How to End a College Essay - Strategies, Tips, & Examples

How should I end my essay?
July 3, 2024
6 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 7/3/24

Are you having trouble writing a conclusion for your college essay? Here’s how to end a college essay with expert tips and examples. 

Writing the perfect ending for your college essay is no easy feat; it can be just as challenging as starting your college essay. But don’t fear - we’ve got you covered! This complete guide will discuss everything you need to know about how to end a college application essay. Follow along for tips, examples, and more.

Let’s get started!

How to End Your College Essay

After an energetic essay, it’s essential to end on a high note. Your conclusion should be clear, concise, and, most importantly - memorable. 

Here are some strategies on how to end your personal statement. 

  • Circle back to the opening using a "full-circle" structure.
  • Unveil the central point or revelation within your narrative.
  • Consider the future implications or possibilities.
  • Conclude with a decisive action or resolution.

Remember, your ending shouldn't summarize the essay, repeat points that have already been made, or taper off into nothingness. You don’t want it to just fade out–you want it to go out with a bang! Keeping it interesting at this stage can be challenging, but it can make or break a good college essay. 

Admissions expert Keisha talks about how to incorporate storytelling in your essay in our personal statement webinar

“Part of this is storytelling. Even in children’s stories, there’s always some sort of arc that happens. That’s what you want to take your readers on—you’re presenting us with something, there’s some sort of conflict or tension, and then there’s a resolution that comes with that."

What Makes an Essay Ending Great?

A good ending of an essay reflects your voice and personality, avoiding clichés or generic statements that lack originality. End on a positive, forward-looking note that demonstrates your excitement for the future and your readiness to take on new challenges.

You should use the ending of your essay to wrap up the story you’ve been telling so far in a cathartic and satisfying way. Think of the feeling you get when the credits roll after you’ve just seen a great movie, or when you close the cover after finishing an amazing book. That’s the feeling that you want to invoke! 

So, don’t overlook your personal statement ending. You’ll want to go out with a bang in order to be remembered by admission committees!

10 College Essay Endings Examples and Tips

Let’s go over some college application essay ending examples. Follow along to learn different powerful strategies you can use to end your college essay. If you want to explore even more essay examples, don't forget to check out our extensive College Essay Examples Database.

1. End the Essay With The Lesson Learned Statement

One of the best things you can do in your college essay is demonstrate how you can get back up after getting knocked down. Showing the admissions committee how you’ve learned and grown from a challenging life event is an excellent way to present yourself as a strong candidate. 

Think of this method as the ending of a good novel about a complex character: they’re not perfect, but they try to be better, and that’s what counts. In your college essay, you’re the main character of your story. Don’t be afraid to talk about a mistake you’ve made as long as you demonstrate (in your conclusion) that you learned something valuable.

Here’s an example of a college essay ending from a Harvard student using the “Lesson Learned” technique:

"The best thing that I took away from this experience is that I can't always control what happens to me, especially as a minor, but I can control how I handle things. In full transparency: there were still bad days and bad grades, but by taking action and adding a couple of classes into my schedule that I felt passionate about, I started feeling connected to school again. From there, my overall experience with school – and life in general – improved 100%."

Why It Works 

This is a good example because it effectively demonstrates the "Lesson Learned" technique by showcasing personal growth and resilience. 

The conclusion reflects on the experiences and challenges faced by the applicant, emphasizing the valuable lesson learned and the positive changes made as a result. It shows maturity, self-awareness, and the ability to overcome obstacles, which can leave a positive impression on admissions committees.

2. End the Essay With the Action-Packed Conclusion Method

Like you see in the movies, ending your college essay in the action can leave an impactful impression on the admissions committee. In the UMichigan example below, the student ends their essay on an ambiguous, energetic note by saying, “I never saw it coming,” as the last line. 

You can also achieve this approach by ending your essay with dialogue or a description. For example, “Hi mom, I’m not coming home just yet,” or “I picked up my brother's phone, and dialed the number.” These are examples of endings that leave you “in the action”–dropping off the reader almost mid-story, leaving them intrigued. 

Here is an example of an “action-packed” college essay ending from a UMichigan student.

"No foreign exchange trip could outdo that. I am a member of many communities based on my geography, ethnicity, interests, and talents, but the most meaningful community is the one that I never thought I would be a part of…

On that first bus ride to the Nabe, I never saw it coming.”

Why It Works 

The example from the UMichigan student provides a strong ending to the college essay by using an "action-packed" approach. It engages the reader with an unexpected twist, creating intrigue and leaving them wanting more. 

The phrase "I never saw it coming" adds a sense of anticipation and curiosity, making the conclusion memorable. This technique effectively leaves the reader with a lasting impression, showcasing the applicant's storytelling skills and ability to capture attention.

3. End the Essay By Going Full Circle

As you may know, a “full circle” ending ties the story’s ending to the very beginning. Not to be confused with a summary, this method is an excellent way to leave a lasting impression on your reader. 

When using this technique, tie the very first sentence with the very last. Avoid over-explaining yourself, and end with a very simple recall of the beginning of the story. Keep in mind if you use this method, your “full circle” should be straightforward and seamless, regardless of the essay topic

Here is an example of a “Full Circle” college essay ending from a Duke student:

“So next time it rains, step outside. Close your eyes. Hear the symphony of millions of water droplets. And enjoy the moment.”

In response to the beginning: 

“The pitter patter of droplets, the sweet smell that permeates throughout the air, the dark grey clouds that fill the sky, shielding me from the otherwise intense gaze of the sun, create a landscape unparalleled by any natural beauty.”

Why It Works 

This example of a "Full Circle" college essay ending is effective because it masterfully connects the ending to the beginning of the story. The essay begins with a vivid description of a rainy day, and the conclusion seamlessly brings the reader back to that initial scene. 

It emphasizes the importance of savoring the moment, creating a sense of reflection and unity in the narrative. This technique allows the reader to feel a sense of closure and reinforces the central theme of the essay, making it a strong and memorable conclusion.

4. End the Essay By Addressing the College 

Directly addressing your college is a popular method, as it recalls the main reason you want to attend the school. If you choose to address your school, it is imperative to do your research. You should know precisely what you find attractive about the school, what it offers, and why it speaks to you. 

Here is a college essay ending example using the “College Address” technique from a UMichigan Student:

"I want to join the University of Michigan’s legacy of innovators. I want to be part of the LSA community, studying economics and political science. I want to attend the Ford School and understand how policy in America and abroad has an effect on global poverty. I want to be involved with the Poverty Solutions Initiative, conducting groundbreaking research on the ways we can reform our financial system to better serve the lower and middle classes.”

Why It Works 

This is a good example because it effectively utilizes the "College Address" technique. The student clearly articulates their specific intentions and aspirations related to the University of Michigan. 

They showcase a deep understanding of the university's offerings and how these align with their academic and career goals. This kind of conclusion demonstrates genuine interest and a strong connection to the school, which can leave a positive impression on admissions committees.

5. End the Essay With a Look To the Future

Admissions committees want to know how attending their school will help you on your journey. To use this method, highlight your future goals at the end of your essay. You can highlight what made you want to go to this school in the first place and what you hope to achieve moving forward. If done correctly, this can be highly impactful.

Jesse, an admissions coach from Emory University, offers the following advice about looking to the future at the end of your essay: 

"The key is to link who you are in your journey and show the admissions committee that you have an idea of who you want to be in the future. That connection is really, really important.” 

Here is a college essay ending example from a med student using the “Look To the Future” technique:

“I want to tell my peers that doctors like my grandfather are not only healers in biology but healers in the spirit by the way he made up heroic songs for the children and sang the fear out of their hearts. I want to show my peers that patients are unique individuals who have suffered and sacrificed to trust us with their health care, so we must honor their trust by providing quality treatment and empathy.

My formative experiences in pediatrics contributed to my globally conscious mindset, and I look forward to sharing these diverse insights in my medical career.”

Why It Works 

This is a good example because it effectively ties the applicant's personal experiences and aspirations to their desire to attend the specific school. It showcases a clear passion for medicine and a genuine desire to make a positive impact on patients' lives. 

By highlighting the applicant's unique perspective gained from their experiences in pediatrics and emphasizing their commitment to providing quality care and empathy, it demonstrates a strong connection between their goals and the opportunities offered by the school. 

This kind of conclusion helps the admissions committee understand how the applicant will contribute to the school's community and align with their future ambitions.

6. End the Essay With Dialogue

This type of ending works well for narrative essays or essays written in a storytelling style. It demonstrates a strong command of storytelling techniques and good writing ability. 

Dialogue allows you to use the characters in your story to deliver your message in a unique and subtle way. You’ll want to be careful, though, as dialogue can sometimes sound clunky or unnatural. 

Here’s an example of a college essay that ends with a piece of dialogue and narrative storytelling: 

“Smiling, I open Jon’s Jansport backpack and neatly place this essay inside and a chocolate taffy with a note attached.

Twenty minutes have passed when the door abruptly opens.

‘Guess what the doctor just said?’ my brother cries, unable to hide his exhilaration. I look up and I smile too.”

Why It Works

This writer effectively uses subtext in their essay to deliver a punch with their narrative ending. Even though we don’t have the rest of the essay, we can infer several things about the story through subtext alone, and we can figure out that the doctor has delivered good news without explicitly being told. That’s good writing! 

The essay's ending also demonstrates certain characteristics about the writer; chiefly, his care and empathy for his brother. These kinds of traits are highly desirable.

7. End the Essay By Leaving It Unresolved

Unresolved endings can be incredibly impactful, but they are also difficult to get right! These kinds of endings leave the reader to imagine the next events on their own, as well as leaving the implication and main message up to interpretation (to a certain degree). 

An unresolved essay ending can work well if you’re writing an essay about something that’s painful or that you struggle with. However, remember not to lean too far toward confusion and uncertainty, as colleges still want to see motivation and grit. 

Here’s an example of a college essay with an unresolved ending:  

“The wind, the sky, the dampness of the soil on my hands whispered to me, ‘The bird is dead. Kari has passed. But you are alive.’ My breath, my heartbeat, my sweat sighed back, ‘I am alive. I am alive. I am alive.’”

Why It Works

This essay’s ending is incredibly poetic. Ending on the repetition “I am alive” drives home a particularly powerful punch. The writer doesn’t offer a clear-cut message or main point, and doesn’t discuss what the implications of these events are. The reader is left to read between the lines and guess what happened next. 

The subject of this essay is grief, which rarely ever feels resolved. Therefore, an unresolved ending aligns with the essay’s theme and invokes strong emotions in the reader. Be certain that your ending complements the theme of your essay as a whole. 

8. End the Essay On Your Thesis or Main Point

You may have heard the advice to include your essay’s thesis near the beginning. However, sometimes it’s more impactful to build up to your main point by knitting together stories and arguments. Ending by clearly stating the point you were trying to make can have a very powerful effect. 

However, you have to be careful to avoid redundancies. Each sentence in your essay should be meaningful and important, so be sure that you aren’t just repeating yourself in your conclusion. The goal is instead to build up to a memorable and satisfying ending. 

In our webinar on personal statement mistakes to avoid, Dartmouth grad Arianna offers advice for your conclusion: 

“Admission readers, they get a lot of applications that they're looking through, right? So, how are you going to help them remember who you are? You want to keep re-emphasizing, here's how I've developed, here's this lasting impression. In my conclusion, here are the main points as far as why you should admit me as a student to your university. Ultimately, leave that last impression and emphasize your main message and make it that much more memorable."

This essay ending from a Harvard applicant clearly articulates the thesis: 

“Paradoxically, big change can stem from the smallest adjustment in how we view the things we consider ordinary, so the next time you go to throw away a piece of cardboard, first imagine what kind of home you could build with it.”

Why It Works

This essay uses imagery and storytelling techniques to build up to its ending. Although offering advice in your essay can be tricky to do well, this author manages it. Ending with this simple sentence allows the reader to fully grasp and realize the writer’s point in a cathartic, satisfying way. 

9. End the Essay With the “Something’s Changed” Method

This method is a lot like the “Full Circle” method, but it emphasizes the ways in which the writer has changed as a result of the journey they’ve been on. Essays that use this ending will often call back to an opening symbol or image and then discuss how they now see things differently. 

Take a look at this Harvard essay ending that uses the “Something’s Changed” method: 

“Knowing my ancestry is an assurance that I am not the sapling I once thought I was, with no roots to hold her down in the face of a storm, rather, I am capable of paving my own path, supported by the comforting presence of my family quilt draped over my shoulders. Though this trip wouldn’t mark the conclusion of my journey of self-discovery, it would be the embarkment of something great. My journey is sure to be fruitful, teaching me that when difficulties arise, I will be able to turn to my family quilt, tracing the stitching between patches, and take comfort in the resilience and passion of those that came before me.”

Why It Works

This essay began with the writer discussing their family tree and their desire to learn more about their ancestry. Bringing this image back to the end is similar to the “Full Circle” ending, but it’s different now. The writer has learned that their ancestry looks more like a patchwork quilt than a tree. 

The writer effectively calls back to the opening image of their essay while also demonstrating a willingness to grow, learn, and change by adjusting their image and talking about what they’ve learned. 

10. End the Essay By Showing You’ve Learned What Not to Do

Admissions committees are unimpressed by clichéd and generic conclusions that fail to demonstrate an applicant's individuality or genuine interest in the institution. Unfortunately, many students fall into the trap of providing vague recaps of their academic journey without adding any unique insights or future aspirations. 

Below is an example of such an unimpressive conclusion:

"In conclusion, I've learned a lot throughout my life, and I hope to continue learning in college. College will be a new chapter for me, and I'm excited to see where it takes me. I'm looking forward to the opportunities and experiences that lie ahead, and I can't wait to grow as a person. College is the next step in my journey, and I'm ready to embrace it with open arms."

Why It Doesn't Work

This is a bad example because it's overly generic and doesn't offer any specific insights or compelling reasons why the applicant is interested in the college. It simply states the obvious without adding any depth or uniqueness to the conclusion. 

Admissions committees are looking for applicants to stand out and showcase their genuine enthusiasm for the institution, which this conclusion fails to do. So, make sure to avoid essay topics that don’t genuinely excite you.

If you want 190+ examples of good college essays, we’ve got you covered. Learn how to craft the perfect college essay from introduction to conclusion and everything in between.

​​3 College Essay Endings to Avoid

You want your essay to have an impactful ending - but these methods may have the opposite impact. Now that you know some effective ways to end your college essay, let’s go over some methods to avoid. 

1. The Summary

Remember that you’re writing a college essay, not a high school assignment you need to scrape through. Avoid simply summarizing the points you made during your essay. This method can come off as lazy and ultimately leave a negative impression on the admissions committee–or no impression at all. Instead, end the essay on a high note, with a point of action, or with your future goals. 

Our expert, Keisha, offers further insight

"When you’re starting with the intro, make sure you’re grabbing us right from the beginning and leading us through the body. The conclusion is wrapping up everything that you wanted us to say. We’re not just regurgitating what is on the resume; we already know what’s on the resume."

2. The Famous Quote

Some students start their college essays with one, and some end it with one. Neither is a good idea. Avoid using a famous quote anywhere in your essay, as it can give the impression that you don’t know what to write. The admissions committee wants to get to know you–they already know the famous quotes.

Unless you’ve done thorough research and are quoting someone affiliated with the school, you should avoid quotes altogether in your college essay.

3. The Needy Student

In your college essay conclusion, avoid begging for admission. You don’t want to come off as desperate in your essay. Saying things like “Please consider me” or “I really want to attend” doesn’t say anything about you and doesn’t read smoothly. Instead, demonstrate who you are and how you’ve learned and grown in your life. Focus on you, not them!

If you’re struggling to come up with an effective ending for your college essay, our experts are ready to help. With a personalized approach, our team can help you, and tons of other students, create an incredible essay! 

“I got paired with the perfect advisor who studied what I’m interested in; he helped me come up with ideas and made essay writing so much easier.” - Isabel, accepted at Loyola University

Tips and Strategies on How to Approach Essay’s Conclusion

When it comes to nailing your college essay's conclusion, here are some practical tips to keep in mind:

  • Tip #1 - Sum It Up: Your conclusion should be a neat little bow that wraps up your essay. Summarize the key points you've made throughout, but don't just regurgitate what you've already said. Instead, try to offer a fresh perspective or insight that ties everything together in a meaningful way.
  • Tip #2 - Look Ahead: Your conclusion is also a great opportunity to connect your past experiences with your future goals. Show the admissions committee how attending their college fits into your grand plan. They want to see that you have a clear vision for your future and that their institution plays a key role in helping you achieve it.
  • Tip #3 - Get Personal: Don't be afraid to get specific and personal in your conclusion. Use vivid anecdotes and details to make your writing come alive. The more authentic and genuine you can be, the more likely you are to leave a lasting impression on your reader.
  • Tip #4 - Show Your Growth: Admissions committees love to see how you've grown and changed as a result of your experiences. Use your conclusion to reflect on the lessons you've learned and how you've matured. This shows that you're self-aware and ready to tackle the challenges of college life.
  • Tip #5 - Get Creative: Don’t be afraid to implement storytelling techniques or use poetic language, especially if you’re more artistically inclined. Think of ways to set yourself apart in your writing. 
  • Tip #6 - Be Original: Your essay should always keep you as the central focus. Try to avoid using quotes or writing too much about other people or events--they might take the focus off of you and your personal growth. 
  • Tip #7 - End With a Bang: Your final sentence should be like a mic drop moment. Leave your reader with something to think about, whether it's a thought-provoking question, a powerful quote, or a call to action. The key is to end on a strong, confident note that leaves a lasting impression.

Your college essay's conclusion is your chance to make a final pitch. It should reinforce your suitability for the college and leave a strong, positive impression on the admissions committee. So, take your time and craft it carefully—it's worth the effort.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

No matter what essay ending you choose to use, there are still some common pitfalls that students often fall into. Be sure to avoid these mistakes when you’re concluding your essay!

Not Proofreading 

This is a simple mistake and so easy to avoid! To ensure that you come across as professional and competent, proofread several times to eliminate any spelling or grammar errors. 

Ending Too Abruptly

It’s easy to overlook your essay’s conclusion, especially if you tend to be an over-writer. But make sure you don’t reduce the essay to just a sentence or two. Be sure to put some thought into your ending and make it meaningful instead of just dropping off at the end. 

Not Answering “So What?”

You should make sure that everything in your essay leads up to your conclusion--it’s your grand finale! Most of all, your essay conclusion should answer the question, “So what?” Regardless of the style or format you go with, make sure your conclusion wraps up the rest of your essay neatly and tells the reader why the story matters. 

Access 190+ sample college essays here

Access 190+ sample college essays here


FAQs: How to End a College Essay

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about how to end a college application essay.

1. How Do You Conclude a College Essay?

The end of your college essay should be strong, clear, and impactful. You can talk about your future goals, end in a moment of action, talk about what you’ve learned, or go full circle. Whatever method you choose, make sure to avoid summarizing your essay.

2. What Is a Good Closing Sentence?

A good closing sentence on your college essay is impactful, meaningful, and makes the reader think. You’ll want to ensure the reader remembers your essay, so conclude with something unique that ends your story with a bang.

3. What Words Can You Use to End an Essay?

Avoid saying “to conclude,” “to summarize,” or “finally.” Your essay should end on a high note, like the ending of a movie. Think of moving sentences such as “I never saw it coming,” “I’ll always remember what happened,” or “I’ve learned so much since then.”

Final Thoughts

By following our tips, you should be on track to write a stellar college essay with an impactful ending. Think of what you’ve learned, what you’ll do in the future, and where you can end the story that would leave a lasting impression. 

If you’re still having a hard time ending your college essay, you can always contact an expert or counselor to help guide you through the process. 

Good luck with your essay!

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