This year’s Common App will include a new section in which students can explain (in 250 words or fewer) COVID-19’s impact on their academic and personal lives. Though the section is optional, we recommend most students fill it out. Here’s what you need to know:
- Keep it short. Unless the pandemic has radically affected your life or education in ways different from your classmates, you likely won’t need all 250 allotted words.
- Don’t repeat. Other sections of your application will address difficulties that arose due to COVID-19. When your high school submits your transcript and recommendation letters, they also send colleges a School Profile, which explains grading, course offerings, and curriculum structure. If your School Profile already indicates adjustments made to adapt to COVID-19, don’t reiterate or re-explain these changes.
- Don’t over explain. While it’s important to give colleges all necessary information, keep in mind: schools want to admit resilient students who can weather change and adapt to difficult circumstances. Applying to college during a pandemic is emotional, exhausting, and utterly unfair, but try to avoid overly emotional language. Stick to the facts (e.g., “Though I was scheduled to take the SAT in the spring and Subject Tests in the fall, testing cancellations delayed my schedule and did not leave enough time to take Subject Tests.”). After you’ve drafted a response, ask someone to read it over and let you know if your tone comes across as whiny or if it sounds like you’re making excuses.
Contact Empire Edge if you’d like help discussing your response to this question. Given that many applicants will not be able to send test scores, other parts of your application, including this COVID-19 section, will be even more important. We are here to help you get it right.