If you’ve never heard of the Coalition App, count yourself among the many. The Coalition App is similar to the Common App in many respects, including allowing students to create a single application for multiple colleges, but it has some key differences. First and foremost is that the Coalition Application was created by the Coalition for College Access, a group of 140+ (and growing) colleges that “is committed to making college a reality for all high school students through our set of free online college planning tools that helps students learn about, prepare for, and apply to college.” The Coalition App was introduced in 2016 so it’s very new. It is similar in many respects to the Common App, but with a few key differences.

On the financial side, the Coalition App has two key differentiators:

  • All member institutions commit to either meeting all demonstrated need, or are public institutions offering low in-state tuition. Students who qualify for need-based aid would be well-served by focusing on the Coalition member schools, whether or not they ultimately use the Coalition App to apply.
  • The application grants fee waivers without additional documentation, as long as the student meets one of the waiver criteria (they receive free or reduced lunch, participate in TRIO, or received fee waivers for either the ACT or SAT). Remember: in order to submit an application, the student must attest to the veracity of all information in the application

There are also differences on the application side:

  • The Coalition App has different essay prompts and a shorter essay.
  • The Coalition App has a set of tools available to students at any point in their high school careers, not just when they’re ready to apply. This includes a “locker” of unlimited storage space where students can store documents, projects, videos, photos, etc. In retrospect, this would have been extremely helpful for at least one of my kids who participated in a huge range of activities over the course of four years and had a hard time remembering all of them come application time.
  • Coalition allows the student to invite “trusted adults” such as parents and counselors to view their application file and seek their input.
  • Coalition allows more space for details on student activities, though it has spaces for a smaller number of activities (8 vs 10 for the Common App). Students who have more “depth” in their participation might find the Coalition is a better fit; students with more “breadth” might do better with the Common App.
  • The Coalition App’s ability to handle multimedia files might make it a better fit in particular for students in the arts who might have a portfolio, videos or other recordings to include.

Students applying to multiple schools should also be prepared that Coalition vs Common App might not be an “either/or” but an “and” choice. While many schools accept both, many more accept only one or the other, and still more schools have their own applications. My son was able to apply using only the Common App; my daughter had 5 schools that took either, one that took Common only, one that took Coalition only, and one that had its own application.

Students who don’t see a compelling reason to use one or the other might consider this: The Common App has been around for about 40 years, whereas the Coalition App has been around for two. That means admissions counselors are much more familiar with the Common App and likely more able to find what they’re looking for in your application– and less likely frustrated that it’s not where they expected to find it.