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Should I answer the new Common App Question about COVID-19?

by Will Geiger, on May 19, 2020 2:28:31 PM

COVID-19 has added complexity to the already stressful and confusing process of college admissions. With grades, activities, and standardized tests all up in the air, colleges are scrambling to adapt to the new normal. As a response to this, the Common App announced that they will be offering an additional, optional question for students applying to college next year that focuses on COVID-19. 

You are probably wondering, “how do I best answer this question?” and “should I answer this question?”

Luckily, we are here to help with the do’s and don’ts for responding to this question. 

First, here’s the specific question that the Common App is asking:

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.

Keep on reading to figure out whether you should answer the question and how you should respond!

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Keep your response concise.

This question has a 250 word limit, so it is important to keep your response concise.

Focus on the facts

Stick with a “just the facts” explanation of how the pandemic impacted your educational experience. This might include:

  • Illness (to either you or a loved one)
  • Economic impact on your family
  • Adjustment to virtual instruction in the classroom
  • Inability to take specific standardized tests
  • Inability to visit specific college campuses
  • Disruption to certain extracurricular activities that you are passionate about
Remember that admissions officers will be reading this essay for context. 

The goal of this question for the admissions officers is to assess how COVID-19 may have adversely impacted your educational experience. This context will provide them with a useful lens to view the rest of your application. 



Don’t spend the space talking about your thoughts                                                                                                For most folks, a day doesn’t go by without reading a COVID-19 related new story or having a conversation about the pandemic. We get it, you are living this and thinking about it constantly. However, this essay is not the proper space for your thoughts about living through this. 

Don’t talk about how you turned the experience into a positive

We genuinely hope that you have been able to use your time during the pandemic to do something positive. However, this essay is not about showing how you made the most of a bad situation. Other parts of the application, such as the activities section, or other essays will allow you to talk about new projects or initiatives that you started. This essay is not the place.

Don’t write your main personal statement about COVID-19

We mentioned this earlier, but it should be repeated: you should not write your main personal statement about your COVID-19 experience. This is one of the reasons that this optional essay is being offered: colleges want to learn more about your stories (and not just what happened to you during the pandemic). If you write your personal essay on COVID-19 it is simply a missed opportunity to share something entirely different. 

Next Steps

Since 2014, 200,000+ students have used College EssayBuilder® by Story2, and 90% of them were admitted to one of their top three college choices! Story2 is offering free access to our College EssayBuilder® product through June 2021. Our software and courses teach you to write powerful personal statements, supplements, and scholarship essays in your own voice. 

You can access College EssayBuilder® which includes on-demand courses, the award winning StoryBuilder writing platform, and DailyStory to practice for free here!

Topics:college admission