Best College Essay Conclusion
Lesson Five: Introductions and Conclusons
The conclusion is your last chance to persuade the reader or impress upon them your qualifications. Endings are the last experience an admissions officer has with your essay, so you need to make those words and thoughts count. 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. The aim is for the admissions officer to leave your essay thinking, “That was a satisfying read.” Here are some Do’s and Don’ts as you develop your conclusion.
Expand upon the broader implications of your discussion. This could include the following strategies:
Consider linking your conclusion to your introduction to establish a sense of balance by reiterating introductory phrases.
Redefine a term used previously in your body paragraphs.
End with a famous quote that is relevant to your argument. Do not TRY to do this, as this approach is overdone. This should come naturally.
Frame your discussion within a larger context or show that your topic has widespread appeal.
Tie the conclusion back to your introduction. A nice conclusion makes use of the creativity you used in your introduction. If you used an anecdote in your intro, use the conclusion to finish telling that story.
Try to end on a positive note. You may want to restate your goals in terms of how they will be fulfilled at the institution to which you are applying.
Summarize. Since the essay is rather short to begin with, the reader should not need to be reminded of what you wrote 300 words beforehand. You do not need to wrap up your essay in a nice little package. It should be an ending, not a summary.
Use stock phrases. Phrases such as, “in conclusion,” “in summary,” “to conclude,” belong only in dry, scientific writing. Don’t use them.
Try to Explain the Unexplainable. Your essay need not be so tidy that you can answer why people die or why starvation exists -- you are not writing a sitcom -- but it should forge some attempt at closure.
Before you move on to Lesson Six: Editing and Revising, you should take a break. Let your draft sit for a day or two. You need to distance yourself from the piece so you can gain objectivity. If there is anything more difficult than trying to edit your own work, it is trying to edit your own work right after you have written it. Once you have let your work sit for a while, you will be better able to tackle the final steps of editing and revising.
Move on to Lesson Six: Editing and Revising
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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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.