The conclusion is your last chance to persuade the reader or impress upon them your qualifications. Endings are the last experience an admissions officer has with your essay, so you need to make those words and thoughts count. You should not feel obligated to tie everything up into a neat bow. The essay can conclude with some ambiguity, if appropriate, as long as it offers insights. The aim is for the admissions officer to leave your essay thinking, "That was a satisfying read." Here are some Dos and Don'ts as you develop your conclusion.


1. Expand upon the broader implications of your discussion. This could include the following strategies:

2. Don't start your essay with a summary. If you summarize, the admissions officer does not need to read the rest of your essay. You want to start your essay with something that makes the reader want to read until the very end. Once you have drawn the reader in through the first one to three sentences, the last sentence in your introductory paragraph should explain clearly and briefly what the point of the whole essay is. That is, why you are using this person, place, or thing. What does it say about you?

-- Consider linking your conclusion to your introduction to establish a sense of balance by reiterating introductory phrases.

-- Redefine a term used previously in your body paragraphs.

-- End with a famous quote that is relevant to your argument. Do not try to do this, as this approach is overdone. This should come naturally.

-- Frame your discussion within a larger context or show that your topic has widespread appeal.

3. Tie the conclusion back to your introduction. A nice conclusion makes use of the creativity you used in your introduction. If you used an anecdote in your intro, use the conclusion to finish telling that story.

4. Try to end on a positive note. You may want to restate your goals in terms of how they will be fulfilled at the institution to which you are applying.


1. Summarize. Since the essay is rather short to begin with, the reader should not need to be reminded of what you wrote 300 words beforehand. You do not need to wrap up your essay in a nice little package. It should be an ending, not a summary.

2. Use stock phrases. Phrases such as, "in conclusion," "in summary," and "to conclude," belong only in dry, scientific writing. Don't use them.

3. Try to Explain the Unexplainable. Your essay need not be so tidy that you can answer why people die or why starvation exists -- you are not writing a sitcom -- but it should forge some attempt at closure.

Before you move on to Lesson Six: Editing and Revising, you should take a break. Let your draft sit for a day or two. You need to distance yourself from the piece so you can gain objectivity. If there is anything more difficult than trying to edit your own work, it is trying to edit your own work right after you have written it. Once you have let your work sit for a while, you will be better able to tackle the final steps of editing and revising.

Continue to: Lesson Six: Editing and Revising

Back to: Writing the Best College Essay