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UPDATE: COVID19-Specific Common App Prompt

Updated: May 20


Common App just published this week a COVID19-specific prompt for applicants to use. It will be in the Additional Information Section of your Common App. Here’s what it looks like:


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.


Does this mean you should automatically write a response for this? NOOOooooooo! Consider if the prompt really applies to YOU and your situation.


Breaking It Down


I’ve underlined some phrases to help break down the kind of information you could share:


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.


We can pull out a few phrases to break down and mull over - see highlights in bold above.


“[F]amily Circumstances”

You might choose to discuss, for example, the fact that one or both of your parents lost their jobs or otherwise suffered economic loss, if that loss affected you. Did you have to leave your home as the result of an eviction? Or maybe some relatives or friends are living with you because of a change in circumstances.

Maybe you took on more responsibilities because one or both of your parents works in an essential role, such as food service or healthcare, and you are doing more caregiving for younger siblings to help your parents as they work longer hours.


“[A]ccess to reliable technology

Technology can feel like something you take for granted - until it’s gone. If, for example, you faced challenges in transitioning from face-to-face learning to online classes - let’s say, in your least favorite class - how did you handle it? Even if your school district decided to issue Pass / Fail, instead of letter grades, it will still be good to share with admissions officers what you did to pursue your education despite technology barriers. Did you find someone who would let you come over to access wifi? Did you pursue extra credit? Food for thought.


As you learn about this prompt, you can also consider your writing strategies - in general - for Common App.


Personal Statement

Common App gives you a maximum of 650 words to write about yourself. How are you going to choose your topic? Sometimes, one of your extracurricular activities can be a great choice. As I mention in in Meaningful Extracurricular Activities & 50 Examples, “[m]any extracurricular activities can be “meaningful” if you can honestly say that you pursued the activity with a sense of purpose. As you choose what you will spend your time doing, think about what is motivating you to do what you do?“

That includes volunteering - one of my students was such a passionate volunteer for a food closet, that he taught me something about some social issues - and it ended up being the topic of his personal statement! "With the food closet, he became such a fixture that the non-profit relied upon him to eventually train other volunteers - including adults (!!!) and to provide interpretation services for Mandarin and Spanish speaking clients. And of course, he hauled, packed and sorted donated foods!!!"

If you have a great story of how you CHANGED for the better, so much so, that it’s like a movie (!), consider borrowing essay-writing secrets from the blockbuster film, “Crazy Rich Asians.” For example, if COVID19 actually helped you create better life/etc. habits, that might be a good reason to discuss the pandemic in your Personal Statement as well. In that post, I share how other students have actually written about their unusual habits, long before COVID19, and, you can too!


Other Writing

In addition to the Personal Statement, Common App has other sections which allow you to directly express yourself in written form:

  • Supplemental Prompts

  • Additional Information

  • Activities


Supplemental Prompts


Each college on Common App can choose to require you to write something specific for their application. So yes, you will need to think about not just ONE topic, but, hopefully, MULTIPLE topics so that you will have interesting things to say in various application essays - especially since each college can have more than ONE supplemental essay! For example, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor requires THREE (3), and one of them clocks in with maximum of 500 words. Yes, a FULL PAGE.


Additional Information


This section gives you 650 words to share things “to discuss circumstances and qualifications not reflected elsewhere in the application.”


Activities


This is the section you will use to report up to 10 extracurricular activities, in 150 characters or less.

This is just a quick update to let you become aware of this new writing section of Common App, and to get you thinking about your approach in general. Happy Writing!!!



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