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The New Common App COVID-19 Question

MAR 10, 2020 • 4 min read

Your semester likely has changed quite a lot. Most students have found themselves suddenly switching to distance learning and trying to move extracurriculars and summer opportunities online. On top of this, you and your family may have been facing personal impacts from COVID-19. Luckily, universities have released strong statements explaining that they understand how the pandemic has impacted students across the globe.

Thankfully, now there is a way for you to explain to admissions officers how COVID-19 has affected you. The Common Application has taken measures to relieve students of some anxiety caused by the virus. Next year, on the ‘20-’21 application cycle, the Common App will offer students a dedicated space to explain how they were impacted by the virus, both personally and academically.

Applicants will have the opportunity to answer this question in the Additional Information section of the Common App: 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.

The question will be optional and limited to 250 words. Instances that may influence students to answer this question include, but are not limited to, illness and loss, housing and employment disruptions, and shifting family obligations. They want to hear from you to understand the context behind your grades, extracurriculars, summers, and more. You absolutely can be honest here, particularly if it disrupted your path. Don’t feel as though you were that affected? That is absolutely okay too! You can skip this section and focus on the other parts of your narrative.

This question will not replace the current Additional Information question which allows students to explain any difficult circumstances or obstacles that have impacted their performance throughout high school. This section retains a 650-word limit.

For communities particularly impacted by the virus, your college counselors at your high school will also have the opportunity to disclose any relevant information on how their school and the larger community were impacted. Within a 500 word limit, counselors may elaborate on how their school adapted their grading scales and policies, graduation requirements, instructional methods, schedules and course offerings, testing requirements, their academic calendar, and other extenuating circumstances. Your school may still be assigning grades, while other schools have moved to a pass/fail system. Again, all of this will be taken into account by the admissions officers!

There are still plenty of ways to improve your profile during this time. At Crimson, we understand that this global pandemic has impacted students in ways we never quite imagined. If you are looking for additional support on how to best position yourself through these essays, and make the most of your time right now, you may request to speak with an advisor here.


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