How to Write a Conclusion

When it comes to your conclusion, there’s only one important rule: end on an uplifting note. It’s perfectly legitimate to write about topics such as abuse, depression and poverty, but you want to leave your readers feeling like you’re optimistic, confident, and prepared for the challenge of law school.

What follows are some techniques for ending your essay. Many essays use more than one.

The Callback

If your introductory paragraph contains a notable image, phrase, or idea, you can give your essay a sense of closure by invoking the same formulation in your conclusion. In my personal statement, for example, I write in the first paragraph that I wanted to address “Issues of Our Time” in my novel. In the last line, I write that a legal career “might just let me tackle an Issue of Our Time.”

In the first line of "Paisano," Mr. Barsetti calls the narrator “a real paisano.” In the last line, the narrator says he will stay true to his paisano roots.

Josh Mahoney’s essay about football (the second essay on this page) begins with a scene in which the narrator collapses in practice. Mr. Mahoney begins the last paragraph by writing, “The image of me writhing in pain on the practice field sometimes slips back into my thoughts as I decide where to apply to law school.”

The Loop

Similar to the callback, the loop entails beginning a scene in your introductory paragraph, leaving on a cliffhanger, and finishing the story later, possibly in the conclusion. For example, you might begin with a scene in which you nervously climb the ladder to the trapeze, cut away from the scene to talk about growing up in a traveling circus, and end the essay with the scene in which you make the catch.

Unless you are, say, a military veteran, it’s probably a bad idea to loop back to a scene of high danger (such as a mugging): you risk making your essay seem cheesy.

The Lesson

This is one of the most common kinds of conclusion. You tell us about an experience, and in the last paragraph, explain what you learned. The narrator of "Piano Practice," for example, concludes by writing, “The lessons I have learned over the years have remained close and relevant to my life. I have acquired a lifestyle of discipline and internalized the drive for self-improvement. I have gained…”

The Lesson: Law School Variation

Another very common strategy, this conclusion entails saying how you will apply or hope to apply what you learned to law school or a legal career. Josh Mahoney’s football essay (the second essay on this page) contains this in the last paragraph: “I will enter law school a much stronger person and student because of my experiences on the football field and in the classroom.

Your Ambition or Motivation

In this type of conclusion, you tell the reader what you hope to do with your legal degree, or why you’re going to law school.“Fighting for Sofia,” "Paisano", and my personal statement all end with a statement of the narrator's ambitions (to fight for people like Sofia, to make the law function for people from neighborhoods like ours, and to tackle an Issue of Our Time, respectively).

Make sure your essay gives credence to your ambition.

Why You’re Choosing a Specific School

If you end with a “why us?” statement, make sure you have genuine and compelling reasons for going to the school. A weak “why us?” is worse than no “why us?” at all.

See this lesson for more advice on writing a school-specific statement.

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