2021-22 Coalition Application Guide
While the Common Application is the most widely used college application, it’s not the only option for students who are getting ready to apply to their best-fit colleges. The Coalition Application is an alternative that now counts more than 150 institutions as member colleges.
How can applicants choose between the Common Application and the Coalition Application? Before you decide which format is best for you, it’s important to understand exactly how each application works. Although many students are familiar with the Common Application, far less have the Coalition Application on their radar. Keep reading to learn more about this application process and the considerations students should prioritize when choosing how they will submit their applications.
What is the Coalition Application?
The Coalition application is much like the Common App in that it’s a central college application where students can submit one main application to a number of different colleges that utilize the platform. Colleges can also create school-specific supplements that ask for materials, essays, and more outside of the main Coalition app.
The Coalition application platform also has a number of tools, including the locker, where students can store essays, projects, and other materials for review by counselors and admissions officers, the application itself, and resources for students who may have limited access to college prep materials and guidance.
History of the Coalition Application
In September of 2015, it was announced that over 80 colleges, including all the Ivy Leagues and Stanford, would be forming the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success (CAAS) in an effort to “increase college access and revamp the way that students apply to college.” Rumors that elite colleges were searching for a Common App alternative had been swirling for a while, and the announcement of the CAAS was the culmination of many months of speculation. The Coalition Application was first released for the 2016-2017 application cycle and has gone through several adjustments since then. Since then the number of member colleges has expanded, however, most member institutions that use the Coalition application also use the Common App.
Coalition Application Essay Prompts
Similar to the Common Application, the Coalition Application includes both the main essay as well as additional, school-specific writing prompts which institutions can choose to add.
- Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
- Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
- Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
- What is the hardest part of being a student now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
- Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.
Colleges Using the Coalition Application
While the Common Application has over 900 member colleges, the Coalition app has a smaller member number – a little less than 200 – and each member college must meet criteria like affordable tuition, need-based aid, and a six-year graduation rate of 70% or higher.
Over recent years, the Coalition App’s member schools have changed significantly. Back in 2019, several colleges that were previously affiliated with the Coalition App chose to drop it for the upcoming cycle, including Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia. While neither of these schools has renewed their affiliation with the application process, several new additions were added during the same year, including Barnard College and Lehigh University. More recently, the Coalition Application announced the addition of 18 new members for the 2020-2021 academic year, including Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Loyola University Chicago.
For a full list of Coalition member colleges, click here.
Coalition Exclusive Colleges
While most Coalition member colleges still utilize the Common Application or their own application platform in addition to the Coalition Application, a few colleges initially stated they will be “Coalition-exclusive,” meaning they will only utilize the Coalition application for admissions. That list has since dwindled down to one: University of Washington-Seattle.
Common App vs. Coalition App: Which Should You Use?
Given some of the similarities between the Common App and the Coalition Application, students might have a hard time determining which format they should use to submit their applications. Others might wonder if there is one application that colleges will prefer, or if there’s a format that can help them stand out amongst other applicants.
The truth is that there’s no one platform that colleges will prefer over the other. Just like the SAT and ACT are both accepted equally as standardized tests, there’s no advantage or disadvantage to selecting the Common Application over the Coalition Application (or vice versa).
Instead of choosing based on what you think the admissions office is looking for, students should consult the list of application requirements for every school on their best-fit list to make an informed decision. Since the Common Application has more than 900 member schools versus the Coalition Application’s 150, there’s a chance that some of the schools that you’re interested in might not accept this application. If that’s the case, it might be more efficient to prioritize the Common Application so that you can do all of your work under one application portal.
Whether you choose the Coalition Application or the Common Application, it’s important to start your applications early so that you can avoid the stress that comes with working down to the wire. At IvyWise, we recommend that students begin their applications during the summer before their senior year so that they can feel confident and prepared throughout. If you’re interested in getting a jump start on your applications, our team of college admissions experts can guide you through every step of the process.