I am leaning toward no, but would appreciate advice, as my son (’23) is starting his essays soon. I’m also curious to hear other folks’ reasons for answering or not answering this optional question now that we are a couple years in.
If he does the optional COVID question it would say something brief like,
“Due to several health issues, I attended school virtually during my sophomore year while the vast majority of my classmates were in-person. I was hospitalized twice in 2020, once for a major surgery with an extensive recovery and once for an emergency. Because of this, I was not able to participate in the extracurricular activities I normally would have pursued.”
The only reason he’s considering it is to provide some context for why his ECs are lackluster.
Covid happened at the end of his freshman year. His main EC for that year got canceled right after they swept regionals and were about to make it to nationals (as his school has done every year for the past 25+ years). There was no tournament in 2020. He medaled at nationals in 7th grade, so 9th grade state/nationals getting cancelled was a real bummer. That’s not the main issue though.
The main issue is that he has some health problems that led us to keep him from home from school his sophomore year. It just wasn’t safe for him to risk getting COVID before he was able to be vaccinated. He was mostly healthy, and there was nothing preventing him from going except for his elevated risk. His school offered a remote option, synchronous with the in-person classes, and he and a very small group of his classmates did that all year.
He worked really hard and got all A’s, even in his AP physics class where the camera was aimed at the ceiling and the teacher posted almost nothing online. He technically could have done some sort of ECs, but he’s not athletic, and he only left the house to go to the doctor or on a walk. He couldn’t safely be around other people inside. We didn’t protest when he wasn’t interested in doing any of the ECs that he could have possibly zoomed in for. Everything just felt too hard. I sobbed in relief when he got his first shot near the end of the 2021 school year.
I know most kids had a super hard year, and I don’t think he is really unique amongst kids nationwide. That’s why I’m leaning toward not doing the question. But I don’t want his total absence of ECs (except one small hobby) for sophomore year to cause problems. It really took the wind out of his sails, as he was planning on doing jazz band and several academic teams, and his enthusiasm has not fully recovered due to the world (understandably) moving on without him. I doubt that a guidance counselor would offer anything helpful about this stuff in their letter. We had to twist his arm a bit once it was time to rejoin society last summer, but he’s enjoyed what he’s done this year.
This year he went in-person to school with everyone else, and did academic superbowl (team captain, they did okay), but not science olympiad. His only other school ECs are band and a language club. He is working this summer. He’ll do the same ECs next year, maybe one more. So, yeah, not that great. He has SAT 1500 and a 4.0UW, and is not applying to highly selective schools, as the reach-iest ones are Case Western and Purdue (engineering).
So, will it be best to skip the COVID question, or will it provide useful context without sounding whiny? He should be fine regardless, I think. Also, if he includes it, should he specify that his emergency hospitalization was for a hypertensive crisis? It is horrible that there is stigma, and I wish it wasn’t the case, but I don’t want there to be any ambiguity and have them think it was for a mental health emergency. Thanks for any advice.