Chances are, anyone who has even thought about applying to college has used the Common Application. This application, usually referred to as the “Common App,” is exactly what it sounds like—common. Around 700 colleges use this application, but just recently, about 90 colleges have pioneered a new application called the Coalition Application for access, affordability, and success.
The Common Application has been a tried and true process for most colleges to ascertain information about the multitudes of students that apply annually. It has also been an easy way for students to apply to several colleges at one time. “The Common App was created to make the process more simple for students, high schools [teachers and counselors who send transcripts and letters of recommendation], and colleges,” BSM college counselor Ms. Amanda Anderson said.
This new application, while not nearly as universal as the Common Application, is beginning to be used by some elite colleges such as Brown University, Dartmouth University, Princeton University, Harvard University, and Yale University. Most colleges that use the Coalition still allow the Common Application, but the University of Washington, University of Maryland, and the University of Florida will only allow students to apply using the Coalition Application starting in 2017. “A few years ago, the Common App revised their application. Some students, high schools, and colleges got really frustrated during their revision process. I believe the idea for the Coalition app was created around this time by frustrated members of the Common Application,” Anderson said.
The Coalition has a similar format to the Common Application, and it still requires students to submit an essay. However, it involves some new features such as a virtual “Locker.” This new element of the college application process is a way for students to add supplements such as pieces of writing, videos, and art projects to a portfolio. “I think the idea of having a ‘Locker’ for essays, projects, etc. is going to make students feel like they have to start adding those things early on in high school, and that worries me… [Students] should be able to live in the present for freshman year and most of sophomore year and shouldn’t already be working on their ‘portfolios’ or ‘Lockers’ for their college applications,” Anderson said.
Because students are encouraged to begin adding pieces of work into their Lockers early on, students may begin to feel pressured to prepare for college during their freshman and sophomore year. The Locker itself is private to the student it belongs to; colleges can not view these Lockers. However, according to the website for the Coalition for Access and Affordability, “a student may choose to attach materials from the Locker to their Coalition Applications.”
While some are cynical of the new features of the application, the Coalition Application does have some beneficial components. “Each member college must meet criteria like affordable tuition, need-based aid, and a six-year graduation rate of 70% or higher… [It also provides] resources for students who may have limited access to college prep materials and guidance,” Anderson said.
Regardless, the Common Application has something the Coalition Application does not have: a long reputation of effectiveness. The Common Application, founded in 1975, has been successful in helping students apply to college for years, leaving many skeptical of the youth of the Coalition. “Many counselors are not comfortable telling students to use this application since it is so new, and we don’t know how things will go with submission,” Anderson said.
Because the Coalition Application has not been used for very long, many counselors such as Anderson will not be recommending it if the Common Application is available. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. I like the Common App and find it easy to use; students do, too. Therefore, I will not be recommending that students do the Coalition App unless they have to,” Anderson said.