Here’s the Deal on the COVID-19 Essay Question on the Common App

By Michaela September 30, 2020 College Application Covid-19 Press

High school junior students have had every element of their college admissions disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now it has filtered into college applications, too. The Common Application recently announced the addition of an optional essay to their application platform focused entirely on the effect the pandemic has had upon your life in just 250 short words.

Why Was This Essay Added?

Let us Imagine for a moment that you are an admissions counselor at your top college. You’re likely reading dozens of essays each day, sometimes 40 essays in a day in addition to other office meetings. Now, you know that for many students, the COVID-19 pandemic is the most significant event of their lives, and rightly so! But you’re reading dozens of essays and most of them are about pandemic experiences. By the end of the day, students start to blend together and it’s tough to pick a few standout essays. Essentially, you’re reading dozens of variations on the same story. 

Hopefully, this scenario gives you the perspective to understand that college counselors are anticipating a tough admissions season ahead. At least in terms of essay topics. The addition of this question to the Common Application does a few great things: 

  1. It allows students to focus their main Personal Statement on other deep topics that shaped your character. 
  2. It still preserves space to separately address the ways you handled the challenges of the pandemic. It makes sure this aspect of your life is not lost. 

The great news is that colleges genuinely want to get to know who you are as the person behind the application. You will now have essay space to share everything you want them to know about you, without feeling forced to talk about a particular event. 

So, since the essay is optional, should you submit an essay for this prompt? How do you even begin to approach writing it? 

Read Michaela’s full advice on