This is the first year that an additional yet optional essay has been introduced by the Common Application, a US-based non-profit membership organisation that represents 900 universities and colleges, including many prestigious names such as Stanford University, Harvard University, Yale University and Princeton University.
Better known as the Common app, it allows students to make one application for multiple universities.
Dr. Sonia Soni, head of the career guidance counselling department at the Aditya Birla World Academy, pointed out that with universities making SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) and ACT (American College Testing) scores optional in light of the pandemic, essays will be more important.
“The Covid essay will help universities understand the personal and academic pursuit of a student,” said Soni, adding that university representatives would be looking at the efforts that students have taken for cognitive enrichment and engagement with passion while studying from home.
“We will have a complete picture by October when the final submissions would be made,” she said.
Ishika Tulsian, an IBDP student of Aditya Birla World Academy, is a Physics student but is equally passionate about art. While studying from home, she has been painting a lot more and has even created an Instagram page of her work.
“Art is time consuming and I never found the time earlier,” said the 17-year-old, who is also a volunteer with the NGO Toybank. She did not let the lockdown hamper her volunteer effort and raised Rs 1 lakh for deprived children, also helping her peers do the same.
She said the Covid essay will give her the chance to talk about her initiatives, which she would have otherwise included in her main essay. “The separation of the Covid essay and the main personal statement reduces the confusion,” she said.
Dr Soni said while one of her students would be writing about the dignity of labour based on the insight gained during the pandemic, another student will write about turning her passion for baking into a start-up.
Jinen Setpal, 16, a grade 12 Science student at RN Podar School loves computer applications and has set his sights on universities offering programmes in data science and cyber security. He used the lockdown to go full throttle in his tech-related pursuits. With help from Shyam Wuppuluri, a research associate at his school, he landed a project on a special programming language at CERN. He has also developed a social media platform for topic-induced discussions, which is in its beta stages and will be launched next month. Jinen is also working on solving unsolved machine learning problems. He said he is happy to have the option of Covid essay as it would have been difficult to include all his pursuits in the personal statement.
“While the application has to be submitted in November, many of us are right now working on building our essays,” said Sahil Prabhu, 16, a grade 12 student at the Oberoi International School. Interested in studying economics and international relations, Sahil bagged a one-month virtual internship at a US-based financial technology company for which he burns the midnight oil. He also teaches football online thrice a week to children in his neighbourhood.
Overseas education consultant Namita Mehta said students have constructively used the lockdown. “From organising fundraisers and assisting underprivileged Covid victims to upskilling and even adopting household responsibilities, they have really stepped up. One of our students has also started a small baking business, where she sells cakes and cookies, with proceeds going to NGOs helping Covid-19 patients,” Mehta said.
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