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A New Optional COVID-19 Writing Section in the Common App

Date published: | John BlackSmith

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Posted in: Blog | Writing Online
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Multiple college applicants will be tempted to describe the impact of COVID-19 on their lives in their college essays this fall. However, they risk telling one same story about the pandemic — the one any high school junior can share these days. Because of this concern, a decision was made to add a new writing section to the Common Application.

A number of universities have already announced adjustments to their application requirements. Additional essay prompts are also going to be changed to address the pandemic and its effects on students, but they are not yet officially announced by educational institutions.

However, the Common App released a change in their application already not so far ago. The app will now contain an optional writing section where applicants can describe the impact of coronavirus on their lives.

It is told in a new prompt that community disruptions and natural disasters often have serious and long-lasting effects. If one needs it, the additional space can be used to describe those impacts. This question is not obligatory. If a student chooses to use it and share anything on this topic, it will appear in the Additional Information section of the application. The length of the response is limited to 250 words.

Jim Rawlins, assistant vice president and Director of Admissions at the University of Oregon, encourages applicants to use this section. He says: “When you have an opportunity to share practical effects the pandemic had on you, including your education environment, or your family’s wealth, it is okay to share. With this information, we will be able to put your academic record in the right context.”

Many advise against writing about COVID-19 in other sections of the application, and especially to avoid writing about it in general essay sections. Your application should tell as much about you as possible, helping the admissions committee get to know who you are. By telling how the COVID-19 has affected your life, you will probably describe more what is now happening to most people.

Jenny Rickard, the President and CEO of Common Application, said that the goal of this adjustment is to provide a space for students to describe their experiences due to the coronavirus while providing educational institutions the information necessary to understand each student’s unique context.

This new adjustment will provide a chance for those applicants whose lives have been disrupted by the pandemic to explain to admissions committees their situations. While significant reflections on the effect of the COVID-19 can be reserved for personal statements, this section has to be reserved for “practical impacts.”

Students have to discuss events educational institutions will not otherwise learn about in the rest of the app, among which family illness or financial problems. For applicants who have gone through such events because of the pandemic, it is crucial to use this section to discuss the effects on their community and to deliver a message of resilience to the admissions committees.