If you’re using the Common Application this year, you’ll have the option to answer a question about how COVID-19 has influenced your experience. At St. Edward’s, we care about the individual and use a holistic, student-centered review process to consider every application. We want to understand how the circumstances of the past year have influenced your life and your academic record.

It may not be necessary for every student to answer the COVID-19 question. Virtually every student who applies to college this year will have stayed at home for part of the spring, taken classes online instead of at school, and seen extracurricular events cancelled. If these are the principal ways you were affected by the pandemic, you probably don’t need to answer the question. Your admission counselor already knows these were part of your experience, because they were part of every student’s experience.

On the other hand, some students’ lives were upended by the pandemic. Illness, job loss, changing family dynamics and unstable housing situations are all pandemic-related challenges that would influence your academic performance, mental health and perhaps your future plans. It’s important to use the COVID-19 question to explain impacts like this.

As you consider whether to answer the COVID-19 question, ask yourself:

  • What would I want my admission counselor to know that is not explained anywhere else in my application?
  • Was my family adversely affected beyond what was typical for everyone else in my school or community?
  • What information about my experience of the pandemic would put the rest of my application in context?

Here are some circumstances in which we would encourage you to answer the COVID-19 question:

  • If you were directly affected by the coronavirus. If someone in your family became ill, or you lost a loved one, we are so sorry. If you feel comfortable, please tell us.
  • If your family’s employment or economic status was affected. If a breadwinner in your family lost a job or your housing situation changed, the COVID-19 question is a good place to explain this. If your parents are essential workers, you may have taken on extra duties at home, such as supervising a younger sibling. If you were an essential worker – a grocery store cashier, for example – you probably had to keep working in challenging conditions. This is important information to report.
  • If online education was particularly challenging in your household. Please let us know if you did not have the technology or workspace you needed to do school effectively. For instance, perhaps you had to go sit in the library parking lot for four hours every day to do your homework because you didn’t have internet at home.
  • If your answer to this question puts your academic record in context. Any of the preceding circumstances could have affected your grades. If your transcript only tells part of the story of the last two school years, and more information would explain your performance, give us that information in your answer to the COVID-19 question. And, if your circumstances were far from ideal, yet you kept up your grades anyway, let us know about that.
  • If the pandemic took a disproportionate toll on your mental health. If so, you might include information about the kind of support you are receiving now, and what support you might need when you come to college.

Here are two other thoughts about the question:

If the pandemic has led to an unexpected positive development in your life, you can share that with us. You might have had a transformative experience with your family or a project you picked up during quarantine. COVID-19 may have led to you choosing a major or career field, or reassessing your spiritual philosophy. If the pandemic had that kind of impact on you, you could tell us.

Many students are dealing with frustration and sadness about the cancellation of extracurricular events like sports and debate tournaments and beloved traditions like prom. If you feel called to answer the COVID-19 question by describing one of these losses, we encourage you to reflect on how you may have grown from the experience, rather than simply relating the loss. Please keep in mind that most college applicants will have dealt with similar circumstances, so if you answer this question, keep the focus on how you adapted and how this might influence your future.