One common question we’ve heard in recent months concerns how the Admissions Committee will evaluate applications that show evidence of significant pandemic-related disruptions. None of us have avoided the upheaval of the past year, and it’s understandable that applicants might wonder if we’ll be able to evaluate properly their readiness for grad school given how weird academic and professional life has been in this era. The quick answer, with a tip of the cap to Douglas Adams, is a simple “don’t panic.”
We know what a lot of you have been through in recent months, and we’ll be evaluating applications bearing this in mind. Many of you had plans in the works or were already engaged in pursuits that fell through. The disappointment of truncated Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or other service gigs, for example, or cancelled overseas opportunities is enough to deal with on its own, not to mention the stress of what it (or its absence) will look like on your resume. Others of you have had professional roles that have looked significantly different over the past year as you transitioned to a remote environment. Some of you who have been finishing up your undergrad studies may worry about what a bunch of pass/fail marks in lieu of letter grades will look like on your transcript. I want to reassure you all that we understand. You won’t be penalized for negative externalities, and the Admissions Committee realizes that everyone has been doing their best in unprecedented circumstances. To the contrary, I’ve been extremely impressed by the nimble pivots I’ve seen candidates make in the early applications I’ve thus far read, and I’ve heard a number of colleagues make similar comments.
So don’t stress out! You’ve still got loads of time before the January 10 application deadline, and that time is best used refining your essays, coaching your recommenders, and whipping your resume into shape. We’re excited to see your applications!