If you're thinking about college essays, your potential topics might include your experiences related to COVID-19, shelter-in-place, and distance learning. While some students might be able to write about these topics successfully, you should consider two key questions before doing so.
1. Can you make it fresh?
The potential benefit to writing about COVID-19 is that you won't have to spend too many words on exposition. You can just write about "April" and everyone will know exactly what you're talking about. In theory, perhaps this kind of shared event will be easy for your reader to relate to.
However, I think it's more likely this would work against the effectiveness of your essay. Your readers have been living through pretty much the same thing. They know the story already; it's probably dominated their lives, too. Also, lots of students will be writing about COVID-19, and you generally want to avoid very common topics. In short, it will be tough to write something that feels fresh or exciting to the people who will read your essay.
2. Can you demonstrate growth?
It might also be challenging to write about how you've applied a life lesson or realization from COVID-19 to your regular life. After all, this whole situation just started for us in March. We haven't even gone back to regular life yet.
I want to make a distinction here:
For most students, it will be difficult to demonstrate concrete life changes by discussing something that just started in March and is still ongoing. It's not impossible, especially if you were to write about the past few months as the culmination of a period personal growth, rather than the start of it. But for many students, it will be tough.
How you write your essay and the depth of your insight is more important than the specific topic or story you write about. And admittedly, it would also be strange to pretend that these few months just aren't happening. But essays about COVID-19 will be challenging for the reasons mentioned above, and many students will be better served by writing about—or at least focusing on—other topics.
I look forward to helping students with their college applications over the next few months. If you're interested in working with me, please find more information here!
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