If you are going to apply to a university through the Common Application, you should be aware of the suggested essay on COVID-19 that was recently added on the platform. This prompt has been included so that you can focus the rest of your application on other things and so that college admissions teams do not receive millions (literally) of essays on the impacts of the virus.
Keep in mind, however, that the prompt is optional and that you will not be penalized if you do not send the essay. So, should you answer it? If so, how can you approach this topic? To help you with these questions, we have developed this guide regarding the Common App essay on COVID-19. Check it out!
What you need to know about the Common App essay on COVID-19
This is the prompt for the essay on COVID-19:
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 will find it in the Additional Information section of your application and your answer can be up to 250 words.
Should I write the essay?
As we said earlier, keep in mind that this prompt is completely optional, which means that you will not be penalized if you do not answer it. However, you must take some points into account when deciding whether or not to write the essay . You can start by answering these two questions:
- Has the pandemic had any academic or personal impact on your life?
- Did these impacts have a negative impact on their application to colleges?
If you answered “yes” to both questions, then you should write the essay on COVID-19. If the pandemic has not triggered any impact on your application, then there is no need to answer the prompt . On the other hand, if there was an impact but you managed to keep your grades and extracurriculars, there is no need to respond either.
This essay is available to give students the option of explaining why parts of the applications are not as strong as they could be, due to the new coronavirus pandemic.
Some ways in which you may have been negatively impacted by the pandemic include:
- Lowest grades
- Lack of scoring in the SAT or ACT
- Less extracurricular / less participation in extracurricular activities
- Losing a competition or prize you expected to win
- Lose an internship/ professional experience
- Don’t get motivated so much with remote classes
There are numerous causes for these impacts, including:
- Poor internet connection
- Having to share a computer with other family members
- Not having access to a quiet study space
- Not being able to meet in person for clubs or sports
- Competitions being canceled or postponed
- Feeling depressed or anxious
- Struggle to feel motivated to attend remote classes
- Difficulties in learning online
- Standardized tests (such as SAT and ACT) being canceled
- Having to juggle additional tasks or responsibilities
If any of these situations fit your experience, this essay is your chance to explain to colleges how you were impacted by COVID-19.
Tips for writing the essay on COVID-19
Focus only on problems related to the pandemic
This essay is geared only to the challenges you had with the new coronavirus pandemic. If you have had other non-pandemic challenges you want colleges to know about, this is not where you should discuss them. Instead, write about these problems in the other optional essay in the Additional Information area of the Common App. It offers the opportunity to discuss general situations and is included in the platform every year. In it you can write up to 650 words!
Show your efforts
The COVID-19 essay does not automatically exempt you from falling grades or a lack of extracurriculars. You still need to show the colleges that you worked hard and did your best. Whenever you mention an area in which you worked, be sure to also explain how you did the best you could. Examples of efforts may include:
- Ask teachers for additional help
- Study more than usual to understand the material of remote classes
- Helping colleagues or siblings to study
- Focus more on personal projects than on online exams that require a good internet connection, etc.
You only have 250 words to answer this prompt, which can end up being very little. This means that you must express your point of view quickly, without including much additional information. The main recommendation, in this case, is to follow a formula “it happened and this was the result”.
Here is an example of an essay on COVID-19 that follows this formula:
When my school transitioned to remote classes, my parents and I had to share the only computer in our house. This meant I didn’t have as much time to work on my schoolwork as I wanted, and when I could use the computer it was often late at night or early in the morning and harder to get help from my teachers or classmates. As a result, my grades for the second semester were lower, which I don’t believe would have been the case if the pandemic had not occurred.
This answer has 89 words and clearly defines the cause (having to share a computer in a family of three) and the effect ( lower than normal grades).
Focus only on how you were impacted
As we mentioned above, you will not have much space to write the essay on COVID-19. So make sure you don’t include unnecessary information. To stay focused, discuss only the individual challenges you faced. This means that you don’t have to write about all the changes your school made during the transition to online classes, if you were still able to manage the changes and maintain your grades.