The answer, as it is with many things, is: it depends. If any formative moments or events happened to you during the pandemic—if lockdown gave you the time and space to come to an important conclusion that’s shaped you as a person—yes, mention COVID-19 in your college personal statement.
However, if you’re not entirely sure, chances are that there’s a better topic for you to use for your essay. The pandemic obviously affected everyone’s lives the past couple of years. Thus, making the pandemic the centerpiece of your personal statement is not the best choice unless something incredibly significant happened that shaped you as a person. Ultimately, you want to spend your 650 words talking about yourself. Your essay should give schools a clear snapshot of you as a unique individual.
Sharing COVID-19’s Impact on Your Life
If COVID had a significant impact on you, Common App actually now has a specific section to explain that impact. It’s not an essay, so no pressure there. Just detail any major influence the pandemic may have had on you, your family, or your learning environment.
Like with all college essays, though, there isn’t that much space to write, so being clear and concise is key. This is the place to mention if you couldn’t partake in an extracurricular you love during the pandemic, or if you struggled with online learning, or if your mental health plummeted and affected your life and learning. However, it’s still recommended to let the application office know how you handled and overcame the challenges of the pandemic. Without the time to engage in your favorite extracurricular activities, did you pick up a new skill or hobby? How did you make the most of the time in lockdown?
Remember that the pandemic impacted pretty much everyone—so don’t try to overstate how difficult it was for you. Just be as straightforward with them as you can.
What Should I Write in My Personal Statement, Then?
Personal statements are a place for you to explain one of your unique facets to an application officer. They see a lot of essays. Harsh as it is to say, if you didn’t have a particularly unique COVID experience, they probably won’t be as captivated. So in general, you probably shouldn’t include COVID-19 in your college personal statement.
Often the advice is to do your best to stand out in your personal statement. As a consequence, many applicants try to write about what they think application readers will find exciting. I’m personally of the opinion that if you care about what you write about, your passion will help set you apart. Ultimately, they read so many essays that there aren’t many incredible, out-of-the-box ideas that they haven’t seen already. Of course, if you’re truly confident in your idea, go ahead! But if you can’t think of anything ultra-creative, don’t worry. Just use the essay to share something that has made you the person you are today—whether that’s an experience, an activity, a person. Be as genuine and true to yourself as you can!
If you want help brainstorming college essay ideas, writing, or editing them, please reach out to us here at Mundo Academy! We have tutors with experience helping students through the gauntlet of the college application process, ready to help guide you through writing your best college essays.
We wish you the best of luck on your college journey!
By Brianna Chu | Mundo Academy Administrative Coordinator, Tutor, and Academic Coach