The Common Application has been the standard in college admissions for a while now. It’s an online application system combining a standardized main application with individual colleges’ applications. According to its website, over 700 colleges and universities accept applications from the system, so students can enter their personal information once to apply to many schools across the country (and even the world). Even though colleges do have unique supplements, they all share the same main essay. Common App has multiple essay topics available to students. The prompts may or may not change from year to year, so check Common App website before starting your application to ensure you are using the correct prompts.
Recently, though, another college application system has become popular. The Coalition Application, an alternative to the Common Application for member schools, offers a new application system along with multiple tools designed to simplify the college application process.
The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success is composed of over 90 public and private schools who are working towards affordable college for all. Along with the application, which has its own essay prompts that change yearly, the Coalition provides the Locker, a storage tool designed to ease the college application process. In the Locker, students can store essay drafts, art, videos, and projects from school or an extracurricular activity. These items are only accessible by the student, although selected items can be shared with a guidance counselor for comments or a college alongside the application. The Locker is designed to be used throughout high school so students have a whole collection of items at their fingertips when it comes time to prepare their college applications. Freshmen and sophomores can make accounts and start accumulating items early to make the process easier down the road.
Now, the big question: which application should I use? Well, this really comes down to personal preference. Both provide similar options in regard to applying to a multitude of colleges off of a single platform. The first step would be to identify which colleges on your list use the Common App or the Coalition App. More colleges use the Common App, but chances are a couple of your schools will use both. (Also, a few schools could be on a separate system. Example: The UT System schools use ApplyTexas.) If enough schools on your list warrant using the Coalition App, take a look at the essays. See which prompts you prefer the most, and select that application. If you are working with a guidance counselor or a college counselor, you may want to ask for your counselor’s recommendation as well. The Common App has been around for much longer, so many counselors are more familiar with it. I recommend using the application your mentors are the most comfortable with as they will be providing you the most guidance during the application process.
That being said, you do not have to strictly use one platform over another. Feel free to apply to some colleges on the Common App and some on the Coalition App, depending on which application the college supports and your personal preference. Also, the tools like the Locker on the Coalition App are accessible to all high school students, even if they plan to use the Common App. This storage system can be useful for any future college applicant, so it never hurts to make an account for the Coalition App and see what resources it can provide you.