Coalition App vs. Common Application:
Which One is Better?

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If you’re considering using the coalition or common application, you are likely either in high school or you have already graduated from high school. These applications will help you apply to attend a college.

A major part of your preparations that most students try to complete first includes creating a list of colleges or universities you would like to attend. You can conduct research on each school you’re interested in so that you can narrow your list down to those universities or colleges which will provide you the education you want. You can make sure that each of these colleges has everything you want for your education and college experience, or you can include some schools that might have lower standards but are missing some of the things you were originally looking for, like a great gym or a specific club or fraternity you wanted to be a part of.

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What is the Common Application?


The Common Application is a non-profit organization that offers students a college application portal that they can use to apply to more than one college or university at the same time. Between 700 and 900 schools accept the Common App, which makes it much more convenient for you to send the same information to several universities; you won’t have to type out the same information over and over again, depending on which schools you’re interested in. Because this application program has been around a long time, many schools accept applications through it.

The Common App allows you to list all of your extracurricular activities and it’s the same with your application essays; you are able to choose from a short list of essay questions. If you prefer, you can choose your own topic so that you can write an essay that is really your own.

You’ll also be able to include your demographic information, parents’ information, your high school, and the classes you’re taking or have completed. By filling these questions out in the Common App, you’re able to send this basic info out to each school simultaneously without wasting hours performing basic data entry on each school’s individual application.

Not every school you may be interested in uses the Common App; they may require their own application. However, some schools use the Common App exclusively. Either way, you’ll be busy enough in your last two years of school; the Common App makes your work easier.

What is the Coalition Application?


Noting that the Common App doesn’t proactively represent students of color or students in financial need, the Coalition App (formally called the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success) strives to make the application process financially affordable for these students. The Common App and the Coalition App are both free for students to use, but students are still required to cover the application fee for each school they apply to.

Because the Coalition App has only existed for the past five years, it isn’t accepted by as many colleges and universities as the Common App; it sends applications to 132 schools.

However, the Coalition App is different from the Common App in that it requires colleges and universities to prove that they will provide “substantial” financial support via scholarships and grants to low income students and those who are underrepresented.

Each app serves students in different ways. For those students who will require large financial aid packages, the Coalition App may end up being their best choice, while students who wish to send their application to many colleges may want to use the Common App because of its wider acceptance.

Small private schools and any University of California school won’t accept either app. You’ll have to fill out each school’s applications separately for these colleges.

What Do the Common and Coalition Apps Include?


Both apps take time. With the Coalition App, you can create an account as a high school freshman. Here, you’ll store your documents in a Virtual Locker in preparation for applying to colleges as a high school junior or senior. Items you can store in your Locker include achievements and extracurricular activities You can also store family commitments, such as parents’ jobs or a caregiving commitment. This is one way you will be able to show that you and your family are working from a disadvantage that may block you from taking part in extracurricular activities that are school-based and track it over the course of your high school career. For instance, you may have to work and earn money for your family.

The Common App makes it easier to collect and store all of your documentation; these include your high school transcripts, test scores and dates you took college entrance exams, academic achievements, a comprehensive list of your activities and responsibilities, and your parents’ or legal guardian’s information.

Like the Common App, the Coalition App is web-based and allows you to fill out one main application so you can submit it to more than one school. The Coalition App focuses on making college affordable to every student; partner schools support the success of their students and offer a full financial aid package. It contains a fee waiver within the application which makes it easier for students to apply to multiple colleges without being kept back by finances.

Both applications require you to complete your profiles before you can begin applying to various schools. They also allow you to request assistance from your guidance counselor if you need to obtain letters of recommendation or your high school transcript.

Note: request their help early so they can get your documents submitted on time.

Both apps should be filled out completely, which means you need to be as organized as you possibly can while you are working on your applications. Every college’s requirements, such as deadlines, are different. You may also want to request letters of recommendation from different teachers for different colleges.

Both apps can save time for you if you complete your basic information in the same working session. By doing this, you’ll make better use of your time with your counselor on other tasks.

Don’t forget about your college essays. You want to tell your story through your essays. In the Common App, you have the choice of personal essays, questions to answer for specific colleges, and writing supplements. The Coalition App guides you in asking yourself about your background, how you’ve grown, your academic interests, future goals, and ideas for changing the world around you.

What Are the Differences Between the Applications?


The largest difference is that the Coalition App is aimed more at students whose demographics (Black or Hispanic students) aren’t as well represented and who may also have larger financial needs. When the Coalition App was developed, it included a requirement that it would only accept universities and colleges that are able to show they provide a healthy amount of financial aid to low-income or underrepresented students.

The Coalition App covers all eight Ivy League colleges as well as more prominent universities such as Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago. However, the Coalition App offers access to fewer colleges overall (132) than the Common App, which works with nearly 800 universities.

The Common App is better-known. It allows students who are applying to more than one university to apply to up to 20 colleges. However, students must remember that each college may require different supplemental materials and an application fee if you aren’t eligible for a waiver.

The Common App was available for students to use beginning in 1975, which was the first time students were able to fill out their personal information and other info just one time and apply to multiple schools. In 2015, the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success released the Coalition Application to students after developers decided that disadvantaged students and students of color needed more assistance to send in their application materials.

The Coalition App focuses most on equality and diversity. Working class students are able to list and describe the commitments they face which keep them from taking part in clubs and extracurricular activities rather than ending up with a blank section because they were unable to take part.

Is the Coalition App Meant to Replace the Common App?


No. Each app offers something different to each student using it. If you live in a working-class or low-income family, you’ll benefit from using the Coalition App. If work or other commitments kept you from making the most of traditional extracurriculars that colleges often expect to see on a college application, this will help you bridge that gap. If you plan to apply to up to 20 colleges, the Common App best serves your plans.

The decision isn’t an either/or unless you need a large amount of financial assistance. If you are looking for inclusion in a slightly rarified world as a Black or Hispanic student, the Coalition App will better fit your needs. Also, the Coalition App encourages students to begin creating and filling their “virtual locker” as freshmen rather than waiting and needing to find all your old documents when you become a senior. You’ll also be able to upload multimedia samples and writing samples over time.

Three schools—University of Maryland-College Park, the University of Florida, and the University of Washington-Seattle accept only the Coalition App. Other universities accept both apps and some add supplemental requirements that are specific to that institution.

In the end, which app you choose is your decision. However, you shouldn’t rule out the possibility of using both unless you have very specific needs.