Don't just apply to college… Position yourself.

The Coalition versus the Common Application

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” –Alan Watts.

laptopbeardboyIn April, 2016, the first phase of a new online college preparation and application platform is scheduled to be launched by the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, powered by CollegeNet. The coalition currently has over ninety members, with the following membership criteria: “…public universities that have affordable tuition along with need-based financial aid for in-state residents, and private colleges and universities that provide sufficient financial aid to meet the full, demonstrated financial need of every domestic student they admit. Coalition schools graduate at least 70 percent of their students within six years, with many having much higher graduation rates.”

intentboyAccording to its website, the Coalition’s initiative will “allow students to begin planning for college much earlier in their high school years. The platform tools—which will include the Locker, a collaboration platform, and an application portal—seek to recast the process of applying to college as the culmination of students’ development over the course of their high school careers.” The initiative has engendered intense debate in the past six months, but it appears now that it will be going forward.

Here is what you need to know about the Coalition tools for 2016:

COMPUTERINDIANMOM1. Locker and Collaboration Platform. These tools will be launched in April, 2016, after heated debate and beta-testing during the Fall of 2015. The Coalition explains that “the Locker offers a private space for students to collect and organize materials throughout their high school journey, similar to Google Drive or DropBox but customized for students. Whether collecting thoughts on college options or storing classwork or reflections, students can confidentially save documents that may be useful later in their college search or application. While only the student will have access to the Locker, they will be able to share documents with their counselors, teachers, and mentors who can provide guidance along the way. Finally, a student may choose to attach materials from the Locker to their Coalition Applications; however, colleges will not have access to nor review the Locker itself.”

The Coalition further explains that the Locker will also eventually become “a meeting place, where counselors, teachers, and mentors can support the student’s college search and application through feedback and editing. The Collaboration Platform will also allow students and counselors to quickly contact their partners at Coalition schools, facilitating communication and eliminating confusion.”

asianpencillaptop2. Application Portal. Planned for a July, 2016 launch, the Coalition Application is described as “a cutting-edge tool for applying to many schools in the Coalition. The Coalition Application features a modern, intuitive interface that adapts to a student’s life, providing a seamless experience whether engaging through a notebook computer, tablet, or even mobile device. The application will be designed to minimize student stress, confusion, and intimidation while empowering universities to ask questions that will reveal students with the greatest fit for their campuses.”

Young man having trouble studying, on white background

There has been much controversy, debate, and secrecy surrounding this program, causing delays of its launch (the Locker was originally supposed to launch in January, 2016). That said, current high school students can begin to collect materials in the Locker when the program opens in April, but juniors do not need to panic and switch to applying via the Coalition Application in 2016. As stated on the Coalition website: “Many Coalition schools will accept applications through the portal in the summer of 2016, while others are still deciding when and how to use the application feature of the new system. Additional details about the application process enabled by the platform will be announced later.”

laptopguywithdogFor high school students who will be applying to college this year and in the upcoming years, the key question is whether there is an advantage to applying using the Coalition Application (with 90 members) or the Common Application (with 625 members). According to the Coalition website, there is no advantage to using its application portal or tools: ” Just as many of these schools accept both the SAT or ACT as a way to meet their testing requirement and have no preference as to which test is used, institutions will not prefer one application system over the other… Colleges and universities using the new application will neither expect nor require the use of other 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.”

africanamericancomputerMeanwhile, the Common App will be getting out ahead of the new competition from the Coalition, by making it possible for juniors to register now for the 2016-17 application cycle. Common Application essay prompts will be the same as they were for 2015-16 (see my post on how to write extraordinary, authentic essays in response to these essay prompts).


We suggest that you keep in touch with your high school guidance counselor for further updates, as this new program evolves and becomes part of the college application landscape.