The New Covid-19 Essay: Do or Don’t

This year, many college applications, including the Common Application and the Coalition Application, have added a new, optional essay prompt about Covid-19. The essay allows students the opportunity to explain how their lives were impacted by the pandemic. There’s a big question in the world of college admissions about how and if students should respond to this optional essay prompt. But, at the end of the day, as with much of the college application process, it comes down to students trusting their intuition.

The Questions

Over the summer of 2020, the Common Application added the following optional essay prompt to the essay section of the application:

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?*

And the Coalition Application added a section where students can choose from a list of ways the pandemic may have effected them, and then adds this essay prompt:

Natural disasters and emergency situations like COVID-19 pandemic have impacted the lives of many students and their families. While entirely optional, you may share information here regarding how any of these events have affected you or your family circumstances. Please provide any additional information you would like to share regarding how these events have affected you or your family. 

Should I or shouldn’t I?

This essay is not the place to write about the general, well-known impacts of the pandemic. Stuck at home? School cancelled? Gain some quarantine weight? Play more video games? Not good or appropriate reasons to write this essay. Your school counselor will most likely be addressing the changes to the school setting, and it’s common knowledge that many students were stuck at home. If that is the extent of how it effected you, it doesn’t make sense to add anything in this space.

However, if you were effected beyond these basic ways, such as:

  • you or a family member became ill will the virus
  • you lost someone close to you because of the virus
  • you used your time at home to develop a new interest, talent, etc that had a positive impact on you
  • the pandemic changed your financial standing in an impactful way
  • you didn’t have access to a computer, internet, etc for learning
  • you can personally reflect on how the pandemic changed your outlook, beliefs, values, etc
  • the clubs and activities you were going to pursue were impacted (be specific)

These are just some examples of when you might want to make use of that space. There are many more. Consider how the pandemic changed you, if it did.

The Covid-19 essay is, in fact, optional. Colleges will NOT look down on an application that doesn’t include one. They are also more than happy to read an application that does include one, if in fact the student is writing about something important to them.

Your college applications are a place for you to showcase who you are and why you are ready for college. As with all of it, how you present yourself is up to you! The Covid-19 essay is the same: use it if you feel it can help you share more about yourself, don’t use it if not. If you need help deciding, please contact your Campus Bound counselor or reach out to learn how we can help.

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