2 years ago
Admissions Advice

To or not to write about COVID19 for my personal statement?

I feel like COVID19 will be a very common topic in this year's essay pool - I don't want to take the risk of writing a cliche/over-done topic.

However, I think my experience with COVID19 was unique? My entire family got infected and March-June were my peak moment of uncertainty in many different ways (my family's health, my own health, our ability to afford things, and of course academics + extracurriculars). I also feel like I have a lot to say about what I learned, how I've grown, how my experience connects to my extra-curriculars, and how it connects to my goal of learning about public health (I think? I'd say I'm undecided).

With all of this said, would you advise me to or not to write about my experiences for my personal statement? If you do think I could/should write about COVID19, do you have suggestions for how I should approach the essay and how I could make my essay stand out from the crowd? Thank you!

(I could talk about this in my additional information section but I was intending to talk about other things there so I don't know....thoughts?)

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4 answers

2 years ago

On the Common App (not sure about other application sites), there will be a spot this year specifically to talk about COVID-19 within the "additional information" section and how it impacted you! I'd recommend putting most of your experience with it in this section.

Here's the link to the prompt: https://www.commonapp.org/blog/COVID-19-question-common-app (NOTE: Common App has said that the COVID section word count of 250 words will not take away from the other 650 words you are allotted in the Additional info section, so you are still able to talk about your other personal circumstances).

I personally think if you ultimately talk about your interest in health in your personal statement, you could briefly mention COVID but it should not be the main focus of your essay. Ultimately, if it doesn't naturally fit into what you're writing for your personal statement, then don't force it since you have the extra COVID section.

2 years ago[edited]

The goal of every college essay is to reveal more about who you are, what you care about, and your goals. Your collective essays should also work together as a portfolio. Since there's a specific space in the Common App to discuss how Covid-19 impacted your life, also writing your personal statement about it may seem repetitive. As @mb56 said, you'll have extra space beyond the traditional Additional Information section just to talk about Covid-19, so you'll still be able to mention other special circumstances.

So, it's generally not a great idea to write the Common App essay about the pandemic. The exception is if you want to focus on a specific aspect of how your life changed, rather than how Covid-19 broadly impacted your life. You should also try to focus less on the virus, and more about the change. For instance, if you started writing a book during the pandemic (or some other self-driven extracurricular), that could be a more unique topic.

If you want to talk about your public health ambitions, that's something that could be mentioned in a "Why This Major" or Academic Interest essay. You could also discuss it in the Additional Information section about the pandemic.

I hope this helps, and let me know if you have more questions!

2 years ago

I heard from a John Hopkins Webinar (but of course this is applicable to any school) that they would rather see a personal statement about you, your strongest attributes, what you would bring to their community, what you are passionate about, what that shows about you, etc. I am sure that you could include a bit of this experience in there and how it has shaped the characteristic about you that you want to talk about in the personal statement. Also, I feel like you could elaborate much more about your experience with Covid-19 in the additonal info section without it being formally written. I hope this helped!

2 years ago

I think it is not the what but the how. Maybe you could place the what in the section about impact from the pandemic and focus on the how:

How did this became a life changing experience for you? How did it alter your character, core values and beliefs? How do you see things now in hindsight?

For sure there will be a plethora of Covid related essays, make sure that yours is unique. Best of luck !


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