What Is the Coalition Application?

Logo from the Coalition for College

Coalition for College.

The Coalition Application is a college application platform that is currently accepted by over 140 schools. While the application itself does not differ significantly from the better-known Common Application, the Coalition Application offers several extra pre-application features and tools.

The Coalition Application launched in 2016 with the goal of making the college application process more manageable for students from under-represented groups. However, students from any background can use the Coalition Application to apply to a participating school.

Key Takeaways: Coalition Application

  • The Coalition Application is a college application platform currently accepted by over 140 schools.
  • In addition to allowing students to submit applications, MyCoalition offers a resource library and tools for storing documents and collaborating with others.
  • Any college applicant can use the Coalition Application to apply to a participating school.
  • Choosing to use the Coalition Application as opposed to the Common Application does not impact admissions chances, but Coalition is accepted by far fewer schools.

Features of the Coalition Application

Students using the Coalition Application are encouraged to make full use of MyCoalition, a set of tools that supports students as they build their college applications. As early as 9th grade, students can begin populating the MyCoalition work space with materials relevant to college admissions, including their grades, essays, projects, artwork, activities, and accomplishments.

MyCoalition has four primary features:

  • Locker: This tool is a space to store materials that might be useful in the college admissions process. Students can upload essays, research projects, artwork, videos, and photography to the Locker. During application time, students can choose which materials in the Locker they want to share with colleges.
  • Collaboration Space: The Collaboration Space allows students to invite friends, family members, teachers, and counselors to provide feedback on application materials. This feature can be particularly useful when revising your application essay and tweaking your list of extracurricular activities so that they shine.
  • MyCoalition Counselor: MyCoalition Counselor is an online library of resources to help students with the application process. The feature does not include live communication with a counselor, but students can use the resource library to get expert advice on paying for college, managing the SAT and ACT, and writing application essays.
  • Coalition Application: The Coalition Application is the place where students compile all the materials they've gathered on MyCoalition throughout high school and ultimately submit their college applications.

The Coalition Application Essay

Like the Common Application, the Coalition Application includes an essay component. The essay is required by many member schools; however, some member schools allow students to submit an essay they wrote for class instead of the formal application essay.

Students who choose to or are required to complete the Coalition Application essay can select from five essay prompts (the Common Application currently has seven essay prompts). The prompts are broad and cover topics that give applicants plenty of freedom to focus on whatever topic is most meaningful to them. The Coalition Application essay prompts for the 2018-19 application cycle are:

  • Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  • Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  • Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  • What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  • Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

Note that the final essay prompt here is the same as the Common Application's final essay prompt: submit an essay on a topic of your choice. The inclusion of this option makes clear that the Coalition schools don't favor specific prompts or topics over others; rather, they want your essay to be about something important to you.

The Cost of the Coalition Application

Access to and use of the Locker, Collaborative Space, MyCoalition Counselor, and Coalition Application is free. No student, regardless of income, needs to pay for the Coalition tools and support.

However, this does not mean that applying to colleges will be free. The Coalition Application, like the Common Application, requires students to pay an application fee for each school to which they are applying. That said, students who served in the military or are from low income families can get their application fees waived. Fee waivers are granted immediately for a student who meets one of these four criteria:

  • Receives free or reduced cost lunches at school
  • Participates in one of the federal TRIO programs
  • Qualifies for fee waivers from ACT, College Board, or NACAC
  • Is a veteran or active member of the U.S. Armed Forces

Application fee waivers are available for low-income students even when they don't use the Coalition Application, but Coalition makes the process particularly quick and easy for all member schools.

Who Should Use the Coalition Application?

Because of the Coalition's emphasis on college access and affordability, many students have the misconception that the application exists primarily for the use of students who are from under-represented groups or face economic hardships. While it is true that the Coalition Application tries to provide more support for these groups than the Common Application, the application is open to all college applicants.

A few schools, in fact, accept only the Coalition Application. If you're one of the 100,000 or so students applying to the University of Florida, University of Maryland, or University of Washington, you will be required to use the Coalition Application, as it is the only application these universities accept.

In general, use of the Coalition Application is simply a matter of personal preference. If you think the Locker and Collaboration Space will help you put together a winning application, or that the holistic approach to essays writing samples will benefit you, choose the Coalition Application.

On the flip side, there are benefits to using the Common Application. For one, it is currently accepted by far more colleges and universities. Also, it has been around for much longer, so it has a user interface and workflow that many applicants prefer over the new Coalition Application.

What Colleges and Universities Accept the Coalition Application?

For the 2018-19 admissions cycle, over 140 colleges and universities accept the Coalition Application. For a school to be a member of the Coalition, it must meet criteria in three areas:

  • Access: Coalition members must be open to students of all backgrounds, and each school must have a demonstrated history of engaging students from under-served populations.
  • Affordability: Member schools must offer reasonable in-state tuition, meet the full demonstrated financial need of applicants, and/or have a history of graduating students with minimal debt.
  • Success: The Coalition wants its members to have at least a 50 percent graduation rate for students from under-served and low-income populations.

These criteria significantly restrict the number and types of schools that can be Coalition members. For one, schools need to have the financial resources to offer significant financial aid without relying on student loans. Schools also need to be relatively selective to achieve the graduation rates required for membership.

The result is that most Coalition members are well-off elite private institutions, flagship campuses of public universities, or smaller schools with well-established commitments to under-served populations and social mobility.

The list of members has been growing every year, and you can find the complete list on the Coalition members page.

A Final Word About the Coalition Application

Applying to a college with the Coalition Application won't give you any kind of admissions advantage, and it won't necessarily save you any time or money either. For some students, the archival, collaborative, and informational tools developed by Coalition will be useful. For others, the Coalition Application may not be of benefit, particularly if only some of the student's schools accept the Coalition. Ultimately, each applicant should weigh the pros and cons to decide if the Coalition Application is the right choice.