By: Caroline Koppelman
The Common Application (Common App) has been a staple of the college application process for more than forty years. The Common App has done an excellent job of streamlining the application process and made it easy to apply to multiple schools. While not every college uses the Common App, it has become the choice of most top colleges in the recent past. However, in the past few years, there has been criticism of the Common App.
In response to this criticism, about 80 colleges came together and formed the Coalition Application for Access, Affordability, and Success to rival the Common App. The Coalition App was developed to “improve the college application process for all students as they search for and apply to their perfect college.”
One of the key ideas behind the Coalition Application is to reframe the college application process as a marathon instead of a sprint. The Common App made most high schoolers believe that the college application process starts on August 1st, the day Common App used to be released annually. The Common App leads students to think of Junior year as the big college prep year, a time to invest all their focus in their grades and activities. As a result, students tended not to consider the college application process during their sophomore and freshmen years. While it's true that the admissions committees value growth over time, they do take freshmen and sophomore year into consideration.
The Coalition Application hopes that they can change the way students and families view the process. The Coalition will feature “lockers” where students can keep track of their accomplishments throughout the duration of high school. That way students won’t forget all of the things they’ve accomplished. The lockers can store extra curricular activities, writing samples, essays, etc. that they hope will paint a more holistic picture of each student.
The Coalition also wants to help even the playing field. The locker was created to help disadvantaged students who might not have access to great college departments or independent counselors. In addition to the locker, students will have the option of sharing the contents of the locker with advisors who will guide them through the process. This could provide critical advice and direction for students who do not have access to guidance counselors or mentors.
When it comes time to apply to college, The Coalition wants students to avoid stressing out over essay topics. Instead they plan to allow schools to use material from students’ portfolios to create questions.
Right now the Coalition is in its infancy. While over 600 schools are represented on the Common App, only 80 institutions have signed on to the Coalition, including elite schools like the Ivy League, Stanford, and Williams. While most leading admissions officers believe it will take a few years to really catch on, it is available for the class of 2017. As of right now, if you are planning on applying to a school covered by both applications there is no clear advantage to using the Coalition or the Common App. We suggest exploring both options and deciding which is best for you. As the Coalition App expands to more schools in the coming years it may rival the Common App as the de facto standard. For now, weigh both options and decide which application better suits your needs.