Are you applying for college this year? You may have noticed that there is a new essay for the Common App for the 2020-2021 application: the “COVID-19 essay”. This essay allows you to talk about the effects that COVID-19 may have had on you personally, with a word count limit of 250 words.
Here’s the question that applicants will see this year: “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.”
Most students have been affected by COVID-19 in some way, so unless you are a homeschooled student and have truly not been affected at all, writing this essay gives you another opportunity to tell colleges about yourself. Here are some tips to consider when writing the essay:
1. Don’t summarize the crisis.
Colleges always want to understand a student’s specific context, so don’t talk about the crisis too generally. You want to convey how COVID-19 impacted you differently than other students, such as a lack of reliable technology at home or another circumstance. Tell your situation as a story, and make sure you describe how the virus has affected you.
2. Don’t write something generic.
Almost all students are impacted by COVID-19 in some way, but how can you make your story different? Write about a specific experience or circumstance that you had to deal with, not something that any other student could write.
3. Do talk about real barriers.
Some students may have extenuating circumstances due to COVID-19, such as a close family member getting the virus. These stories can help bring light to the adversity you faced during this time. If you haven’t faced anything personally, you can still talk about your personal response to what is happening around you.
4. Do focus on the positives.
Although this is a stressful time for all of us, colleges still want to know how you have overcome obstacles. Highlight how you are overcoming these barriers, and how it reveals your character.
5. Do focus on your creativity.
Many students have adapted to their different extracurricular activities in many ways, while others have started initiatives to help with the COVID-19 crisis. Both of these are good ways to highlight your dedication and generosity.
Overall, remember to make the essay about you and how you dealt with adversity. If you do have extenuating circumstances, this would also be the place to mention it. This is an unprecedented time for all of us, and we commend all of you for continuing to work hard on your college essays despite the current circumstances. We believe in you!