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Do You Know What the Coalition Is?

A new college admissions platform is about to be unveiled starting this spring. It is called the Coalition for College Access, Affordability and Success.

It will essentially be a rival application to the perennial juggernaut, The Common Application. The Coalition is not just a new application, though. It is a different approach to the college admissions process.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. The Coalition is made up of approximately 90 colleges, most of which are highly selective in their admissions process. The venerable deans who represent these colleges came together as a reaction to the Common App’s processing delays during the 2013-2014 admissions cycle.

2. To be a member of the Coalition, the college needs to meet full financial need of all domestic students and have a six-year graduation rate of 70% or higher. Fulfilling both of these requirements is rare in higher education. Less than 1% of colleges fit into this category, which makes these institutions the most selective colleges in the country.

3. The main thrust behind the Coalition is to provide more access to low-income students who don’t have the same support and resources applying to college. While students from all backgrounds will be able to use the Coalition, the member colleges had low income, disadvantaged, and first generation college students in mind when they created the platform.

4. There are three main concepts behind the Coalition: online “lockers,” a tool to allow feedback to students, and the actual application.

5. The online lockers will be the first piece of the Coalition to be introduced. It is slated for an April 2016 launch. The lockers allow high school students to start storing academic work, awards, papers, artwork and other achievements to possibly use for their college applications.

6. One of the controversial aspects to the lockers is that students can start building up their body of work in 9th grade. Critics lashed out against the Coalition for encouraging students to start the college process too early, thus creating a more stressful environment among college-bound teenagers.[Tweet "A new college admissions platform is about to be unveiled starting this spring #TheCoalition"]

7. The second aspect of the Coalition is a chance for students to receive feedback on the work in their lockers starting as early as 9th grade. The Coalition received significant push-back on this feature from the moment it was announced. Overworked guidance and college counselors are concerned that they don’t have enough time to help seniors apply to college let alone provide feedback to 9th graders about their online lockers.

However, the Coalition will allow students to invite mentors, teachers, and even admissions officers at Coalition colleges to comment on their work. To offer admissions officers the chance to provide constructive criticism, Coalition colleges will need to increase their staff and training as most admissions officers at these colleges are currently being asked to work long hours and get through thousands of applications each year.

8. The final aspect of the Coalition is an actual application that can be submitted in place of the Common App or an institutional-specific application. It is supposed to go live summer 2016. While the Coalition’s resources are free, it appears there will still be an application fee to apply to these colleges unless a student receives a fee waiver.

9. Students should expect that the Coalition application will look similar on the surface to the Common App and other college applications. But it will most likely ask slightly different questions than its rivals in the hopes of capturing the student’s best qualities in a more meaningful way.

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10. Coalition colleges who are also members of the Common App, state that they will accept both types of applications, at least for the time being. Students who plan to apply to some Coalition colleges and some non-Coalition colleges will need to decide if they are going to fill out both applications. Given the uncertainty of when the Coalition application will be available and how it will work initially, students should use the Common App as a back-up just in case.

There is great irony in this new application platform. It was founded in response to processing delays and a philosophical shift in the Common App. But with a brand new application and a platform that allows students to start working on their application in 9th grade, comes the challenges of a roll-out and buy-in from its target audience.

Guidance and college counselors were left out of the planning stages of the Coalition. Students and families still don’t know what it is and how it works. And, the Coalition has had to delay the launch due to the backlash and criticism that came with the initial announcement last fall. Only time will tell if the Coalition makes this process more accessible to all students. Given the challenges it faces, it will take some time and results before it gets the respect its founding colleges expected right off the bat.