Taboo Essay Topic in the time of COVID-19

What are some things that applicants should not write about in their common app essay for this application cycle? Is talking about anything related to uncertainty or fear, even if it’s not Covid related, a taboo topic this year?


No, it is not “a taboo topic”

Just remember the function of the essay. The AO picks up your file, scans your stats- (GPA / Test scores / etc), reads your LoRs (which speak to you as a student and as a member of the school community), and reads your essay(s). That essay adds the ‘color commentary’ of your app- from your point of view. No matter what prompt(s) you pick, the underlying question is ‘who is this person and what do they bring to the campus community?’. It’s your chance to show important parts of you that aren’t obvious from the rest of your app- or to knit together all of the pieces that are there into a larger whole.

So: your essay is never really ‘about’ the ostensible topic: it’s always about you, as shown through an anecdote or story. For example, if you want to show that you are a strong and resilient person, who can be a steady hand / leader when facing uncertainty and fear, then perhaps you show that through the story of the event when you realized that.

Essays are more about the content & delivery than about the topic.

The content & delivery should reveal a great deal more about an applicant than any topic selected.

There are a few topics to avoid. I’ve been seeing kids publishing topics on how they helped people make money in the stock market. Giving financial advice without a license is illegal, and that’s a red flag for business school admission.

Another one is giving details about mental/physical problems. It’s fine to a point, but if GPA is lower than expected, it comes across as an excuse.

Moreover, college are risk averse, and may not want to be have to be responsible for a student who they think may be a liability.

There is a question on the common app about Covid and if it’s affected your life in some way. Unless this pandemic has had a serious negative effect on your life, such as major economic fallout or death in the family due to Covid and the like, leave it blank. All students have been affected but this, so you don’t want to make excuses.

Topics to avoid are the same as usual: mental health, bad stuff, death, politics. Unless there is a whale of a sob story about how you overcame adversity, and you can present that information in a way that is uplifting rather than negative, avoid those topics. Remember that this essay is about giving them a reason to say yes. It’s not a confessional.

There won’t be extra points for a covid hard luck story.

Otoh, if you were inspired to some good action, something that shows well, that can be different.

I know several applying this cycle. Not one is talking about covid. They have great essays and don’t need to. I think covid will be an over utilized topic and not a way to stand out. What would you of written about if covid didn’t happen?

For the covid question why not use it to your advantage. Turn a negative into a positive. Short sentence of adapting to the new reality of taking classes remotely and using new strategies to accomplish this. Hybrid learning is not going anywhere so your basically telling them, you got this.