on the high, glowy feeling. End with the robot’s arm lifting, or your call home to celebrate, or your grandma thanking you. Then stop. Leave your reader wanting more! Keep the admissions officer thinking about you.

In fact, that’s why we call successful endings Glows here at Story To College, because that’s exactly how you want your admissions officer to feel. Glowy. Impressed. Moved. Inspired. Don’t ruin the moment. End earlier.

 

DON’T: Summarize.

Here’s your challenge: don’t ever say the point of your essay. Cut every single “that’s when I realized” and “I learned” and “the most important thing was…” Every single one. They’re boring, unconvincing, and doing you no favors.

 

When you tell the reader what to feel, or think, you stop telling a story. And then the reader stops connecting with you. And then they stop caring. Don’t let this happen. Don’t summarize.

 

But if you don’t–how do you end?

5 Ways to Powerfully End Your College Essay

 

1. Dialogue.

Did someone tell you good job, or thank you, or congratulate you? Did you finally speak up, or get something done? Put it in dialogue. It’s a powerful way to end. In fact, it’s an easy revision of those “I learned…” sentences earlier. So you learned to never give up?

 

“Hey mom,” I said into my phone. “Yeah, I’m not coming home right away–I’ve got practice.”

BOOM. Look at that.

2. Action

Here’s a simple example:

I pushed open the door, and stepped inside.

 

Even without context, you can tell this student took a risk and committed to something. It’s all in the actions.

 

3. Description

Maybe you want to end in a mood, or by creating a wider view of things, or by focusing in on a certain important object.

 

The whole robot shuddered as it creaked to life and rolled across the concrete floor. It’s silver arm gently grasped the upturned box, and then, lifted it.

 

There’s some combination here with action, but that’s perfectly fine.

 

4. Go full circle.

Did you talk to someone at the beginning? You might end by talking to them again. Or if you described a certain object, you might mention it again. There are lots of ways to end where you began, and it’s often a really satisfying technique.

 

5. Directly address the college.

Tell them what you’re going to do there, or what you’re excited about. I did this, actually in mine–something like:

 

And that’s why I’m so excited about the Core Curriculum: I’m going to study everything.

This technique breaks the “don’t tell them what your essay is about” rule–but only a little. Be sure to still sound like yourself, and to be very confident in your plans.

That’s all! Be sure to check out “Success Stories” (again, here)  if you haven’t yet for more examples of each of these techniques.

 

Next, we’ll look at beginnings!

 

In the meantime, check out these great resources:

 

NEW: Essay Feedback

 

Find out your strengths and weaknesses.

 

Get comments and a full-length letter detailing your strengths and next steps from our highly-trained instructors.

ADDITIONAL TIME SLOT

Breaking Down Supplements

 

Due to demand, we’re having another webinar this Tuesday. Register for our FREE webinar October 22, from 7-8 pm.

 

Build supplement essays that connect powerfully with admissions officers.

NEW: College Application Organizer

 

Stay on task and never miss a deadline.

 

Keep track of each school’s deadlines, supplements, and other requirements.

Sophie Herron taught high school English in Houston, Texas, at KIPP Houston High School through Teach For America. Since then, she received her MFA in Poetry from New York University, where she was a Goldwater Fellow, instructor of Creative Writing, and Managing Editor of Washington Square Review, the graduate literary journal. She continues to teach as an instructor at Story To College and as a teaching artist with the Community-Word Project. She is a poet and podcaster.

Your Comments

4 Comments so far

  1. mantonangus says:

    I have two things to say here

    1. Write your stories out loud: Gather a small group of friends, and tell your stories out loud to one another. Even writing as you talk will unleash your memories, emotions, and active voice–which generate powerfully moving essays every time. The Story To College Moments Method™ is based on the neuroscience of oral storytelling. Tomorrow I’ll share 5 specific tips on how to make the most of oral storytelling in your college essays.

    2. When in doubt, walk: Let’s say you’ve told your story out loud, you’ve used one or more of the exercises from last week to go from scripts to stories, and you’ve expanded the strongest parts of your writing with more detail. And you still feel stuck! Now what? Stand up, walk around the room–or go outside–and imagine your essay as physical movement from one place to another. Your story has a beginning, middle, and end, like a physical journey. Once you can feel that movement, go back and revise your essay with that journey in mind

  2. amy says:

    im not in college
    lol

  3. momoko says:

    I don’t quite agree with you, because you should never leave your admission officers wondering about where you will go. In my opinion, end with both the present you and the future you. So this will give them who you were, are and will be. Just my 2cents.

  4. Dude says:

    Why can’t we summarize in the conclusion,my middle school teacher said to summarize your essays in the the conclusion but only the important parts.Also you should make a high school and middle school page for Those who aren’t in college yet because not only do college students need help on essays we do too.


Share your view

Post a comment

Join us!

Create a free profile and...
  • Discover more than $11 billion in scholarships and merit aid
  • Get your college matches and see which colleges want you
  • Instantly see your admissions chances for getting into the college of your dreams
Create My Profile Now