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

Student on laptop
November 14, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/14/23

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. Since college admissions advisors read hundreds of essays, your conclusion will be the last bit they remember. 

No matter what approach you take to the concluding paragraph, you’ll want to focus on the lesson learned. Think of the end of a great movie; what was it that gave you the warmth and fuzzies before the credits rolled? The ending should be impactful, moving, and nod toward the future.

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. 

Person typing on computer

College Essay Endings Examples

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. The Lesson Learned

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. The Action-Packed Ending

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. The 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. The College Address 

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. The 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.

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. Learn 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.

Female student writing essay

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. 

2. The Famous Quote

Some students start their college essay 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 a 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 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!

Two male students writing essays

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:

  • Sum It Up: Start by summarizing the main points you've discussed in your essay. You don't need to rehash everything, but provide a brief recap to remind the reader of your journey.
  • Avoid Repetition: While summarizing is essential, avoid repeating verbatim what you've already said. Instead, aim to offer a fresh perspective or a new angle on your experiences.
  • Look to the Future: Connect your past experiences with your future aspirations. Explain how attending this particular college aligns with your goals and ambitions. Admissions committees appreciate candidates who have a clear vision.
  • Get Specific: Be as specific as possible. Use anecdotes and personal details to make your conclusion vivid and memorable. Show, don't just tell.
  • Reflect on Personal Growth: Offer insights into how your experiences have shaped you as an individual. Highlight the lessons you've learned and the personal growth you've achieved.
  • Show Your Enthusiasm: Let your passion for the college shine through. Convey why this institution is the right fit for you, emphasizing unique aspects that resonate with your goals and interests.
  • End with Impact: Finish strong with a closing sentence that leaves a lasting impression. It could be a thought-provoking question, a call to action, or a memorable quote. Make sure it lingers in the reader's mind.

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.

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 admissions expert or tutor to help guide you through the process. 

Good luck with your essay!

Access 190+ sample college essays here

Access 190+ sample college essays here


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