If you are a high school senior, then you have officially arrived at the craziest times you have ever experienced in high school – the College Admissions Season that is! Welcome to the Club! So many questions that need to be answered in so little time… In my last blog post, I talked about different application plans and discussed which might be a better option for you. Today, I will talk about the differences between the Common App or Coalition App and which one to go with.
What is the Common App?
Established in 1975, the Common App has been the most-trusted source to submit college applications in the U.S. With more than 900 member colleges and universities, the Common App allows applicants to fill out their personal information, achievements, and activities all at once in a centralized platform and then sends the information to all the colleges on the student’s Common App account, without having to fill out the same information for each school over and over again. It sounds very convenient and easy, right? Especially, when you consider the old days when we, as international students, had to fill out every application by hand and send it to each college by snail mail. Oh boy, I still remember the crazy amount I was billed at UPS back in the day! The Common App is a life saver indeed if you think about it!
What is the Coalition App?
The Coalition App was created in 2015, so it is still not as established as the Common Application. It has 150+ member colleges, which could make it challenging to find all your schools there. Administered by the Coalition for College Access, the Coalition App was developed with affordability in mind. Member colleges on the Coalition App are required to offer affordable tuition and/or good financial aid and meet or exceed “rigorous” graduation requirements. The Coalition App is unique because of its additional section that does not appear on the Common App – an extracurricular section that honors “family commitment.” This is especially suitable for high schoolers who have had to undertake non-traditional extracurricular tasks to be able to support their families financially. Also unique to the Coalition App, the “Locker” tool allows students to gather any important information to be stored in the locker starting in 9th grade. This useful tool would prevent anything to be left out or forgotten in the college application process.
Are the essay requirements different?
Both the Common App and the Coalition App have a main essay requirement. Although the main essay prompts are similar to each other, the biggest difference is the word limit allowed by each platform. If you go with the Common App, you are allowed to write an essay of up to 650 words; however, if you choose to apply via the Coalition App, then your main essay should not exceed 500-550 words. If you would like to see the 2020-2021 Common App main essay prompts, click here. You can also see the 2020-2021 Coalition App main essay prompts here.
Both the Common App and the Coalition App have been updated to include an optional question to give students an opportunity to write about the challenges they have faced due to COVID-19. To view the optional COVID-19 question on each platform respectively, click here and here.
Which one should you use?
Well, it depends. If all of your colleges are on the Common App, then obviously just use the Common App. It will be a lot faster to focus on one main application than to juggle a couple of application platforms. However, you will most likely find out that at least a couple of your colleges are only Coalition App schools, while all the rest of your colleges are only on Common App. Then, you will have no choice but to use both platforms, which means you will do double the work, which further means you will need to manage your time wisely. If you are one of the lucky few to see that all of your colleges are Common App schools, then hurray! Good for you! If you have the luxury of choosing the Common App over the Coalition App, then just go with the Common App – only because of the main essay word limit requirement. Remember; the Common App limits you to 650 words, whereas the Coalition App limits you to 500-550 words! It is very challenging to unfold a powerful story in 650 words, let alone 550 words. Those additional 100-150 words will make all the difference in your main essay. You might be thinking how on earth you could even write that long, but hey! If you do your brainstorming the right way and start with an outline, your essay will even be longer than 650 words. I have seen time and time again that a lot of students have trouble cutting their essays down to 650 words. Once they start writing, they cannot stop – if they have been exposed to the right brainstorming techniques, of course!
If you are a first-generation low-income student, I would definitely advise that you go with the Coalition App so that you can highlight your extracurriculars in the right context. In that case, I would recommend that you pick the colleges that partner with the Coalition App in line with your academic preferences. Please note that some colleges are leaving the Coalition App. During the 2019-2020 application cycle, for example, Dartmouth College and University of Virginia left the Coalition App and made the decision to stay on the Common App exclusively. You really need to check your college list thoroughly first to see if the colleges you would like to apply to are on the Coalition App. Check here for a list of member colleges on the Common App and here for a list of member colleges on the Coalition App. If you do not qualify as a first-generation low-income student, on the other hand, I do not see any added value of using the Coalition App. Applying via the Common App will be just fine for you.
We are here for you…
You will survive this daunting process! Those who came before you did, and so will you… Just remember to breathe… reboot…, and resume… If all else fails, remember this: We are just one phone call away… Call us today to find out how we can help you navigate the rather daunting college admissions process. Of course, emails are welcome, too…
Happy college hunting!
Burcak Deniz Cakir
Independent Educational Consultant, Founder, and President | EdMission Possible
Burcak Deniz Cakir has a B.A. in Foreign Language Education, an M.A. in English Language Teaching, and an M.B.A., all of which have laid the solid foundation for her professional experiences as an educator. She has completed the College Counseling Program at UCLA, which is known to be the most prestigious certificate program in the profession. She has previously taught English as a Foreign/Second Language (EFL/ESL) in Turkey and in the U.S. at Virginia Tech, Harcum College, Rutgers University (Newark and New Brunswick Campuses), and Pace University. Having taught EFL/ESL at the college level for over 20 years, Burcak can communicate effectively with college-age students from different countries. She is bilingual in Turkish and English. Her extensive experience with international students from many countries including but not limited to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Korea, and China has given her the opportunity to understand their unique problems that domestic students may not be facing throughout the college admissions process, such as but not limited to extra testing requirements (TOEFL, IELTS), the translation of high school transcripts and recommendation letters, different financial forms and statements required, visa issues, being homesick, culture shock, etc.
Burcak is an Associate Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and a Voting Member of the International Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC). She currently lives in Edison, New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and her four-legged son. In her free time, she can be found spending time with her family, reading (lots!) about college admissions and college essays, watching her favorite movies, getting lost in design magazines, and decorating her house.