In September 2015, an alternative to the Common Application was announced: the Coalition for Access & Affordability. While still in its infancy, the Coalition is important for students and parents to understand because it will launch in Fall 2017.

The goal of the Coalition application is twofold: 1. Utilize technology to help students engage in the college planning process at an earlier stage; and 2. Increase access to college planning and financial aid resources for students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds.

Here are important questions worth addressing:

Q: Who can use the Coalition application?A: High school students. The Coalition is open to any high school student in the U.S. or overseas. Students can sign up starting in grade 9.

Q: What is involved in the Coalition application? Is it time-intensive?A: The central aspect of the Coalition application is a student “Locker.” The Locker provides students an online, centralized place to store academic and extracurricular achievements/merits throughout four years of high school. The goal is to help students build a more substantive narrative of their four years in high school and balance college preparation across multiple years – not just senior year.

Q: Will colleges be able to see a student’s Locker starting in grade 9?A: No, colleges will not have access to view the Locker until it is submitted in conjunction with the application during senior year. A student’s information can only be viewed by parents, teachers and/or mentors who are given access.

Q: Does the Coalition require an essay?A: Yes, the Coalition will require students to choose from one of five essay prompts (similar to the Common Application, which now offers eight essay prompts). Universities may also require students to submit supplemental essays.

Q: What is the “Coalition Collaboration Space”?A: The CCS allows for students, parents, counselors and mentors to provide assistance and guidance to students when it comes to any questions involved with college preparation. Think of it as a built-in customer service tool for students to utilize, if needed.

Q: Will students using the Coalition application receive preferential treatment from admissions offices?A: No, admissions officers value both the Common Application and Coalition application equally.

Q: Is there a fee for signing up?A: No, access to an account is free of charge for students, parents and counselors.

Q: Are there commonalities with schools who accept the Coalition application?A: Yes. Each college and university that accepts the Coalition application is defined as “affordable” – public universities that offer relatively affordable in-state tuition and need-based financial aid and private universities that guarantee to meet the full demonstrated financial need for admitted students.

Q: How many schools accept the Coalition application?A: There are 49 institutions that will accept the Coalition application in 2017. Another 46 are scheduled to join in 2018. View a full list here. Note that the University of Florida, University of Maryland – College Park and University of Washington – Seattle will accept only the Coalition Application in Fall 2017.

Q: What concerns should parents have?A: As this is the first full year for the Coalition application, parents should be aware of technology-related problems that can arise with a new online platform. While the Coalition plans for a seamless transition, it’s much too early to realize the full potential and benefit relative to the Common Application.

For more information about the Coalition, please visit their website.

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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