Hook Them Through to the End
You can hook your reader with the introduction to your personal statement. And you can wow them with magical words in your personal statement. But if you don’t write a strong conclusion to your personal statement? You’ll leave admission committees with a whimper, rather than a bang.
The conclusion forms a critical part of your personal statement. Admission committees may skip to it after reading your introduction. Or they may start with it, even before reading your introduction.
The reason they do this? To get through the many applications they have to review each cycle.
Good conclusions will deliver the points admission committees expect to see. And great conclusions will enhance their views of you as an applicant.
Here, I present how to write a great conclusion to your personal statement. This advice also works for a statement of purpose conclusion.
Where Does This Advice Come From?
Great question! It comes from my 8 years as an editor at UNESCO prior to founding DLA back in 2008. It comes from interviews I've had with admission committee members. And it comes from 10+ years of helping our clients write great personal statements.
And the results speak for themselves. For medical residency, our clients have enjoyed a 97.4% match rate. For all other programs and schools, the rate is 100%.
Want an outstanding personal statement?
3 Key Concepts and a Formula for Success
How do you write a conclusion in a personal statement? It starts with these three concepts:
- Avoid stating it is your conclusion;
- Avoid introducing an unsupported concept; and
- Be specific in the details.
First, I will discuss these three key concepts in detail. Then I will share my foolproof method for how to write a personal statement conclusion.
Key #1: Avoid Stating It Is Your Conclusion
A thought you may have is to start your conclusion with “In conclusion.” Or “In summary.” You want to make sure to avoid this, or anything similar.
Why is this? Program directors and admission committees see it's your last paragraph. In other words, they already know it's your conclusion. So make your personal statement great by leaving this out.
Simply, using extra words makes your writing less engaging. Wordiness can indicate a lack of diligence or maturity. It can indicate a lack of focus or clarity. And it can indicate self-doubt in what you are writing.
This is true, no matter where it may occur in your personal statement.
Instead, write your conclusion with focus and drive. Follow the path you have laid out in your introduction and body. And trust the admission committee will know they've reached your conclusion.
Key #2: Avoid Introducing an Unsupported Concept
Great conclusions advance the concepts of your personal statement. This means avoiding introducing an unsupported idea. Instead, make sure all ideas connect back to what you have written earlier.
Let's say, for example, you haven't yet discussed your love of teaching. And teaching is important to your future career. You'll certainly want to include it in your conclusion. So just make sure you've written about it earlier in your personal statement. That way, it won't come out of nowhere when writing about it in your conclusion.
If you write a new, unsupported idea in your conclusion, you may convey:
- You do not know how to effectively organize your personal statement;
- You are trying to cram too many ideas into your personal statement; or
- You are ticking off a checklist of what to say.
There are a couple of exceptions to this point. Are you an older candidate? Do you have multiple significant items you need to discuss? There may simply be not enough room for all these in the body paragraphs. In this case, your only option may be to present one in the conclusion.
In such cases, there are a few guidelines to follow. First is you must fully develop the new idea in your conclusion. You must do more than simply mention it.
Second, it must extend from a point made earlier in the personal statement. It must have a foundation.
Finally, it must dovetail seamlessly with the rest of the conclusion. And it must do so without the conclusion becoming too long. (This can be challenging, so don't be afraid to ask for help.)
Key #3: Be Specific in the Details
Key to writing a great personal statement is being specific. This means being specific both in the words you use (e.g., avoiding using “thing”) and in the details you write.
Many candidates make the mistake of being vague in the conclusion. This relates especially to what you wish to accomplish in the program. You may want to write to "increase my knowledge." Or you may want to write to "gain exposure in a variety of settings."
Can you make these more specific, so they can be more effective for you? For example, in what specific areas do you wish to increase your knowledge? What specific settings do you want to gain exposure to?
Any ways you can be more specific will make your conclusion stronger.
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Formula for a Great Conclusion to Your Personal Statement
The formula I present here takes you step by step through writing your conclusion. It includes how to start the conclusion to your personal statement. It includes how to end it. And it includes how long your personal statement conclusion should be.
While the formula makes a logical progression, feel free to change it up. If you find another order works better for you, then go for it. Just make sure you have covered each item in your conclusion.
How Long Should the Conclusion to a Personal Statement Be?
There are few rules of thumb to determine how long your conclusion should be. First is it should be long enough to cover all four parts presented below. At the same time, it should not go on for too long. A good word count range is 100 to 120 words.
Part 1: Start With Your Vision for Your Future Career
The key to a great conclusion is in how you start. Start with your vision for your future career. This is a single sentence stating where you see yourself 5 to 10 years from now. Think of your vision as your conclusion's thesis statement.
The vision can be your medium-term goals, your long-term goals or both. Choose whichever option brings a better focus and context for your conclusion.
For example, you may wish to pursue cardiology fellowship after internal medicine residency.
Or you may wish, after law school, to enter private practice with time devoted to pro bono work.
But what if these goals change as you progress through the program? That's okay. You don't have to get them exactly right in your personal statement. And you don't have to stick to them just because you mentioned them.
The aim here is to demonstrate a clear vision for the path you are on. Being intentional will make your application stand out.
Part 2: Next, State Precisely What You Seek to Accomplish in the Program
After establishing your medium- and long-term goals, work backward from there. Perform a self-assessment. What precisely do you need to accomplish next? What next step will better position you to achieve your career vision?
The more specific you can be with these answers, the better. Then frame these as what precisely you seek to accomplish in the program.
This could be a specific knowledge you want to gain. It could be a specific technique you want to master. It could be specific research you want to perform. It could be a specific experience you wish to have.
For example, will you aim to apply for a cardiology fellowship? Then pursuing cardiology electives would be a goal for internal medicine residency.
What about for applying to law school? Is your long-term goal to practice in an area with litigation? Then a goal for law school would be to participate in mock trial.
Part 3: Then, Therefore, State the Specific Aspects You Are Seeking in a Program
First, you established your vision. Then you identified the next step to take toward achieving that vision. Now state which aspects would equip you to achieve that next step.
Does the program have a high rate of case types that align with your interests? Does it offer certain relevant technologies? Training in certain techniques? Particular courses or electives ?
Are there particular faculty whose research interests fascinate you?
What about elective rotations? Or partnerships available in the program?
Do they offer an elective rotation in a cath lab? That would be great for someone wanting a career in cardiology. What about a renown mock trial program? That would be great for a career in litigation.
And you can go further. Are you an aspiring Vietnamese doctor or lawyer? Do you want to work with Vietnamese immigrants? Does the program you are applying to serve such a population? Then mention that.
Geographic and Other Ties to the Program
Do you have geographic or other ties to the program? For example, do you have family or close friends in the area? Do you have colleagues who graduated from the program where you are applying? Great! This is where you would mention them.
Are you applying to programs that use the Supplemental ERAS Application? Did you specify geographic preferences? What about a preference for urban vs. rural setting? Did you signal particular programs? Then tailor your conclusion accordingly. This is key for medical residency.
For each of your top-choice program(s), write a different version of your conclusion. Tailor it to each program.
Then group all the other programs by common features (e.g., geography). Make sure to be as specific as possible when doing so. Then tailor a different version of your conclusion for each group of programs.
Part 4: Finally, State What You Offer to the Program
Have you accomplished the above three points? Great! All that's left is to state what you offer to the program.
This is actually quite easy. Start by identifying the themes you have written in your personal statement. Check your introduction and each body paragraph. Then list these themes, in keyword form, as what you offer to the program.
In this way, you accomplish two goals. First is to wrap up your personal statement's main points. Second is to provide a forward-looking statement as you bring it to an end.
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Personal Statement Examples
We tailor each personal statement we work on to the unique strengths and goals of our clients. Here are two examples of our work, shared with our clients' permission:
- Fellowship Personal Statement Example - Geriatric & Palliative Care
- Residency Personal Statement Example - Ob/Gyn, IMG With Leave of Absence
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published April 9, 2018. It was last updated for accuracy and completeness December 9, 2022.