Coalition Application

Concerned About the Coalition Application? Five Things You Need to Know as a Parent or Student

by | Aug 28, 2019

This year will be the third year for the Coalition Application offered through the Coalition for Affordability, Access, and Success. A name with a lot of connotations. But for parents and students who are trying to figure out the already complex admissions process, there’s a surprising lack of good, clear information about what it is, and what it means to you.

What You Need to Know About the Coalition Application

  1. The word “coalition” in the name refers to the group of universities, now grown to over 150, including many Ivy League schools, Stanford, and other private and public universities that created this new application. The intent was to diversify the pool of admitted students, broaden the range of criteria schools use for admissions beyond AP course, SAT and ACT scores, and athletics.
  2. The Coalition’s commitment to making college affordable means that Coalition schools help “students (graduate) with low-to-no debt, while either meeting students’ full demonstrated financial need, offering low-cost in-state tuition, or providing responsible financial aid packages.”
  3. The Coalition Application went live July 1, 2016, and in its inaugural year, 49 universities signed up to use it. This year, virtually all 156 Coalition members are expected to accept applications using the Coalition application. That compares to about 700 universities that accept the Common Application.
  4. Using the Coalition Application involves first creating a free account. Once you’ve done this, you can:
    • Start using your locker. The Coalition’s locker is a place where you can upload digital “things” (pictures, video, documents) that you may need for your college application. The idea is to get students started as early as the ninth grade on building their résumé for college.
    • Collaborate with mentors using your locker. The things you post in your locker can be shared with coaches, counselors, and other mentors. These mentors can comment on it (like on social media) and provide feedback.
    • Fill out and submit your application. This is intended to be the final step of the process. If you’ve created a locker and put items in it, you can use those items in your application. But you don’t necessarily have to create a locker, or use it if you’ve created it.
  5. Even three years after its launch, the Coalition Application isn’t fully integrated with the tools (such as Naviance) many school counselors use to send letters of recommendation and transcripts to colleges. That means counselors have to use email and other tools to upload transcripts and letters of recommendation.
  6. The Coalition has its own list of essay prompts that are different than the prompts for the Common Application, or for the University of California and Texas systems. These are the same for the 2019-20 application year as they were for the previous year. If you’re a student, this means more work. In theory, at least, the last prompt (“Submit an essay on a topic of your choice”) means you could use your Common Application Essay for the Coalition Application. But the Common Application has a 650 word limit for an essay (and many counselors would tell you you should get close to that number), whereas the Coalition suggests an essay of between 300 and 550 words. That means significant editing and revision.

Ever since its launch three years ago, the new application has sparked a lot of discussion and attention in the community of overworked, overburdened school counselors. Two major concerns have been that the new application could work counter to its own goal of improving diversity, as many of the schools attended by low-income students also suffer from the greatest shortage of counseling resources. Getting those kids to use all the tools in the new application will be a huge challenge. Second has been the concern that it could have the perverse outcome of intensifying the arms race among parents and students who are trying to get every edge in the college admissions process.

Tips for Parents and Students

  • If you’re a junior or senior in high school, and not applying to Coalition-exclusive schools, don’t use the Coalition Application. Most Coalition universities also accept the Common Application, and you can save time by using one application. Universities that accept both applications have stated that they will not treat students who use the Coalition Application differently or better.
  • If you’re a freshman or a sophomore, start using the tools on the Coalition Application. Whether or not you eventually apply to a Coalition school, you can benefit from having a place where you can upload your information and share it with mentors.

If you are applying to one of the Coalition-exclusive schools or decide to use the Coalition Application this year for other reasons, make sure you allow enough time. And if you can, get expert help. You will have more essays to write, and a good essay takes time! And you’ll have to make sure you work harder to get information to teachers who might write recommendations and counselors who send transcripts. So get a coach who can help you through the process. It will turn out to be invaluable.


  1. Lisa

    Great write up! However, there is a big error in content. In the introduction it is stated that there are 2 coalition exclusive schools. In the Tips section is is stated that there are 3 coalition exclusive schools. I’m no expert but I believe there are 3.

    • Lessa Scherrer

      There are two. Maryland originally said they were going to be coalition-exclusive, then changed their minds.

    • Brian Doherty

      Nope, it is two! UMD dropped this –

  2. Andy Morris

    Lisa, since UMD dropped use Coalition for this year rather than make it exclusive. The number using it exclusively is now 2.

  3. Brett Rachel

    The University of Maryland – College Park is also one of the three original universities (U Florida, U Washington) that will use the Coalition application exclusively. UMD will begin using the Coalition app for freshman and transfer students in August 2017.

  4. Rebecca

    And another error– the app is not live. They said July and that may still happen but the reason UMD dropped out was concern that the rollout is not on schedule.

  5. Cheryl

    Will this apply to transfer student applications? I see at least 3 schools my daughter is targeting for her 2nd year of college.

  6. Debbie Austin

    The University of Washington will not be using the Coalition application this year. Their website states: The application for autumn 2017 opens on October 1. (The UW remains a Coalition member. We will not use the Coalition application in this first year.)

  7. Ann

    I use Naviance and am wading into the Coalition process… and not excited …
    The only information I see about submitting teacher recommendations is to use email … but i don’t see any information telling me WHO to email and how to indicate my student identity.
    Positive that I am missing something, and already bleary-eyed in early October… can anyone provide direction?

    • Venkates Swaminathan

      The Coalition doesn’t make it easy for schools that use Naviance. There are special instructions for this, and the best approach is to ask your school’s guidance or college counselor.

    • Anupam

      Our High School is telling us that though UMD, College Park is on Coalition the school can still submit materials through Naviance. Hope this is correct.

  8. Beverly Yang

    Does any one know how to print out a paper copy of the Coalition Application to proof read before submission?

  9. merry dean

    How closely do the generic course titles need to match the actual course title

  10. Tanya R.

    When checking your documents you can see which ‘official documents’ were sent along to which school on the left-hand side … however, you CANNOT see which of your documents in ‘media’ locker were attached to the application. This is a flaw, as this knowledge could be useful when trying to confirm that you did, in fact, send ALL the appropriate documents.

  11. Bria

    The coalition app and common app are terrible if you are a transfer student who has previously attended college and are an independent. Both ask for invasive parent information that you A) May not have access to B) Shouldn’t have to provide as an independent C) Might effect your financial aid opportunities negatively. It also asks for all high school coursework. If you don’t have access to your full high school academic records you cannot complete the application. It is useless and has prevented me from applying to majority of the universities I intended to apply to.

  12. Patrick Sweeney

    Having now worked with both the Coalition and Common App formats, the former does appear to provide some advantages. Particularly in the user interface and ability to create a locker for media files which in common app must be done with external sources such as Slideroom. Not being integrated with Naviance is a major disadvantage IMO as there is no feedback mechanism and one must rely on edoc submissions for references and transcript files – hopefully they can add that integration in future so it becomes a comparable process.

  13. Eli

    Does anyone know when I can start my application for each individual school on the coalition application? At this point it will allow me to enter my personal information but not start the application for schools.

  14. Sybil

    The Coalition app is awful. So many flaws, and at this point I am unable to submit any applications because they have a “flaw” in their system they are currently working to fix. It is college application time, there should be no flaws or at least have a help center that actually helps or can be contacted by phone. Steer clear of this app, it takes hours to upload information and then does not record the information. I actually had to contact a college I was interested in attending and figure out a way to apply without using this app.

  15. Bonnie

    Does anyone know where on the coalition app you submit the essay? Completed entire profile section but don’t see an essay prompt.

  16. MH

    As a counselor I dislike this system. It is not user friendly. The format isn’t the best. I definitely prefer other application systems. Please work to improve this tool. I strongly encourage my students to avoid this site if possible. I suggest that they only use it if this is the only way to submit an app for the schools of their choice.

  17. Susie

    U of I issued acceptance today on early action- how do I find out if my son was accepted? It’s not posted on my Illini since he did the coalition application

  18. Jane Hirschhorn

    Regarding the essay: I attended a Coalition webinar earlier this year and when I asked a question about word length for the essay, the speaker said “about 500 words,” implying that the draft could be longer. Therefore, perhaps folks who write a personal statement for the Common App may not have to trim their essay if its 600-plus words. Thoughts?


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Venkates Swaminathan

Venkates Swaminathan

Venkates Swaminathan (Swami) is the founder and CEO of LifeLaunchr, the world's first virtual college admissions coaching platform, and a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Swami has been an executive in the education and technology industries for over 25 years. He has an M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois, and a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. He is the father of a child in college, and in his spare time, he is a jazz and Indian classical singer and pianist.

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