How to End a College Application Essay

How to End a College Essay

Endings are tricky. Here are three tips to help students strike the right tone when writing the ending of an admissions essay.

Avoid a Cliche Thesis

The most boring endings are some version of “And that’s how I developed my character,” or “Therefore, I’m proud of what I accomplished that day.” Restating the thesis or theme of the essay in this type of direct, explicit way is not compelling. Instead, an ending that suggests or reveals the thesis (without outright saying it) is more powerful. For example…

End with an Action Shot

Concluding the essay with the author in the midst of some kind of action is an effective way to drive home a theme without directly articulating it. The action could be dialogue, e.g. ending with the statement “I made it home!” or the action could be physical, e.g. “I pick up the pen, and begin to write,” or the action could even be mental, e.g. “Mesmerized by the neon lights of the theater, my mind naturally spins into my next script idea…” In each of these cases, the author is still communicating a theme of the essay, but doing so in a way that’s subtle, indirect, and evocative. The goal is for the words of the last sentence to echo in the reader’s mind.

Return to the Opening

The classic ending strategy: end where you began. It helps if the student can think of the essay as a puzzle, with many different puzzle pieces. The ending is just one more piece to be slotted in to create the optimal picture. So, after writing the essay, I recommend that students identify the different “pieces” of the narrative and play around with several different sequences. This can mean ending with the same dialogue as the opening, the same theme interpreted a different way, returning to the same physical location, and more. The idea is to complete the narrative circle.