Writing a college application essay on how COVID-19 impacted you may seem like an impossible feat. Do you just dive into your recent encounters in the “new normal”? If so, how do you make your experience stand out?
Or, perhaps you feel conflicted about sharing your experience during the pandemic — maybe you don’t think it’s relevant, or you’re not sure how to weigh it in contrast to other pivotal events in your life.
If you decide to tackle the topic, it’s important that you try to remain as authentic as possible. Admissions counselors have changed the way they’re approaching applications by taking a closer look at student’s pre-pandemic academic record and personal statements to understand what they’re really like.
So how should you approach mentioning your COVID-19 experience when you apply for college? Check out the tips below to write a killer essay and get into the college of your choice.
If You Don’t Want to Talk About Coronavirus in Your Essay, That’s Okay
While coronavirus certainly has everyone’s attention at the moment, it isn’t the only topic you can use to make your application stand out. Keep in mind that the essay’s main purpose is for the admissions committee to understand who you are: how you think, what drives you, what matters to you the most, and why.
If there’s still one experience outside of the pandemic that you feel made a more significant impact on you as a person, it would be more strategic and natural to focus your energy on developing that story for your college application.
…Because You Can Still Mention the Pandemic in the New COVID-19 Section
A whole section dedicated to narrating your life in the pandemic? The admissions program Common App has made it possible. Suppose you feel like the pandemic needs to be mentioned but isn’t as engaging as the topic you already have in mind for your college essay. In that case, use this dedicated space to explain what life is, or was, like during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 section is restricted to 250 words. Still, if you need a higher word count for your experience, you can also expand on it in the “Additional Information” section, where you have 650 words to narrate your lockdown experience.
Share Your Coronavirus Story Only if It Adds to Your Application
One reason the coronavirus question is optional is that the pandemic has not affected everyone equally.
If you feel that the pandemic was a little stifling, but you managed to get through it with video games, Netflix, and the occasional FaceTime with your friends, then it’s okay to skip the coronavirus section. You can focus your energy on fleshing out the topic you chose for your college essay.
If the pandemic had a massive impact on you or someone close to you, then you can write about how you dealt with it and how it changed your life. This can be a negative or positive change that you have worked on or are still working on at the moment.
Outline Any Extraordinary Circumstances During COVID-19
If you do plan on writing about your experience in the pandemic in your college application, try giving a narrative on how it has changed your life. You could draw inspiration from a single turning point or a slow buildup of day-to-day events that made you realize how different your life has become because of the coronavirus. What you write about has to be meaningful to you, and it has to lay out your personality and dreams.
Think of why admissions counselors want enrollees to send in college essays — it’s not because they want an extension of details that they can already find in your transcripts and extracurriculars. Rather, they want to get to know who you are aside from your academic records. They’re interested in the person you see yourself as and the person you are becoming. It’s an opportunity for them to think of the kind of people they want to help grow.
Narrate Your Lockdown Experience
How was your lockdown experience significant, and what steps did you take to adjust to the new normal? Were you faced with the same challenges throughout, or did you face new struggles along the way? What inspired you to share this story with another person? These are important questions that your college application must answer.
In Any Case, Maintain an Optimistic Tone Where Possible
Remember that college isn’t a necessity in this day and age; it’s just an extra step you can take to becoming the person you want to be.
College has its own set of challenges, particularly amidst the pandemic, and admissions counselors will want to know if you have the motivation and capacity to take on the responsibility. If you’re writing about the coronavirus, show what you’re looking forward to now instead of dwelling on what you’ve struggled with in the past.
It can be tough to find a positive angle on such an overwhelming experience, but establishing that perspective on your college application isn’t just for show. It’s also a way for you to show the admissions counselor how you approach and manage challenges — even those you haven’t completely gotten over just yet.
College applications give institutions a small window into the complex experiences that make you who you are. This isn’t something that can be replaced with your grades, clubs, sports, or activities. It’s empowering to have the capacity to voice yourself out in your application — and if your experiences through the pandemic have made you a stronger person, make sure you use that to your advantage in your college application.