The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives and postsecondary plans for many students. We want to reduce anxiety for applicants affected by these events and provide them with a way to share their experience with colleges and universities.

Next year, on the 2020-2021 application, Common App will provide students who need it with a dedicated space to elaborate on the impact of the pandemic, both personally and academically. We want to provide colleges with the information they need, with the goal of having students answer COVID-19 questions only once while using the rest of the application as they would have before to share their interests and perspectives beyond COVID-19.

Below is the question applicants will see:

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.

The question will be optional and will appear in the Additional Information section of the application.The response length will be limited to 250 words.

The question will be accompanied by a more detailed FAQ to help students consider the kinds of impacts they may wish to report, including illness and loss, housing and employment disruptions, and shifting family obligations.

The new language will not replace the current Additional Information question inviting students to discuss circumstances and qualifications not reflected elsewhere in the application. That question, along with its 650 word limit, will remain.

“We are grateful for the feedback we received from our college and university members and the counseling community about how to help students share how the current health crisis has impacted them personally and educationally. The goal is to have a central place for students and counselors to describe their experiences due to COVID-19 only once while providing colleges and universities the information they need to understand each student’s unique context.”

Jenny Rickard, President & CEO, Common App

Counselors will also find space in their Common App counselor forms to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on their school communities. The following optional question will be located within the School Profile section.

Your school may have made adjustments due to community disruptions such as COVID–19 or natural disasters. If you have not already addressed those changes in your uploaded school profile or elsewhere, you can elaborate here. Colleges are especially interested in understanding changes to:

  • Grading scales and policies
  • Graduation requirements
  • Instructional methods
  • Schedules and course offerings
  • Testing requirements
  • Your academic calendar
  • Other extenuating circumstances

Your students will have a similar space in their application to share how these events have affected them personally.

"The inclusion of the COVID-19 question will give our students an opportunity to name and describe the challenges and triumphs they have endured due to this pandemic. I am grateful to Common App for including the concerns and feedback from the school counseling (and higher ed) communities when crafting this question. We thank Common App for giving students a space to feel seen and be heard."

Sanjay K. Mitchell, Director of College & Alumni Programs, Thurgood Marshall Academy (DC)

This new question will be a text-entry response with a 500 word limit. Counselors may choose to use the space to offer details or to direct admission officers elsewhere to find the information, such as an uploaded school profile or web page url. Counselors will be able to provide this information only once, and it will populate the forms for all their students. We will be working with our integration partners to ensure that this option is available to all counselors regardless of which platform they use.

Throughout this process, we’ve collaborated closely with Common App’s Application and Outreach Advisory committees, the school counseling community, Common App member colleges and universities, and the Board of Directors. We hope these changes will create a more complete picture of the student experience with COVID-19, and we welcome additional feedback from the higher education community on how to address student challenges. As we get closer to the launch of the 2020-2021 application in August, we will provide updated information in our What’s New webinars, as well as regular updates to our blog.