New COVID-19 Question on the Common App

There are two new questions on the Common App this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both are designed to help admissions officers better understand pandemic impacts on schools and individual students. By adding two questions specifically about COVID, students can complete the rest of the application normally to show who they are outside of the current circumstances.


The first new question is answered by students to explain the impact of the pandemic both personally and academically. This question is optional and responses are limited to 250 words. A detailed FAQ will appear with this question on the application but the suggested kinds of impacts per the Common App website are illness and loss, housing and employment disruptions, and changing family obligations.

The student question is:

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.


Counselors are also provided with a space to outline the impact COVID-19 had on their school overall. This question is also optional and schools can decide whether to provide additional information for their students or not; this information is added to the school profile and is not at the individual student level.

The counselor question is:

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.

More information about answering these questions can be found on the Common App website.


  • You won’t be working on applications for a few years, but if the pandemic affected you academically this year, it might be worth writing down the specifics.
  • As your freshman grades are included on applications, it’s possible this question may still be on the Common App when you apply and your notes will be helpful then.
  • Sophomore year is included on college apps, and this question will likely still be on the Common App when you apply.
  • If you were applying today, would you answer this optional question? If the answer is yes, write down the details now so you’ll remember everything when you’re applying.
  • Pretend you’re a senior working on college applications — were you impacted by COVID-19 in such a way that you would answer this question?
  • If so, go ahead and write your answer now as a start for next year when you are applying. You can always add to it or make edits then.
  • Sit down and take a few minutes to think about how you were academically and personally affected by the pandemic through the end of your junior year and to where you are now as a senior.
  • Read the FAQs on the Common App website and decide if you have relevant information that admissions officers need to know.
  • College admissions officers genuinely want to know how you were affected, so your response should be constructed thoughtfully to link your experience with your perspectives, just not a recounting of events.
  • Make sure to treat this question like a real essay and effectively tell your story — don’t just answer on the fly! Think through what you want to say, pay attention to tone and verbiage, and make sure to proofread.