How To Ace Your COVID 19 College Essay

| podcast

In today’s episode of “College Admissions Real Talk”, Dr. Legatt talks more about gratitude during COVID-19 and how it can be applied to your college essay.



VO: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt, a podcast for students seeking to get admitted to top-tier colleges. Each episode will feature an important tip for your college admission success, delivered with candor and love. If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the mind of a college admissions officer, this is your chance. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. So, what’s your dream school? 

AL: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk. This is Dr. Aviva Legatt, founder and Elite Admissions Expert at Ivy Insight and author of “Get Real and Get In”. Today, we’re going to be talking about how to ace your COVID-19 college essay. College essays over the past year have reflected the turbulence of these COVID times. You can see all about this in The New York Times, which wrote all about student topics over the past last year. If you listen to my recent episode on the Common App prompts for 2021-2022 you’ll know, I talked all about the prompt that’s related to gratitude. In response to COVID-19 and in preparation for 2021-22, the Common Application replaced one of its prompts with the following: “Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?” Prompt is based on scientific research on gratitude and kindness. In addition, the Common App continues to allow students to share additional information that’s COVID-19 related. Common Application President and CEO Jenny Rickard shares in a press release about the new prompt: “Particularly at this challenging time, we can help students think about something positive and heartfelt in their lives, and we can do it explicitly”. Given the Common App’s emphasis on this new prompt and its investment in related research, I highly recommend that you consider answering this prompt when choosing a topic for your personal statement. Here are some tips for how to respond. First, brainstorming. You’re going to want to choose a few specific stories or events that made you grateful this past year. Of the stories that you’ve brainstormed, think about which of these events would best reflect a time when you faced a challenge, were resourceful in finding a solution, and learn something from this challenge. When you discuss the event on the essay, remember that admissions offices want to see a positive outcome you have been able to achieve in a difficult situation. Be careful not to overemphasize the negative aspects of the challenge you faced. This prompt is designed to give voice to that positivity you’ve been able to experience or even generate during these challenging times. Another point that this prompt asks you to reflect on is something thing that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. As I’ve told you before, happiness is subjective and of course, subjectively experienced. If I were going to edit this prompt, I would take out the word “happy”. I would just use the word “thankful” because gratitudes and thankfulness are pretty much the same thing or very close. So don’t focus too much on the word “happy”. You have experienced a lot of challenges this past year, and you may not have always been happy about changing your plan, but you’ve likely experienced gratitude as well. Maybe your story is similar to one of my students who was inspired to not only start but expand his journalism efforts globally. Or maybe you were like another one of my students who fought the tragic California wildfires this past summer. While your life has been transformed by COVID-19 you have likely experienced something incredibly amazing as well. You have found purpose and meaning during these challenging times. If you want to answer this prompt, but you’re having trouble finding or expressing your gratitude, Here are a few exercises that may help you along the way. First exercise: write a gratitude letter. This is adapted from the “Greater Good Science Center at Us”, for which does research on gratitude call to mind someone who did something for you, professionally or personally, for which you are exceptionally grateful. It may be most helpful to select a person or act that you haven’t thought about for a while, something that isn’t always on your mind. Now, write an email to one of these people who’s helped you guided by the following: first, write approximately 300 words to this person. “Dear So-and-So”. In your first draft, don’t think about your spelling or your grammar. Just think about the positive thought you had around that person and that experience. Two, articulate what this person did, why you are grateful to them, and how this person’s behavior affected your life. Try to be as concrete as possible about the specific effects this person had. Three, finish the letter by describing what you are doing in your life as a result of your interaction with this person and note how frequently you think of them. Four, check your spelling and your grammar before you send out this email and optional five, before you write your draft, ask the person for coffee or lunch to catch up, of course, over Zoom. Second exercise: keep a gratitude journal. In preparation for your essay, write down one thing that happened each day over the next week or so that you’re grateful for. For example, maybe it was a big hug that you got from your little doggie. Or maybe it was spending extra time with a friend who had recently been vaccinated. You only need to spend one to 5 minutes a day on this. If you don’t think you’ll have time to write every day or you just can’t think about how you could make the time, make sure to note your gratitude on the days that are especially tough to help you get through exercise. Three, pause and take a relaxing sigh. When you find yourself particularly overwhelmed, step away from your desk. Or just close your eyes for 30 seconds. Take a deep breath in through your nose and let it out through your mouth. Repeat a short mantra to yourself as you’re breathing in and out like I wish good peace, health, happiness for myself and for my family. Or you can substitute this phrase with any phrase that makes sense for you. Self care is of utmost importance during COVID-19. Research has shown that expressing gratitude helps us heal and gives us strength when we need it the most. It can help you get into college, too, so that can’t hurt. 😉

VO: College Admissions Real Talk is hosted by Aviva Legatt, edited by Stephanie Carlin, and produced by Incontrera Consulting. I’m Caroline Stokes and this has been your daily boost of college admissions insight. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. For more information on Dr. Legatt and Ivy Insight visit www.ivyinsight.com. And you can pick up Dr. Legatt’s book, “Get Real and Get In”, at major retail outlets across the world. Insight out.