The Coalition Application – What You Need to Know

Applying to College

Most students and parents don’t know it yet, but there is a huge change afoot in the world of college admissions. A few days ago, a new college application called the Coalition Application quietly went online without any fanfare. Yet the counselor’s webinar I attended yesterday had over 200 participants, in spite of the fact that it hadn’t been advertised at all by the organization hosting it. So, what is this new application that college counselors and IECs all over the nation are so eager to learn about? Read on!

What is the Coalition Application?
The Coalition Application is a brand new online college application portal. It is a collaboration between a group of colleges and universities called The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success. This group formed out of dissatisfaction with current application options and created a new application, which they describe as “a free platform of online tools to streamline the experience of applying to college, for all students.”

Why is this big news?
For some time now, the Common Application has dominated the application scene. If you were applying to college, it was likely you would spend quite a bit of time with the Common App, which drew its fair share of complaints from students and member colleges. Now, there will be an additional application available, potentially giving students more options for how to apply.

But that’s just the beginning.

How is the Coalition Application different?
It’s been predicted that the Coalition Application could revolutionize how students apply to colleges.

In the past, students did not begin college applications until senior year. By contrast, the Coalition Application can be used as early as 9th grade, allowing students to essentially build their college applications over the course of 4 years.

Furthermore, the Coalition Application has much wider functionality than the Common App, and is divided into 3 main parts: The Virtual Locker, The Collaboration Platform and the Application Portal.

The Virtual Locker is a digital storage space where students can store files – anything that they think reflects their abilities, their accomplishments, their academic strengths, their talents, their personality.

Through the Collaboration Platform, students can share anything stored in the locker with someone they wish to receive feedback from, including teachers, parents, mentors and tutors, who can leave comments for the student (much like in Google Docs).

Finally, in their senior year, students will be able to apply to Coalition member colleges through the Application Portal. Everything in the student’s Profile and anything stored in the Virtual Locker can easily be transferred into the Application Portal and shared with whichever colleges a student chooses. Teachers will also be able to submit letters of recommendation through the Coalition App, and counselors will be able to send transcripts.

Essentially, the Coalition App combines elements of the Common App, Google Docs and Naviance, 3 major online platforms currently used for different parts of the college admissions process. Although the Coalition does not claim directly to be trying to supplant these 3 with a new all-in-one platform, it’s certainly easy to imagine that being possible.

And I should mention, the group of colleges behind the Coalition Application includes many of the most selective and exclusive colleges in the nation – in other words, its a very powerful and influential group that certainly has the ability to make this huge change happen.

Who will need to use the Coalition Application?   
I expect that most students in the Class of 2017 will have the option to use the Coalition Application for at least one of their schools, but probably not for all of their schools. As of this post, there are over 90 colleges planning to offer the Coalition Application for the 2016- 2017 application cycle, along with the Common Application. So if a student applies to University of Chicago, for example, she could use either the Common or Coalition Application. But if this same student is also applying to Bard College, she will have to use the Common App, because Bard is not a Coalition member yet. In other words, for the Class of 2017, opting to use the Coalition Application will most likely mean completing BOTH the Coalition Application and the Common Application (in addition to the UC app, the CSU app, and any others with their own system).

Worried about too many applications to complete? Students in the Class of 2017 who prefer not to do an additional application may be able to stick with just the Common App, since it’s very widely accepted. Currently only 3 colleges have announced they will be using the Coalition Application exclusively: University of Florida, University of Maryland, College Park and University of Washington.

What about students in the Class of 2018 and beyond? For this group, it’s much less predictable, because we don’t know how use of the Coalition App will change over the next few years. It’s likely that there will be a few years where students continue to have to decide between Coalition or Common App, or have to complete both. This is very much a “wait and see” situation!

Younger students who are interested in the Coalition App also have the option to create a Virtual Locker at any time and begin building their “online college application portfolio.” This has been the subject of much controversy in the counseling community, as many (including myself) are concerned that students will feel pressured to start building college applications as early as 9th grade, increasing the pressure that already exists.

Is there an advantage to using one application over the other?
At this point, it’s still too early to know whether colleges will favor one over the other in the admissions process. The member institutions have indicated that applications from both will be treated equally. We do know that the Coalition Application is more customizable, so colleges may be able to glean more targeted information from it, thereby giving a potential advantage to students who use it.

Which colleges will accept the Coalition Application?
The full list of colleges that will accept the Coalition Application can be found here.

When will the Coalition Application be available?
Portions of the Coalition Application first opened in April of 2016, and students can already create accounts. The Digital Locker and a few other tools are already available. The Application Portal should become available in summer of 2016.

I’ll be staying on the forefront of how the Coalition App will be used by colleges, in order to help students develop their personal strategy in deciding which application to use. Students I work with will get a personal recommendation based on which colleges they are applying to, and which application platform allows them to better present their strengths.

Never a dull moment in the world of college admissions!