COVID-19 has changed the world, including college admissions. Given the extraordinary impact that COVID-19 has had on individuals, families, and communities, college applicants are likely to want to write about COVID-19 in their college admissions essays.
Should you write about COVID-19 in your college admissions essay? In general, no.
Here are three reasons why you should avoid writing about COVID-19 in your main college admissions essay (e.g., main Common Application essay):
College applications will have special extra sections dedicated to COVID-19. In these sections, you can discuss COVID-19 and its impact on you. For example, the Common Application is providing an extra 250-word section where you can discuss COVID-19. The Coalition Application is also adding a COVID-specific section where you can indicate the impact of COVID-19 on you. Given that special sections are already dedicated to COVID-19, you should not waste your main college admissions essay on the topic of COVID-19. This obviously comes with some exceptions--for some students, COVID-19 will have had an extraordinary impact on their lives, above and beyond what others have generally experienced. If your situation is truly unique and extraordinary, then you might be the rare exception who should write about COVID-19 in your main college admissions essay.
Everybody has been affected by COVID-19. It is a common and collective struggle and experience. Everybody's life has been turned upside down. Thus, your story, in general, will not be very different from others' stories. Thus, you will have difficulty standing out if you write about COVID-19, especially since many students are going to be inclined to write about that topic. COVID-19, despite how terrible and devastating it has been, will quickly become a cliche topic for college admissions purposes.
The situation regarding COVID-19 is constantly changing. It is a moving target. We are constantly learning new things about COVID-19, and we are still in the middle of this devastating pandemic. In fact, we might not even be in the middle. We might still be in the beginning stages. The worst may be yet to come. Thus, writing about a constantly evolving situation is tricky and could make your observations and discussions about COVID-19 moot by the time your essay is read by college admissions officers. Writing about any topic that is too current and volatile is risky. You should generally focus your main college admissions essay on experiences that have fully taken place, where you have the benefit of hindsight to be able to reflect, analyze, and show--in depth and with confidence--how those experiences have shaped and influenced who you are today and what your future goals are.