#College Essays and Applications

In this Q-&-A-style guest post by Philadelphia area college guru Cigus Vanni (edited by Ivy Experience), Cigus explains what rising seniors need to know about the Coalition Application: what it is, what it does, what colleges use it, and what students should use it.

OK—let’s start from the beginning…

What is this Coalition application thing?

During the 2012-2013 school year, the Common Application decided to redo/update its platform. The organization hired a different tech firm from the one that constructed the original website for the new version and, shall we say, things didn’t go very smoothly for the opening of the 2013-2014 school year <yikes> There were serious formatting issues, browser incompatibilities and the ever delightful disappearing information (inputted but evidently not saved). It was a hot mess

Common App eventually righted itself by around November of that year but the damage had been done. A group of Common App members—led by the most selective schools such as Yale and Stanford—met to determine if a back-up app should be created. They hired the former website developer of Common App to look into this and thus was born the idea of what became the Coalition Application

The Coalition Application (we’ll call it Co App as opposed to Common App) moved forward despite the resurgence of an effective Common App, and during the end of the 2014 school year, an idea was hatched—what if a partnership between colleges that are fully or mostly need-blind were to join with schools that offered affordable, in-state tuition rates? This would provide students with an opportunity to gain fuller access to higher education since they would be applying to schools that could provide substantial aid or those with lower costs

During the close of the 2014-2015 year the Co App was developed with the idea of not only providing access and affordability—but also with the addition of features that would give students search engines and storage space for college-related documents. In September 2015, the Co App debuted at the annual conference of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and caused quite a stir since its construction had been kept under wraps—it was a surprise to most people in the profession other than those who had worked on it.

So what’s on the Coalition Application?

Let me answer that by first citing some of the features and resources on the Coalition website:

The Coalition has created a “virtual locker” on its site that provides significant storage space for each applicant. A student can “store” essay drafts and letters of recommendations; a student can upload videos; a student can preserve college lists; and in fact a student can use the locker for any communications related to the college process

The Coalition has established a collaboration platform on its site that provides an applicant with the opportunity to invite others to examine/view items in her/his/xyr virtual locker. The invitation does NOT convey blanket permission to snoop—each candidate specifies which individual/particular item can be accessed. The observer can then offer comments and suggestions as feedback for the applicant—which can be quite useful!

The Coalition provides a college search engine with a wide reach—it will respond to the features the applicant inputs and yield an effective list. Colleges need not be members of the Coalition to be identified in this search—all schools in the United States and some international universities are included.

I swear what I just read reminds me of the Naviance program—aren’t those things you just described what Naviance does?

Yep—except that not every school in the United States has Naviance and if the Coalition is striving for increased college access, it is most likely that underserved populations and those in poorer school districts would not have access to Naviance. You might be interested to know that while 90% or so of schools in New Jersey offer Naviance, fewer than half the schools in Pennsylvania do and under 30% of Delaware schools use the program <eek> The search engine, the virtual locker and the collaboration platform provide a “free Naviance.”

But does the Co App do all that electronic transmission of documents such as transcript and recommendations that Naviance does?

Yep—the Co App uses a different means of transmission and in fact is at present working toward creating a compatibility with Naviance so that its forms and documents can be sent via Naviance. This is not an issue and you can feel comfortable and secure that your supporting materials will reach their respective destinations if you use the Co App.

OK—so what schools are on this Co App?

You can find the list here. You will see that they are a mix of selective colleges that can afford substantial aid to applicants and state supported institutions that offer less expensive costs.

What does the Co App look like? Where do I find it?

Here’s the website.

If you have seen/worked on the Common Application, you will see some similarities—data input in various sections with diverse needs. Be warned, however, that the Co App is more lengthy and somewhat more complicated than the Common App (isn’t that just spiffy?). There is a main menu (longer than that of the Common App) and individual questions asked by some (but not all) of the colleges that are members. The essay prompts aren’t very different at all and you can see these when you go to the Coalition home page.

So which app should I use? I may have some on Common App, some on Co App—suppose I have some in each?

Let’s look at a few different scenarios:

If all of your schools are on the Common App or the Co App, then use the app that they are all on. That’s the easy part.

Beyond that, think of it this way: if you have more than one school on either application, then use that application. So if 2 of your schools are on the Coalition Application and 4 are on the Common Application, use both. It beats using the Common Application for 4 schools and then filling out 2 additional applications instead of just one.

And if you are confused, get in touch with the folks at Ivy Experience. They can talk you through the process.

If you have any questions about your college applications, please call us at (267) 888-6489 or contact us via email!