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.

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