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Common App vs. Coalition App: Which to choose?

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Common App vs. Coalition App: Which to choose?

Over the last few years, several leading colleges and universities decided to offer an alternative to the Common Application and formed the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. They developed a new application that allows students to start building a college portfolio online as soon as they enter high school.

This will be the first year that students can use the Coalition application, although it will be accepted by only about 10 percent of the number of colleges that accept the Common App. The Common App has nearly 700 member colleges, the Coalition App has 93 member colleges but for now, only 60 will actually be accepting the Coalition application. However, three – the University of Florida, the University of Maryland-College Park, and the University of Washington-Seattle – will only accept the Coalition app.

Neither application gives you an advantage with college admissions officers – it’s your decision on which application to use, depending on the college and whichever seems the best way to sell yourself to a particular school.

So wondering which college application to use? Here are some of the differences between the two and the benefits of each.

The Membership

Coalition colleges have specific criteria for membership: Schools must offer “affordable tuition along with need-based financial aid for in-state residents” or be private colleges and universities that provide “sufficient financial aid to meet the full, demonstrated financial need of every domestic student they admit.” Coalition schools also must graduate at least 70 percent of their students within six years. Many are exclusive private colleges and universities.

The Common Application member schools must “share our mission of advancing college access. In addition, all members must be: not-for-profit, undergraduate degree-granting, accredited, and committed to the pursuit of equity and integrity in the college admissions process.” With nearly 700 schools, the Common App members are broadly diverse.

The Tools

The Coalition application offers students the unique opportunity to begin preparing for their applications at any grade in high school and to store materials (e.g. essays, portfolios, resumes, recommendations) online in a virtual “locker.” Students can also collaborate with mentors during their high school career by sharing materials in their locker. Students will then be able to add these items to their application.

The Common App allows applicants to create a Slideroom.com account to share supplemental items such as performance videos and art portfolios with member colleges.

The Essay Prompts

The college essay prompts for both applications are similar this year. Two of them are nearly identical – asking applicants to discuss a time when they were “challenged with a belief or idea.” The Coalition application also gives students the option to write about “a topic of your choice.” If you are applying to a Coalition college, this essay option might help you make your decision about which application to use.

Other Comparisons

Both college applications request similar profile and demographic information.

The Common App activity section allows students to provide up to 10 activities from their high school resume; the Coalition App first asks for your top two and then allows you to provide up to eight.

The Common App allows students to integrate with a school’s guidance office using Naviance or eDocs. At the present time, the Coalition App does not provide this option, other than the virtual locker, which students can share with the school counselor.

The Coalition’s goal is to turn the process over to students early in high school. However, the Common App has enhancements for the 2016-2017 year, such as new language around gender identity, greater flexibility in college searches and automatically saving work every 90 seconds.

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Written by Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parents Countdown to College Coach blog offers timely college tips for parents and students, as well as providing parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze.

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