Unveiling Your Pandemic Experience: Tips for the Common App COVID Essay

May 23, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Unveiling Your Pandemic Experience: Tips for the Common App COVID Essay

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our world unprecedentedly, affecting every aspect of our lives, including the college application process. As prospective college students, you may find yourself facing the task of writing a Common App COVID essay—a chance to reflect on and share how the pandemic has impacted you personally.

This guide aims to explore strategies and insights to help you craft a compelling Common App essay that captures the essence of your unique experience during the pandemic and leaves a lasting impression on admissions officers.

How Important Is the Common App Essay?

As a prospective college student, you might wonder, “How important is the Common App essay?” The Common Application essay is a crucial component of your college application. It is not just another essay to write; it is your chance to make a strong impression on the admissions officers.

Universities receive thousands of applications yearly, with similar academic profiles – comparable GPAs, test scores, and extracurricular activities. The Common App essay is your chance to stand out from the crowd, give context to your grades and scores, and showcase your individuality, values, and experiences that cannot be seen from the rest of your application.

The essay serves a dual purpose in the application process. First, it provides an opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills, showing your ability to communicate effectively, an essential skill for success in college.

Female students studying in a library along with other students.

Second, and arguably more importantly, it allows you to reveal who you are as a person. Admission officers are looking to get a sense of your personality, your values, your motivations, and your potential to contribute to the college community. It is about more than just your achievements; it is about your journey, growth, and character.

In fact, according to a 2019 survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the essay was one of the most important factors in the college admissions process.

In the era of COVID-19, as more colleges go test-optional, the Common App essay assumes an even more prominent role. The pandemic has introduced unique challenges and experiences for students around the globe. The Common App COVID essay offers a platform to share these experiences, conveying your resilience, adaptability, and personal growth.

The Common App essay is a crucial part of your application and a powerful tool to distinguish yourself, share your story, and connect with the admissions officers on a personal level.

So, take your time, reflect on your experiences, and pour your heart into crafting a compelling, authentic, and well-written essay.

Should You Write about COVID in a College Essay?

In the face of the global pandemic, many prospective college students grapple with the question: “Should you write about COVID-19 in a college essay?”

With the undeniable impact of COVID-19 on students’ lives, the Common Application has created an opportunity for applicants to address this.

Male student typing in his laptop.

As per Common Application’s guidelines, a dedicated optional question has been included in the “Additional Information” section to help students articulate the influence of the pandemic on their academic and personal lives. This offers a unique platform for applicants to share their individual experiences, highlighting their resilience and growth during these challenging times.

If you opt to discuss COVID-19 in your essay, your narrative should be personal, reflective, and most importantly, it should underline any growth or positive changes that occurred as a result of these experiences.

On one hand, writing about your experiences during the pandemic can provide valuable insight into your resilience, adaptability, and personal growth during this difficult time. It is a chance to share the unique challenges you faced, how you overcame them, and what you learned from the experience.

For instance, you may have had to adapt to online learning, manage family responsibilities, deal with personal or family health issues, or even grapple with a more profound understanding of mortality and vulnerability.

On the other hand, you need to remember that the pandemic is a global event that affected millions of students around the world, many of whom will likely choose to write about it. This means that your essay could potentially be one of many pandemic-themed essays that admissions officers read.

The key is to ensure that your essay does not simply rehash widely shared experiences, but instead focuses on your personal journey and individual response to the pandemic.

If you decide to write about COVID-19, be sure to focus on how the pandemic affected you personally, how it challenged you, and how you responded to those challenges. Most importantly, emphasize any growth or positive changes that resulted from these experiences.

Lastly, consider whether your COVID-19 experience has had a significant impact on your academic journey or future goals. If it profoundly affected your perspective on your intended field of study or career path, it would be worth discussing in your essay.

Deciding whether to include COVID-19 in your college essay is a personal decision. If you choose to do so, focus on sharing your unique story and the personal growth that resulted from your experiences during this challenging time. This will ensure your essay stands out and provides a deep, meaningful insight into your character and resilience.

Exploring Your COVID-19 Experience

COVID-19 has, in one way or another, influenced everyone’s life. Its effects have been far-reaching and varied, creating unique experiences for individuals around the globe.

As a prospective college student, exploring your COVID-19 experience could be instrumental in shaping your college application, particularly the Common App COVID essay.

To start, you will want to spend some time reflecting on the past months. How has the pandemic affected your day-to-day life, academic pursuits, extracurricular activities, family, and personal well-being? Remember, every person’s pandemic experience is unique.

Young woman writing her personal growth essay in a table.



Even though COVID-19 is a global event, your personal narrative should be deeply individual and reflective of your specific circumstances.

Perhaps you had to adapt to remote learning and grapple with the challenges that came with it. Maybe you or your family faced health or economic issues related to the pandemic. Or perhaps, in the face of limited social and extracurricular activities, you discovered new hobbies, developed new skills, or took on new responsibilities.

All these experiences are valid and can offer insight into your adaptability, resilience, and personal growth.

Also, consider the emotional and mental impact of the pandemic. How did it affect your outlook on life, your perspective on world events, or your plans for the future? Have your ambitions or career goals shifted as a result of the pandemic? These introspections can lead to profound realizations and serve as strong fodder for your essay.

However, as you explore your COVID-19 experience, avoid focusing solely on the negative aspects.

While it is important to acknowledge hardships, colleges are particularly interested in how you have navigated challenges, learned from them, and grown as a person. Highlight instances where you demonstrated resilience, innovation, or made positive changes in response to the circumstances.

Exploring your COVID-19 experience involves delving deep into your personal journey during this extraordinary time. By thoughtfully exploring and presenting these experiences, you can craft a powerful narrative for your Common App COVID essay.

How to Answer the COVID Question on the Common App?

Navigating college applications can be a daunting task, especially with the added complexity of addressing the impact of COVID-19.

The Common Application has recognized the unique challenges presented by the pandemic and has included a dedicated question for students to share their experiences. However, it can be tricky to know how to approach this question effectively.

Two women talking in front of a laptop.

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you how to answer the COVID question on the Common App:

Understand the Prompt

The first step is to ensure you understand the prompt. The Common App asks students to describe how the pandemic has affected them, giving them a chance to discuss any disruptions to their lives, homes, schooling, activities, etc. It is an opportunity to share your personal experience and to express how you have been impacted on an academic and personal level.

Reflect on Your Experiences

Spend some time reflecting on how the pandemic has affected your life. This includes changes to your academic situation, such as moving to online learning or dealing with school closures, as well as impacts on your family situation, health, and extracurricular activities. Identify the most significant impacts and consider how they have shaped your experiences and personal growth.

Keep It Personal and Relevant

Remember that this is your personal narrative. While COVID-19 is a global issue, the focus here is on your individual experience. Stick to the impacts and experiences that are directly relevant to you. Discuss how the pandemic has influenced your academic journey, your family life, or your future aspirations.

However, avoid discussing broader societal or global impacts of the pandemic unless they directly relate to your personal experience.

Balance Challenges and Growth

While it is crucial to discuss the challenges you have faced during the pandemic, it’s equally crucial to highlight your resilience and growth. Did you develop new skills or discover new interests during the lockdown? Did you find new ways to stay connected with your community or to continue your extracurricular activities in a virtual environment?

a student carrying her things and smiling in front of the camera

Demonstrating adaptability and a positive outlook in the face of adversity can leave a lasting impression.

Keep It Brief and Focused

The COVID-19 question on the Common App has a 250-650-word limit. This means you need to be concise and focused in your response. Avoid going off on tangents or including unnecessary details. Stick to your most impactful experiences and the lessons you have learned from them.

Proofread and Edit

Once you have written your response, take the time to proofread and edit. Check for clarity, coherence, and grammar mistakes. Make sure your essay accurately represents your experiences and presents you in a positive light.

Addressing the COVID-19 question on the Common App allows you to share a significant aspect of your personal and academic life over the past year. By following these steps, you can craft a compelling and insightful response that effectively conveys your resilience and growth during these unprecedented times.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to writing the Common App COVID essay, there are common pitfalls you should be aware of to craft an effective and engaging narrative.

Here are some common mistakes and how to avoid them while writing your essay:

Focusing Exclusively on Global Impact

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis, but the essay should focus on your personal experiences. While it is essential to acknowledge the broader context, ensure your narrative centers on your journey, challenges, and growth. Avoid getting lost in discussing the global impact of the pandemic and stay focused on your personal story.

Neglecting the Positive

It’s easy to concentrate on the hardships and disruptions caused by the pandemic. However, focusing solely on the negatives can make your essay feel bleak. Remember to balance challenges with personal growth, resilience, and positive changes.

Did you pick up a new hobby? Did you discover a new passion or academic interest? Did you connect with your community in novel ways? Highlighting these positive aspects can provide a well-rounded perspective of your experience.

Overgeneralizing Your Experience

With millions of students affected by the pandemic, it is crucial to make your narrative unique and personal. Avoid overgeneralizing or sharing experiences that are common to many. Instead, delve into your individual experiences, detailing how you navigated challenges and what you learned from them.

Ignoring the Impact on Your Academic Journey

Do not forget that colleges are interested in understanding how the pandemic affected your academics. Did you adapt to remote learning? Did you face challenges balancing schoolwork with new responsibilities at home? Perhaps you discovered a newfound appreciation for your studies or a change in your academic interests. Make sure to include these aspects in your essay.

Poor Proofreading and Editing

Grammatical errors, typos, and unclear sentences can make your essay difficult to read and leave a poor impression. Ensure you thoroughly proofread and edit your essay before submission. Consider asking a teacher, parent, or friend to review your essay—they might catch mistakes that you have overlooked.

While writing your Common App COVID essay may be challenging, avoiding these common pitfalls can help you craft an effective, personal, and engaging narrative.

By focusing on your personal experiences and growth, balancing the negatives with the positives, and thoroughly proofreading your essay, you can ensure your essay leaves a lasting impression on admissions officers.

As you navigate the college admissions process and tackle writing your Common App COVID essay, remember that this is an opportunity to showcase your resilience, adaptability, and personal growth in the face of adversity.

Reflect on your unique experiences during the pandemic and choose the aspects that are most meaningful to you.

Your essay is a chance to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate your ability to overcome challenges and thrive in difficult circumstances. Embrace this opportunity to leave a mark on admissions officers and present yourself as a promising candidate for their institution.

For students who seek professional help, college admissions experts like AdmissionSight are instrumental in crafting the Common App essays. With these experts’ knowledge and experience, they can help students identify the most compelling aspects of their COVID-19 experiences, brainstorm ideas, and develop a straightforward and impactful narrative.

Moreover, AdmissionSight experts provide personalized support, tailoring their guidance to each student’s unique circumstances and goals. They can offer valuable feedback and suggestions for improvement, helping students refine their essays to make them more compelling and memorable.

Schedule an appointment for an initial consultation with AdmissionSight to start crafting a standout essay that resonates with admissions officers.


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