Undoubtedly, Covid-19 has had an impact on students and families around the world - both in positive and negative ways. I have been receiving questions for the last couple months about whether or not students should address their pandemic-related experiences in their college application essays, and I have strong reservations about using precious application space on a topic everyone-and-their-brother will be writing about. Thankfully, the Common App has created a solution.
On May 12, Common App announced that they will be including an optional 250-word essay addressing students’ experiences with Covid-19. This is the prompt applicants will receive:
Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces.•Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N•Please use this space to describe how these events have impacted you.
You can read more about the prompt on the Common App website: Covid-19 Question on 2020-2021 Common App.
I appreciate that Common App has created space for students to express themselves and relay any hardships they have encountered (and how they have handled them) without making it their main essay. But I think the big question now is - should you answer the prompt if it’s optional?
Only respond to this prompt if you’ve experienced one of two things: 1) a significant disruption to your life as a result of Covid-19, or 2) have gone above -and-beyond to give back to your community or improve yourself.
I have joined umpteen admissions meetings over the last few weeks; admissions officers are all stating they only want to read Covid-19 essays if they are different. For example, if you had to teach younger siblings, watched your parent(s) work through a difficult change in employment, had a family member get seriously ill, sewed 4,000 masks for hospital workers, or took 25 MOOC courses to develop skills in one of your passion areas, you might have a compelling essay. Do not use this space to complain about having to do schoolwork over the internet or missing out on time with your friends.
If you are wondering whether your Covid-19 experience is/was unique or important enough to include in your Common App, reach out to me on WeChat at kvanderweert or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, my team and I can help you with any-and-all of your application requirements as well. I offer a number of different packages to fit applicants’ varying needs, so let me know if I can help. Good luck, applicants!