The Ivy Coach Daily

August 12, 2020

Avoid Writing About the Pandemic in College Essays

Avoid writing about the COVID-19 pandemic in college essays like, well, the plague (photo credit: Namkota).

Were you considering writing about the COVID-19 pandemic in your Personal Statement or in supplemental essays? If so, you’re on the wrong path. You see, admissions officers at our nation’s elite universities have to sift through thousands of applications to find the gems. Thus writing about a topic that so many other students are naturally going to be writing about isn’t exactly a good idea — just like it’s never a good idea to write an essay about sports, music, community service, foreign travel, or one’s grandparents. In highly selective college admissions, an applicant’s task should be to differentiate themselves. Writing about a topic that is so ubiquitous is not the right approach. The same was true back in 2001 when so many college applicants naturally wanted to write about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

As Tovia Smith reports for NPR in a piece entitled “How The Coronavirus Has Upended College Admissions,” “But here’s a tip for students thinking about their essays this year: Schools said they should think twice before submitting 650 words on ’How I Spent My COVID-19 Staycation.’ As Tulane’s [director of undergraduate admissions Jeff] Schiffman cautioned, COVID fatigue is real. ’I’ll use myself as example. I’ve had to cancel my wedding four times,’ he said, with a laugh. ’Everyone is going through something, so I don’t think [admissions] folks are going to want to relive it over and over and over again with 45,000 applications.’”

We echo the sentiments of Tulane’s Jeff Schiffman. Only in the Common Application’s “Additional Information” section in which students are directly asked how the events of COVID-19 have impacted them should students write about their experience enduring the pandemic. And, yes, students should absolutely complete this essay this year. It’s yet another opportunity for an applicant to make his or her case, to inspire admissions officers to root for them! But, do remember, that we’re all living through this dreadful pandemic so try not to pull on the heartstrings of admissions officers. After all, that’s not exactly a recipe that will inspire admissions officers to want to go to bat for you.

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