college applications

The Coalition Application is a new college application platform currently described by the popular media as a direct competitor to the Common Application. The group behind its creation is the “Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success.” According to their website, the Coalition is a group of schools “that share a commitment to providing students with the best possible college experience, beginning with the college application process.”

The Coalition states they came together because:

A growing amount of research has shown that students from disadvantaged backgrounds often do not participate effectively in the college application process, struggle with applying for financial aid, and often do not get awarded all the financial aid for which they qualify. As a result, even some of the most highly qualified students do not attend college, attend colleges that do not engage their full potential, or do not complete their degrees. The Coalition is developing a platform of tools to help reduce these barriers and make progress in leveling the playing field for students from all backgrounds.

In essence, the Coalition’s aim is to increase transparency and ease throughout the college application process. Of note, the Coalition states they will provide “a seamless experience whether [a student uses] a notebook computer, tablet, or even a mobile device.”

At this time, the Coalition is planning to offer three major tools for students to use as early as 9th grade:

  1. Virtual Locker
    • Used by the student only
    • Functions similarly to Dropbox or Google Drive to store various items related to the application process, like:
      • Academic Documents
      • Letters of recommendation
      • Supplemental Essays
      • Extracurricular activity information
    • Meant for early engagement and organization
  2. Collaboration Platform
    • Used by the student and any “collaborators” he or she chooses to invite/grant access
    • Meant to be a place for a student to request feedback on documents from the Virtual Locker
    • The Coalition expects that collaborators may include:
      • Guidance/College Counselors
      • Teachers
      • Mentors
      • Community Based Organization staff
    • The Collaboration Platform might also be a place for students to connect directly with admission counselors at Coalition Schools to ask questions
  3. Application Portal
    • Used by the student and colleges/universities
    • Basic biographical data from the Virtual Locker will feed automatically into the application
    • Students choose documents to upload to the Application – not all documents in the Locker will be seen by colleges/universities

The Virtual Locker and Collaboration Platforms will be available in April 2106. Some schools will begin to use the Application Portal and accept the actual Coalition Application in the summer of 2016. The Coalition is clear that many schools are still deciding how and when they will use the full Application Portal.

Just like the Common Application, not all U.S. colleges and universities will accept the Coalition Application. In fact, there are specific membership criteria that school must meet in order to become a part of the Coalition and offer their application. At conception, there were 80 member schools, but colleges and universities continue to join. It is important to note that there is a wide variety of schools represented in the Coalition, including schools from the Ivy League (Brown, Dartmouth, Yale, e.g.), small liberal arts schools (Colby, St. Olaf, Pomona, e.g.), and large flagship universities (Michigan State, Texas A&M, Penn State, e.g.).  New schools wishing to join the Coalition must meet the following criteria:

  1. Have a stable 70 percent six-year graduation rate.
  2. Meet specific affordability guidelines. According to the Coalition website:
    • Public universities “must have affordable in-state tuition for residents of their state.”
    • Private schools “must have a commitment to meet the full, demonstrated financial need of admitted domestic students.”

Of utmost importance is the fact that there will be absolutely no advantage given to students using the Virtual Locker, the Collaboration Platform, or the Coalition Application to apply to a given institution. The Coalition clearly states that schools “will neither expect nor require the use of…Coalition tools, either as part of the Coalition Application or other application systems accepted by that institution. The tools are solely for the benefit and convenience of the student.”

For more information on the Coalition Application, tune into the following episode of Getting In: A College Coach Conversation:


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Written by Abigail Anderson
Abigail Anderson is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Abigail received her bachelor’s in sociology from Colby College. Prior to joining College Coach, Abigail worked as a senior admissions officer at Reed College and Emma Willard School.