In my end is my beginning

I am terrible at saying goodbye. Just last week I was on vacation, and not once did I have a proper farewell. Every time I rushed to convey thanks, the sadness of departure, the relief of going home, the dread of the journey, and the joy of the visit. Generally, that involved a quick wave as a door closed in front of me.

The SAT essay, however, is much easier to bid farewell to. With a little practice, you’ll wave with the practiced elegance of the Queen of England.

Goodbye to all that!

Goodbye to all that!

The first strategy is the opening concession. Basically, this gambit forces you to offer something that sounds like it agrees with the argument that you oppose. For example, remember those body paragraphs about Napoleon and Nixon from the previous post? They were all about the potential disaster that success can lead to.

For your conclusion, though, you would acknowledge that success can, in fact, be a good thing:

Having goals and achieving them is important…

Notice that this is in my own voice, not in the voice of “many people” or “society” or “the culture,” as the opening of my introduction had. This is important: instead of showing that you disagree with others, this opening concession actually shows a point of agreement with others, indicating a complexity of thought that the readers appreciate. But you don’t want to veer too far off course, so complete the sentence with a contradiction that restates the essential truth of your main idea:

Having goals and achieving them is important; however, we must also bear in mind the pitfalls that success lays in front of us so that we may do our best to avoid them. As the examples of Napoleon and Nixon show, the light of achievement can blind you, leading you not to further success but to ultimate failure.

Notice how this conclusion ends. Now, look at this introduction to the same essay:

Our culture worships success, publishing books about how to prosper and lionizing those that have reached the heights of their careers. However, this constant stare into the sun of success has left us blinded to its dark side. In many cases, success can cause changes in personality–or merely aggravate existing traits–to the point of disaster. Most commonly, success is disastrous because it causes either overweening arrogance or dangerous paranoia, as in the cases of Napoleon and Richard Nixon, respectively.

Look how the conclusion concludes with the same image that the introduction began with. Ending with something that calls back to your beginning makes your essay feel like a unified whole. It’s not necessary to write a conclusion like this, but it does provide a satisfyingly complete experience for your reader that may lead to a 12.

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