Generating the perfect ending to your written work means finding the right college essay conclusion. This is your last chance to show your reader, typically your tutor, that you have understood the material, created a persuasive argument and have truly thought about what you have put together.1 This article will help you to compose the perfect summation with any college essay conclusion you go on to write.
Definition: College essay conclusion
A good college essay conclusion is typically defined as a closing paragraph of an essay that ties together an argument in a nutshell, leaving the reader with a strong impression. It can also make the point of why such an argument matters more widely, opening the argument up to further interpretations.
What a college essay conclusion should include
- A link to the opening paragraph
- A summary of the points
- Simple language
- A suggestion of a wider argument
What a college essay conclusion shouldn’t include
- A new idea that doesn’t relate to the title or argument
- Repetition of the points already made
- A style change or the use of previously unintroduced jargon
- A narrow judgement that has no wider implications
If you write your college essay conclusion as a simple summary that puts the argument into a wider context, then it can help your reader to understand everything else you have written and why certain points have been raised while others may have been discounted.2
College essay conclusion: 3 techniques
In this section, we’ll cover three of the most commonly used methods for improving the structure and content of college essay conclusions. Using any of these techniques won’t make your concluding paragraph generic or dull, however. These are tried and tested methods for making college essay conclusions more engaging to the reader.
Recall the beginning
As mentioned, a college essay conclusion should address the premise of the essay as set out in the opening. For example, if your essay began, “The French Revolution is widely regarded as one of the greatest political events of 18th-century Europe…” then your conclusion should start with something like, “Although many other events shaped the European political landscape in the 1700s, the French Revolution is foremost among them because…”
Look to the future
A forward-thinking approach to college essay conclusions means thinking about the wider implications of your summation and where this might take further academic study. For example, a college essay conclusion covering the archaeological results of a certain dig might lead you to ask whether similar conclusions could be reached at other similar sites to help verify your ideas through a process of verification.
End on an action
Some academic essays don’t lend themselves to the inclusion of a call to action but other types of college essay conclusions do. For example, if your essay has discussed the merits of child adoption, then you could end your last paragraph with a reminder of what the reader can do if they are in a position to adopt themselves.3
What to avoid in your college essay conclusion
Some clichés that are definitely worth avoiding in college essay conclusions include, “To sum up…”, “In conclusion…” and “As shown…”. Find a more creative way of summarising your main points instead. If a famous quotation is used, then it should be short and supportive of the argument as a whole, and not a particular point, to be appropriate. Your work should speak for itself and offer a strong sense of identity. Avoid ‘both sides’ arguments which sound inconclusive.
- Steer clear of clichés.
- Make an argument in summary form.
- Don’t summarise both sides of an argument.
- Don’t write too much. Short is sweet.
- Extend your particular argument to a more general one.
- Avoid long quotations.
To conclude your essay, go back to the title and central point first outlined in your opening. Then relate the points you have since made to a central, clearly stated argument. If possible, extend this conclusion from the particular point being made to put it in a wider context within the field of study.
This will vary depending on how in-depth your analysis has been and the length of the essay you have written. As a general rule, try to keep your concluding paragraph within 10 to 15 per cent of the total length. Therefore, about 300 words is the right number for a 3,000-word essay.
Yes and no. Any good concluding paragraph will offer a summation of all of the main points raised without simply restating them. That said, a conclusion isn’t merely a rehash of what has come before. Use your summary to reduce your argument to something clear and tangible. Don’t use bullet points to say what you’ve already written once more.
Steer clear of overused phrases like, “In summary, …”. Another good tip is to leave out evidence or information that backs up your argument. These things should go in the main body of the essay instead. Avoid new ideas, writing styles and obvious non-sequiturs, too.
1 Bellanca, Pat. “Ending the Essay: Conclusions.” Harvard University Writing Center. 1998. https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/ending-essay-conclusions.
2 McMillan, Kathleen and Weyers, Jonathan. “How to Write Essays & Assignments: Conclusions.” University of Hull Library Guides. January 13, 2023. https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/essays/conclusions.
3 University of Maryland Global Campus. “Essay Conclusions.” Accessed March 2023. https://www.umgc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/parts-of-an-essay/essay-conclusions.