Frequently asked questions

How should i end my college admissions essay.

There are a few strategies you can use for a memorable ending to your college essay :

  • Return to the beginning with a “full circle” structure
  • Reveal the main point or insight in your story
  • Look to the future
  • End on an action

The best technique will depend on your topic choice, essay outline, and writing style. You can write several endings using different techniques to see which works best.

Frequently asked questions: College admissions essays

When writing your Common App essay , choose a prompt that sparks your interest and that you can connect to a unique personal story.

No matter which prompt you choose, admissions officers are more interested in your ability to demonstrate personal development , insight, or motivation for a certain area of study.

The Common App essay is your primary writing sample within the Common Application, a college application portal accepted by more than 900 schools. All your prospective schools that accept the Common App will read this essay to understand your character, background, and value as a potential student.

Since this essay is read by many colleges, avoid mentioning any college names or programs; instead, save tailored answers for the supplementary school-specific essays within the Common App.

Most importantly, your essay should be about you , not another person or thing. An insightful college admissions essay requires deep self-reflection, authenticity, and a balance between confidence and vulnerability.

Your essay shouldn’t be a résumé of your experiences but instead should tell a story that demonstrates your most important values and qualities.

When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding your message and content. Then, check for flow, tone, style , and clarity. Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors .

If your college essay goes over the word count limit , cut any sentences with tangents or irrelevant details. Delete unnecessary words that clutter your essay.

If you’re struggling to reach the word count for your college essay, add vivid personal stories or share your feelings and insight to give your essay more depth and authenticity.

If you’ve got to write your college essay fast , don’t panic. First, set yourself deadlines: you should spend about 10% of your remaining time on brainstorming, 10% on outlining, 40% writing, 30% revising, and 10% taking breaks in between stages.

Second, brainstorm stories and values based on your essay prompt.

Third, outline your essay based on the montage or narrative essay structure .

Fourth, write specific, personal, and unique stories that would be hard for other students to replicate.

Fifth, revise your essay and make sure it’s clearly written.

Last, if possible, get feedback from an essay coach . Scribbr essay editors can help you revise your essay in 12 hours or less.

Avoid swearing in a college essay , since admissions officers’ opinions of profanity will vary. In some cases, it might be okay to use a vulgar word, such as in dialogue or quotes that make an important point in your essay. However, it’s safest to try to make the same point without swearing.

If you have bad grades on your transcript, you may want to use your college admissions essay to explain the challenging circumstances that led to them. Make sure to avoid dwelling on the negative aspects and highlight how you overcame the situation or learned an important lesson.

However, some college applications offer an additional information section where you can explain your bad grades, allowing you to choose another meaningful topic for your college essay.

Here’s a brief list of college essay topics that may be considered cliché:

  • Extracurriculars, especially sports
  • Role models
  • Dealing with a personal tragedy or death in the family
  • Struggling with new life situations (immigrant stories, moving homes, parents’ divorce)
  • Becoming a better person after community service, traveling, or summer camp
  • Overcoming a difficult class
  • Using a common object as an extended metaphor

It’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic. However, it’s possible to make a common topic compelling with interesting story arcs, uncommon connections, and an advanced writing style.

Yes. The college application essay is less formal than other academic writing —though of course it’s not mandatory to use contractions in your essay.

In a college essay , you can be creative with your language . When writing about the past, you can use the present tense to make the reader feel as if they were there in the moment with you. But make sure to maintain consistency and when in doubt, default to the correct verb tense according to the time you’re writing about.

The college admissions essay gives admissions officers a different perspective on you beyond your academic achievements, test scores, and extracurriculars. It’s your chance to stand out from other applicants with similar academic profiles by telling a unique, personal, and specific story.

Use a standard font such as Times New Roman or Arial to avoid distracting the reader from your college essay’s content.

A college application essay is less formal than most academic writing . Instead of citing sources formally with in-text citations and a reference list, you can cite them informally in your text.

For example, “In her research paper on genetics, Quinn Roberts explores …”

There is no set number of paragraphs in a college admissions essay . College admissions essays can diverge from the traditional five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in English class. Just make sure to stay under the specified word count .

Most topics are acceptable for college essays if you can use them to demonstrate personal growth or a lesson learned. However, there are a few difficult topics for college essays that should be avoided. Avoid topics that are:

  • Overly personal (e.g. graphic details of illness or injury, romantic or sexual relationships)
  • Not personal enough (e.g. broad solutions to world problems, inspiring people or things)
  • Too negative (e.g. an in-depth look at your flaws, put-downs of others, criticizing the need for a college essay)
  • Too boring (e.g. a resume of your academic achievements and extracurriculars)
  • Inappropriate for a college essay (e.g. illegal activities, offensive humor, false accounts of yourself, bragging about privilege)

To write an effective diversity essay , include vulnerable, authentic stories about your unique identity, background, or perspective. Provide insight into how your lived experience has influenced your outlook, activities, and goals. If relevant, you should also mention how your background has led you to apply for this university and why you’re a good fit.

Many universities believe a student body composed of different perspectives, beliefs, identities, and backgrounds will enhance the campus learning and community experience.

Admissions officers are interested in hearing about how your unique background, identity, beliefs, culture, or characteristics will enrich the campus community, which is why they assign a diversity essay .

In addition to your main college essay , some schools and scholarships may ask for a supplementary essay focused on an aspect of your identity or background. This is sometimes called a diversity essay .

You can use humor in a college essay , but carefully consider its purpose and use it wisely. An effective use of humor involves unexpected, keen observations of the everyday, or speaks to a deeper theme. Humor shouldn’t be the main focus of the essay, but rather a tool to improve your storytelling.

Get a second opinion from a teacher, counselor, or essay coach on whether your essay’s humor is appropriate.

Though admissions officers are interested in hearing your story, they’re also interested in how you tell it. An exceptionally written essay will differentiate you from other applicants, meaning that admissions officers will spend more time reading it.

You can use literary devices to catch your reader’s attention and enrich your storytelling; however, focus on using just a few devices well, rather than trying to use as many as possible.

To decide on a good college essay topic , spend time thoughtfully answering brainstorming questions. If you still have trouble identifying topics, try the following two strategies:

  • Identify your qualities → Brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities
  • Identify memorable stories → Connect your qualities to these stories

You can also ask family, friends, or mentors to help you brainstorm topics, give feedback on your potential essay topics, or recall key stories that showcase your qualities.

Yes—admissions officers don’t expect everyone to have a totally unique college essay topic . But you must differentiate your essay from others by having a surprising story arc, an interesting insight, and/or an advanced writing style .

There are no foolproof college essay topics —whatever your topic, the key is to write about it effectively. However, a good topic

  • Is meaningful, specific, and personal to you
  • Focuses on you and your experiences
  • Reveals something beyond your test scores, grades, and extracurriculars
  • Is creative and original

Unlike a five-paragraph essay, your admissions essay should not end by summarizing the points you’ve already made. It’s better to be creative and aim for a strong final impression.

You should also avoid stating the obvious (for example, saying that you hope to be accepted).

College deadlines vary depending on the schools you’re applying to and your application plan:

  • For early action applications and the first round of early decision applications, the deadline is on November 1 or 15. Decisions are released by mid-December.
  • For the second round of early decision applications, the deadline is January 1 or 15. Decisions are released in January or February.
  • Regular decision deadlines usually fall between late November and mid-March, and decisions are released in March or April.
  • Rolling admission deadlines run from July to April, and decisions are released around four to eight weeks after submission.

Depending on your prospective schools’ requirements, you may need to submit scores for the SAT or ACT as part of your college application .

Some schools now no longer require students to submit test scores; however, you should still take the SAT or ACT and aim to get a high score to strengthen your application package.

Aim to take the SAT or ACT in the spring of your junior year to give yourself enough time to retake it in the fall of your senior year if necessary.

Apply early for federal student aid and application fee waivers. You can also look for scholarships from schools, corporations, and charitable foundations.

To maximize your options, you should aim to apply to about eight schools:

  • Two reach schools that might be difficult to get into
  • Four match schools that you have a good chance of getting into
  • Two safety schools that you feel confident you’ll get into

The college admissions essay accounts for roughly 25% of the weight of your application .

At highly selective schools, there are four qualified candidates for every spot. While your academic achievements are important, your college admissions essay can help you stand out from other applicants with similar profiles.

In general, for your college application you will need to submit all of the following:

  • Your personal information
  • List of extracurriculars and awards
  • College application essays
  • Transcripts
  • Standardized test scores
  • Recommendation letters.

Different colleges may have specific requirements, so make sure you check exactly what’s expected in the application guidance.

You should start thinking about your college applications the summer before your junior year to give you sufficient time for college visits, taking standardized tests, applying for financial aid , writing essays, and collecting application material.

Yes, but make sure your essay directly addresses the prompt, respects the word count , and demonstrates the organization’s values.

If you plan ahead, you can save time by writing one scholarship essay for multiple prompts with similar questions. In a scholarship tracker spreadsheet, you can group or color-code overlapping essay prompts; then, write a single essay for multiple scholarships. Sometimes, you can even reuse or adapt your main college essay .

You can start applying for scholarships as early as your junior year. Continue applying throughout your senior year.

Invest time in applying for various scholarships , especially local ones with small dollar amounts, which are likely easier to win and more reflective of your background and interests. It will be easier for you to write an authentic and compelling essay if the scholarship topic is meaningful to you.

You can find scholarships through your school counselor, community network, or an internet search.

A scholarship essay requires you to demonstrate your values and qualities while answering the prompt’s specific question.

After researching the scholarship organization, identify a personal experience that embodies its values and exemplifies how you will be a successful student.

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.

Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.

In most cases, quoting other people isn’t a good way to start your college essay . Admissions officers want to hear your thoughts about yourself, and quotes often don’t achieve that. Unless a quote truly adds something important to your essay that it otherwise wouldn’t have, you probably shouldn’t include it.

Cliché openers in a college essay introduction are usually general and applicable to many students and situations. Most successful introductions are specific: they only work for the unique essay that follows.

The key to a strong college essay introduction is not to give too much away. Try to start with a surprising statement or image that raises questions and compels the reader to find out more.

The introduction of your college essay is the first thing admissions officers will read and therefore your most important opportunity to stand out. An excellent introduction will keep admissions officers reading, allowing you to tell them what you want them to know.

You can speed up this process by shortening and smoothing your writing with a paraphrasing tool . After that, you can use the summarizer to shorten it even more.

If you’re struggling to reach the word count for your college essay, add vivid personal stories or share your feelings and insight to give your essay more depth and authenticity.

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.

You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.

If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

In your application essay , admissions officers are looking for particular features : they want to see context on your background, positive traits that you could bring to campus, and examples of you demonstrating those qualities.

Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.

You don’t need a title for your college admissions essay , but you can include one if you think it adds something important.

Your college essay’s format should be as simple as possible:

  • Use a standard, readable font
  • Use 1.5 or double spacing
  • If attaching a file, save it as a PDF
  • Stick to the word count
  • Avoid unusual formatting and unnecessary decorative touches

There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay , but these are two common structures that work:

  • A montage structure, a series of vignettes with a common theme.
  • A narrative structure, a single story that shows your personal growth or how you overcame a challenge.

Avoid the five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in high school.

Campus visits are always helpful, but if you can’t make it in person, the college website will have plenty of information for you to explore. You should look through the course catalog and even reach out to current faculty with any questions about the school.

Colleges set a “Why this college?” essay because they want to see that you’ve done your research. You must prove that you know what makes the school unique and can connect that to your own personal goals and academic interests.

Depending on your writing, you may go through several rounds of revision . Make sure to put aside your essay for a little while after each editing stage to return with a fresh perspective.

Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your language, tone, and content . Ask for their help at least one to two months before the submission deadline, as many other students will also want their help.

Friends and family are a good resource to check for authenticity. It’s best to seek help from family members with a strong writing or English educational background, or from older siblings and cousins who have been through the college admissions process.

If possible, get help from an essay coach or editor ; they’ll have specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and be able to give objective expert feedback.

When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding message, flow, tone, style , and clarity. Then, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Include specific, personal details and use your authentic voice to shed a new perspective on a common human experience.

Through specific stories, you can weave your achievements and qualities into your essay so that it doesn’t seem like you’re bragging from a resume.

When writing about yourself , including difficult experiences or failures can be a great way to show vulnerability and authenticity, but be careful not to overshare, and focus on showing how you matured from the experience.

First, spend time reflecting on your core values and character . You can start with these questions:

  • What are three words your friends or family would use to describe you, and why would they choose them?
  • Whom do you admire most and why?
  • What are you most proud of? Ashamed of?

However, you should do a comprehensive brainstorming session to fully understand your values. Also consider how your values and goals match your prospective university’s program and culture. Then, brainstorm stories that illustrate the fit between the two.

In a college application essay , you can occasionally bend grammatical rules if doing so adds value to the storytelling process and the essay maintains clarity.

However, use standard language rules if your stylistic choices would otherwise distract the reader from your overall narrative or could be easily interpreted as unintentional errors.

Write concisely and use the active voice to maintain a quick pace throughout your essay and make sure it’s the right length . Avoid adding definitions unless they provide necessary explanation.

Use first-person “I” statements to speak from your perspective . Use appropriate word choices that show off your vocabulary but don’t sound like you used a thesaurus. Avoid using idioms or cliché expressions by rewriting them in a creative, original way.

If you’re an international student applying to a US college and you’re comfortable using American idioms or cultural references , you can. But instead of potentially using them incorrectly, don’t be afraid to write in detail about yourself within your own culture.

Provide context for any words, customs, or places that an American admissions officer might be unfamiliar with.

College application essays are less formal than other kinds of academic writing . Use a conversational yet respectful tone , as if speaking with a teacher or mentor. Be vulnerable about your feelings, thoughts, and experiences to connect with the reader.

Aim to write in your authentic voice , with a style that sounds natural and genuine. You can be creative with your word choice, but don’t use elaborate vocabulary to impress admissions officers.

Admissions officers use college admissions essays to evaluate your character, writing skills , and ability to self-reflect . The essay is your chance to show what you will add to the academic community.

The college essay may be the deciding factor in your application , especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

Some colleges also require supplemental essays about specific topics, such as why you chose that specific college . Scholarship essays are often required to obtain financial aid .

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How to end a college essay

How to end your college application essay (with examples).

Bonus Material: PrepMaven’s 30 College Essays That Worked

We’ve all been there: you’ve just about finished creating a brilliant, gripping piece of writing. All that’s left is to wrap it up with the perfect ending…but how do you give your essay the kind of ending that sticks with the reader, that wraps everything up neatly?

With college application essays, the stakes are even higher: the right ending can ensure you stand out from the thousands of other applicants and wow admissions officers. 

At PrepMaven, we’ve helped thousands of students do just that: create compelling, memorable admissions essays that land them acceptances at top-tier universities. 

In this post, we’ll specifically break down how to put those finishing touches on your Common App essay (or any other personal essay), providing examples so you can see exactly how each technique works. 

You can also feel free to hit the button below to download a free collection of 30 successful essays that worked, many of which provide great examples of these very strategies. 

Download 30 College Essays That Worked

Jump to section: Necessary elements of a college essay ending Reflect Connect to your narrative Look ahead to college 3 specific ways to end your college essay (with examples!)   The full-circle callback   The return with a difference   The statement of purpose Next Steps

Necessary elements of a college essay ending

In this section of the post, we’ll cover the beats that every college essay ending should hit to be maximally successful. Later, we’ll show you specific tricks for ending the essay–structures that you can easily integrate into your own writing. If you’d like to jump there, click here: specific ways to end your college essay .

Regardless of which specific technique you use to wrap up your essay, though, it should still help you accomplish the key things we list below. The fact is, college admissions counselors are really looking for pretty specific things in these essays. 

Whatever the structure, tone, or style of your admissions essay, you should be sure that the conclusion does all of the following:

Connect to your narrative

Look ahead to college.

how do you end a college application essay

If you’ve read our other posts on how to structure your application essay or how to start it , you probably already know a big part of your personal statement should involve a story. 

But it can’t be just a story: just as important is an element of reflection, which is best developed at the conclusion of your essay. 

What do we mean by reflection? Simply put, you need to think through the story you’ve laid out throughout the entire essay and articulate what it says about you, why it matters. In essence, the reflection is your answer to the question, “So what?”

For example, if you write an essay about giving up professional dance, your reflection might be about how that choice led you to view dance differently, perhaps as something that you can value independently regardless of whether you pursue it as a career. You might then expand that reflection to other elements of your life: did that changed viewpoint also apply to how you view academics, the arts, or other extracurriculars? 

Or say you wrote an essay about overcoming an obstacle to your education. Your reflection might then touch on how this process shaped your thinking, altered how you view challenges, or led you to develop a particular approach to academics and schoolwork. 

The key here is that you really show us the process of you thinking through the important changes/lessons/etc. at play in your essay. It’s not enough to just say, “This is important because X.” Admissions committees want to see you actually think through this. Real realizations don’t usually happen in an instant: you should question and consider, laying your thoughts out on paper. 

Rhetorical questions are often a great way to do this, as is narrating the thought process you underwent while overcoming the obstacle, learning the lesson, or whatever your story might be. 

A suggestion we often give our students is to read over the story you’ve written, and ask yourself what it means to you, what lessons you can take from it. As you ask and answer those questions, put those onto the page and work through them in writing. You can always clean it up and make it more presentable later. 

Below, we’ve selected the conclusion from Essay 2 in our collection of   30 Essays that Worked . In that essay, the writer spends most of the intro and body discussing their love for hot sauce and all things spicy, as well as how they’ve pursued that passion. Take a look at how they end their essay:

I’m not sure what it is about spiciness that intrigues me. Maybe my fungiform papillae are mapped out in a geography uniquely designed to appreciate bold seasonings. Maybe these taste buds are especially receptive to the intricacies of the savors and zests that they observe. Or maybe it’s simply my burning sense of curiosity. My desire to challenge myself, to stimulate my mind, to experience the fullness of life in all of its varieties and flavors.

In that example, the student doesn’t just tell us “the lesson.” Instead, we get to see them actively working through what the story they’ve told means and why it matters by offering potential ways it’s shaped them. Notice that it’s perfectly okay for the student not to have one clear “answer;” it actually works even better, in this case, that the student is wondering, thinking, still figuring things out. 

That’s reflection, and every good college application essay does it in one form or another. 

Who, on paper, are you? We know–it’s a brutal question to try to answer. That’s what these essays are all about, though, and these college essay conclusions are the perfect place to tie everything together. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you should try to cram elements of your resume or transcript into the end of your essay–please don’t! When we say the conclusion should “connect to your narrative,” we mean that you should write it while bearing in mind the other aspects of your application the admissions committee will be looking at. 

So, the conclusion of your college essay should work to connect the story and reflection you’ve developed with the broader picture of you as a college applicant. In a way, this goes hand in hand with reflection: you want your conclusion to tie all these threads together, explaining why this all matters in the context of college applications. 

how do you end a college application essay

You might, as in the above “hot sauce” essay example, allude to an element of your personality/mentality that your personal statement exemplifies. In that example, we can clearly see the writer showing off some scientific knowledge (“fungiform papillae”) while also highlighting their “curiosity” and desire to challenge themselves. 

This helps the reader see what this whole story is meant to tell us about the applicant, connecting to who they are and what they’re looking for. 

Or, you might connect this reflection to your academic goals. Or else you could connect elements of your story and reflection to some passion evident in the rest of your application. Often, the best essays involve a mix of all of these connections, but there’s no “right” or “wrong” connection to make, so long as it develops convincingly from the story you’ve told. 

There are numerous ways to go here, and it doesn’t have to be super heavy-handed or to take up much real estate. Simply bear in mind that these essays gain an additional sense of balance when they resonate with other elements of your broader high school narrative. 

Though it’s true these college essays are, in part, ways to demonstrate your writing skills and ability to respond concisely to a complicated essay prompt, their primary purpose is to show a college admissions counselor why you’re a good fit for their college. 

So, a strong college essay ending should draw strong connections to your future as (hopefully) a college student. As with the previous point, this is one that you don’t need to go over the top with! Don’t take away from your story by suddenly telling us how smart you are and what great grades you’ll get. 

Instead, you might want to suggest how the experiences you write about have prepared you for college–or, even better, how they’ve shaped what you hope to get out of the next four years. 

Generally, this is a small and subtle part of your conclusion: it might be a sentence, or it might even be the kind of thing that you imply without stating directly. The idea is that a college admissions officer reading your essay will walk away with some idea of why you’d be a good fit for college in general. 

In the example we quoted above, the essay does this fairly subtly: by describing their desire to challenge themselves and stimulate their mind, the writer is clearly alluding to the exact kinds of things college is for, even if they don’t come right out and say it. 

how do you end a college application essay

A successful college conclusion will contain all three of these elements. You can find thirty fantastic examples of such conclusions in the sample college essays below.

Read on for 3 specific techniques to end your college admissions essay. 

3 Specific ways to end your college essay (with examples!)

Each of the essay endings we cover below is designed to help your essay develop a sense of closure while simultaneously accomplishing all of those tricky things it needs to do to wow admissions officers. 

While all of these endings have been proven to work countless times, how you incorporate them and which you choose matters–a lot!

Because every student’s essay is (or at least should be) unique, we recommend getting a trusted advisor to offer guidance on how to wrap up your essay. You can get paired up with one of our expert tutors quickly by contacting us here . 

Now, for the techniques. 

The full-circle callback

how do you end a college application essay

This is probably the most classic ending structure for college essays, and with good reasons. The premise is simple: your essay’s conclusion will return to the image, story, or idea that your essay began with. 

Take a look at the below example, which includes just the first and last paragraphs of Essay 12 from our collection of 30 essays that worked . In this essay, the writer uses a discussion of food to explore their integration into American society as a Russian immigrant. 

“So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.” – Franz Kafka […] So, Kafka, I hope that next time a memorable quote comes to mind, you think before you speak. Because when peanut butter cleaves to the roof of my mouth, I think about what it means “to cleave:” both to adhere closely to and to divide, as if by a cutting blow, especially along a natural weakness. And I think about my dual identity, how the Russian side and American side simultaneously force each other apart and bring each other together. I think about my past, feeling a little ashamed, and about my present and future, asking how I can create harmony between these two sides of me. That, Kafka, does not sound like solved questions to me. This student started with a quote from Kafka (a risky move, but check out our post on “ How to start your college essay ” to see why it was a good choice in this case). After spending the majority of the essay exploring how American and Russian foods can serve as a shorthand for their relationship to their Russian-American identity, this author ends with a final paragraph that returns to the Kafka quote and continues to work through it. 

Why does it work?

In part, people just love a full-circle ending, the idea that something ends up back where it began. 

Specifically, this ending helps the student tick off all three of our boxes for what a conclusion must do: 

  • They reflect (by thinking further about the quote and even the specific word “cleave”)
  • They connect to their narrative (by bringing it back to their own identity)
  • They look ahead (by highlighting their desire to create harmony in the future)

Check, check, check–plus, they come up with a clever enough one-liner at the end, slamming poor Kafka for a perhaps hyperbolic quote. 

The Return with a difference

how do you end a college application essay

This one is quite similar to the full-circle callback, but shouldn’t be confused with it. With this ending technique, you do indeed return to whatever you began your personal statement with. The emphasis, however, is on some significant change or perspective shift. The below example, once again taken from Essay 18 in our collection of 30 college essays that worked, makes what we mean more clear: 

I first encountered Naruto Uzumaki when I was seven and was immediately captivated by his story. An orphan navigating the world alone, without guidance or love, Naruto was misunderstood and often despised, deemed a threat by his village. Although my loving and supportive family was intact, I sympathized with Naruto. Even more, I appreciated his grit and audacity, thrilled by the way he managed to rewrite his own narrative, forging a new path and transforming himself into a hero.    […] Today, I am the protagonist of my own story. Hard work, baby steps, large leaps, occasional setbacks, countless revisions and refinements- all are essential to my journey of discovery. Ranging from unraveling the mystery of dark gravity, to writing a handful of papers that scrape a few flakes off the mountain of the unknown, my narrative is evolving; I am a work in progress and a champion of insight, advancement, and positive change. 

This essay starts by describing the appeal of Naruto’s story to the writer. When the writer concludes by saying that “I am the protagonist of my own story,” it’s clearly a reference to that initial introduction. 

The focus, however, is on the difference or shift: the author is no longer primarily captivated by Naruto’s story; instead, they’re excited to be carving out their own. It’s a return, but with a (big) difference, and that difference is precisely what allows this conclusion to succeed in hitting each of those key elements: 

  • It reflects (highlighting the theme of discovery and the hard work that it took to get to this point)
  • It connects to the broader narrative (making reference to this student’s interests in science and research)
  • It looks ahead to college (emphasizing the continued growth this student looks forward to)

It isn’t a coincidence that essays using the four techniques we’re outlining here succeed so well in capturing the key elements of an application essay conclusion. While these techniques can’t guarantee success, they certainly set you up for it: the structure of each of these methods makes it much easier to give college admissions counselors exactly what they’re looking for. 

The Direct Appeal

how do you end a college application essay

Compared to the previous techniques, this one is a lot more direct. It involves finishing your essay by directly addressing how the story you’ve been telling has shaped your future desires, often by articulating some goal you plan to accomplish or by highlighting the importance of college. 

You might think of it as leaning much more heavily on the “look forward to college” element of the conclusion. This ending technique can be risky, and really depends on how effectively you’ve been able to convey your story up to this point. 

Whereas the other ending techniques we’ve mentioned can, in general, only help the overall quality of your essay, this one can backfire. It tends to work best for essays that highlight some particular struggle you’ve overcome, or some injustice you plan to address. 

Take a look at an excerpt from Essay 29, which discusses the writer’s experiences as lower-income student attending an expensive private school, for a good use of the direct appeal: 30 college essays that worked : 

    Today, the drug-ravaged apartments of Southern Trace are transformed. Gentrified shortly after we moved, they boast a different crowd—Lisa and Linda have since been priced out of their homes and evicted. Heroin-addicts are replaced by “prettier” middle-class families; police rarely need visit their homes. Though dysfunctional, my childhood neighborhood was a community—people wrought with problems but filled with compassion, with beauty. But where was their voice when developers began to renovate? Who was there to listen? This community is an intrinsic part of me: I want to be their voice. And, with my understanding of the socioeconomic palette, maybe I can provide the canvas to blend the world of my childhood with the privileged society of Cincinnati Hills.  

Although this essay actually combines a few of our ending techniques (returning to something discussed in the introduction), it’s a great example of when a direct appeal works. This student shows a nuanced understanding of a complex socioeconomic issue that hits close to home. Their “pitch” at the end of this essay is simple: “I want to be their voice.” 

In this particular essay, the direct appeal works because it feels honest, like it comes from a real place (though you’ll have to read the entire essay to really see that). In terms of our 3 criteria, it easily fits the bill: 

  • It reflects on this student’s “dysfunctional” neighborhood and how those issues shaped the student’s viewpoint. 
  • It connects to their broader narrative, both by highlighting their own identity and their “understanding of the socioeconomic palate.”
  • It looks ahead to college, clearly articulating how the student’s long term goal–fighting for economically marginal communities–is an outcome of this story and a motivation for them to attend college. 

This is a perfect example of the direct appeal in action. In another, weaker essay, however, simply saying something like “I want to be their voice” might not work at all. If the actual story were weaker, if the student’s background were less carefully explained, it might have simply come off as preachy or presumptuous. 

The techniques we’ve outlined here will take you far. But, as always when the stakes are this high, we really recommend getting a professional opinion on your college essays. Our college essay tutors aren’t just fantastic writers: they’re expert editors who can ensure that you don’t miss anything in your own essays. Get paired with one quickly by reaching out to us here . 

In the meantime, click the link below and check out our collection of 30 sample essays, which include the full text of all the examples used above. 


Mike is a PhD candidate studying English literature at Duke University. Mike is an expert test prep tutor (SAT/ACT/LSAT) and college essay consultant. Nearly all of Mike’s SAT/ACT students score in the top 5% of test takers; many even score above 1500 on the SAT. His college essay students routinely earn admission into their top-choice schools, including Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth. And his LSAT students have been accepted In into the top law schools in the country, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Law.

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How to Write a Conclusion for a College Application Essay

Discover the dos and don'ts of writing a conclusion for your college application essays and get tips for making your essay shine.

Posted November 27, 2023

how do you end a college application essay

A college essay is a personal statement that is submitted as part of the application required to gain admission to a university. Colleges use essays to evaluate a student's abilities, achievements, and potential.

Most essays are written in response to a prompt or question posed by the institution. The prompt may ask the student to describe a significant experience, discuss a personal interest or passion, or explain why they are interested in attending that specific university.

Its purpose is to give the admissions committee a sense of the student's personality, interests, and motivations. It’s also an opportunity for the student to share their unique perspective, and demonstrate their writing skills and ability to think critically.

A well-written college application essay can be a powerful tool in helping a student stand out from the competition and improve their chances of being accepted to a top-tier college university.

How to Write the Conclusion

Though each part of the essay can be difficult to write, typically the conclusion is one part that students really struggle with. It’s hard to succinctly, yet powerfully, summarize your main thoughts and make a final case for admission.

The conclusion is also important because it is the last thing that the admissions committee member who is reviewing your application will read. In other words, it’s your last opportunity to make a good impression and leave the reader with a clear and lasting conviction of your potential and your fit.

When writing a conclusion for a college application essay, there are a few key steps to follow.

Summarize your thesis.

In your introduction, you should have stated your thesis, which is the main argument or point that you are trying to make in your essay. In college essays, this may also be a theme. For example, is your story that you are an underdog who life continuously tried to beat down but at each step, you persisted? Or maybe it’s that you had a family member who had health struggles and you have made it your life mission to get an education that would allow you to help solve these medical mysteries. The angle that you decide to take will be entirely dependent on your unique story and strengths; take time to figure out the overall story that you want to tell. What picture of yourself are you trying to paint?

In your conclusion, restate this thesis, purpose, theme, or argument in a new and interesting way, so that the reader is reminded of what your essay was about and why it was important.

Synthesize your main points.

In your essay, you should have made several key points that support your thesis. In your conclusion, synthesize these points briefly so that the reader has a clear understanding of what you have argued and why. Don’t just repeat what you have already written; show how the different parts of your essay work together. You don’t need to go too in-depth here, one or two sentences are usually enough to remind the reader of what they have just read.

Explain why your essay is important.

In your conclusion, you should also explain why your essay is important and why the reader should care about your argument. This can be done by connecting your thesis to a larger issue or problem, or by discussing the implications of your argument. For college essays, this usually means connecting the argument to your future.

Remember: when admissions committees are deciding whether to admit students, they’re basically betting on their future potential. It’s your job to demonstrate this potential in your essays. You can also think of this part as answering the “so what?” question.

End with a strong statement.

Finally, end your conclusion with a strong statement that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. Generally, we recommend avoiding quotes unless it’s extremely relevant. It’s usually a lot more effective to use your own words. Also, in almost every case, your conclusion should not leave the reader wanting more; in other words, they should feel like it ended and walk away with a sense of closure.

When you’re getting ready to write your conclusion, think about each of these questions and write down a few bullet points for each.

  • What is my argument (in one sentence or a few words)?
  • What impressions or feelings do I want the admissions committee member to walk away from this essay with?
  • How do I want the reader to feel while reading this essay?
  • What tone do I want to convey? Formal, informal, friendly, assertive, humorous, convincing, etc.?

What Not To Do

As you write your conclusion, here are a few things that we recommend you do not do.

Use a cliche closing phrase: Usually, it’s better to develop your conclusion naturally without the inclusion of “in conclusion,” “in closing,” “in summary,” or a similar phrase.

Introduce topics that you haven’t included earlier in the essay: Your conclusion is not about opening up the door to further topics. Rather, it’s about tying everything together and putting a bow on it, so to speak. Don’t introduce a new idea or try to stuff something in that should’ve been included in the body.

Change the tone/argument style: This goes for both tone and argument style. For example, if your argument is primarily a logical one, don’t switch to an emotional one in the conclusion. If you employ a formal tone in the body of the essay, don’t switch to a casual tone in the end.

Summarize the essay: The conclusion should not just repeat what you have already written. Not only is this a waste of the already-limited space, it’s also dull and unconvincing to read.

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College Application Essays Tips

Writing a college admissions essay can be daunting, but it is also a significant opportunity to share your perspective and experiences with the admissions committee. Now that we’ve covered the conclusion, here are a few general tips that will help you write a compelling essay body.

  • Start early: Begin writing your essay as early as possible, so that you have plenty of time to revise and edit. This will also help you avoid feeling rushed or overwhelmed.
  • Be yourself: Your essay is an opportunity to share your unique background and stories with the admissions committee. Be honest and genuine in your writing, and avoid trying to be someone you are not. Lean into what makes you different because that is what will help you stand out from the many other applicants.
  • Follow the prompt: You may think this point is obvious, but it’s something many students struggle with. Make sure to carefully read and understand the essay prompt, and respond to it directly. Avoid going off on tangents or writing about unrelated topics. Because of the word limit, every part of the essay should be immediately relevant to the broader story you’re trying to tell.
  • Show, don't tell: Instead of simply telling the admissions committee about your accomplishments or experiences, show them through specific examples and anecdotes. This will make your essay more engaging and compelling. With every statement you make, include stories that support the claim.
  • Proofread and read it out loud: Make sure to carefully proofread and edit your essay for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. It can also be helpful to have someone else read your essay and provide feedback. Once you have a solid draft, we also recommend reading your essay out loud . This will give you an idea of how the essay will sound to the adcom member.

We know that writing your college application essays is an arduous process, especially if you have to do it alone. The best way to nail your application essays is to work one-on-one with a coach who can provide personalized feedback and revisions. Below are a few of our top Leland college admissions coaches who specialize in essays; browse all of them here .

As you put together your college applications, here are a few other resources you may find helpful:

  • How to Pick the Best College for You
  • Top Questions to Ask a College Admissions Officer
  • 3 Expert Tips for Applying to College

4 Tips to Elevate Your College Essay

  • What Really Matters When Preparing for College
  • How to Build the Best Extracurriculars for College
  • What Looks Good on College Applications? 6 Tips to Make Your Application Stand Out
  • Top Free Resources for the SAT/ACT

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  1. How to End a College Admissions Essay

    Option 1: Return to the beginning Many successful essays follow a “sandwich,” or full-circle, structure, meaning that they start with some image or idea, veer away from it in the middle, and then return to it at the end.

  2. How should I end my college admissions essay?

    There are a few strategies you can use for a memorable ending to your college essay: Return to the beginning with a “full circle” structure Reveal the main point or insight in your story Look to the future End on an action The best technique will depend on your topic choice, essay outline, and writing style.

  3. How to End a College Essay: 10 Tactics & Strategies

    1. Connect to your values 2. The bookend or callback 3. The road forward 4. Save your thesis (or your whole intro) for the end 5. Connect to your career B. Strategies (may require big changes, or more planning ahead) 6. The “why us?” set-up 7. Back to the beginning, but something’s changed 8. The twist/reveal 9.

  4. How to end a college essay

    September 6, 2023 | In Applying | By Mike How to end your college application essay (with examples!) Bonus Material: PrepMaven’s 30 College Essays That Worked We’ve all been there: you’ve just about finished creating a brilliant, gripping piece of writing.

  5. How to Write a Conclusion for a College Application Essay

    Don’t introduce a new idea or try to stuff something in that should’ve been included in the body. Change the tone/argument style: This goes for both tone and argument style. For example, if your argument is primarily a logical one, don’t switch to an emotional one in the conclusion. If you employ a formal tone in the body of the essay ...