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College Admissions 101: Common App vs. Coalition App

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    No one wants to individually apply to 20 plus colleges. Imagine putting in your basic contact information that many times. Submitting that many applications can be time-consuming and your time can be better spent. Thankfully that unnecessary process is over. Now there is a better way to make your application process easier. 

    There are two apps that you can enter your contact information into, along with other required application materials, and share with all of your desired colleges at once. They’re called the Common App and the Coalition App. Both apps make applying to colleges faster and easier. But what exactly are they achieving? What is the difference between these two apps? 

    Today we’re going to take you through the differences between these apps and if colleges prefer one over the other. 

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    What is the Common App?

    This Common App was created in 1975 and is being used by over 900 colleges worldwide. It’s been used longer than the Coalition App and is far larger too. It streamlines the college application process, enabling students to apply to up to 20 institutions simultaneously. While there’s no fee for using the Common App itself, students should keep in mind that some colleges may impose their own application fees. However, for those concerned about these expenses, fee waivers are available.

    More about the Common App

    When you first download the app you’ll be prompted to create a profile. Once your account is registered, you’ll fill out basic information about yourself that every college you intend to apply to wants to know. This includes your full name, family information, test scores, home address, academic interest, etc. 

    Once that is successfully saved under your account, you’ll be asked more specific questions based on each college you’re applying to. Some of the questions they may ask you are; What is your first-choice major? Why did you choose that major? Etc.

    Common app personal essay

    Many colleges require a personal essay as part of their application process. The Common Application makes it easy to indicate which colleges have this requirement. Even for colleges that do not mandate an essay, submitting one can enhance your application, offering you an opportunity to distinguish yourself.

    The Common App provides a selection of essay prompts tailored by individual colleges. If you have a particular college in mind, it’s important to address the specific prompt they select. To give you an idea, below are the essay prompts.

    • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
    • The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
    • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
    • Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
    • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
    • Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
    • Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

    The Common App’s system of shared prompts means that, fortunately, you won’t need to craft a unique essay for each college application. This not only streamlines the process but also allows you to focus on producing a compelling narrative that showcases your individual strengths and experiences.

    What is the coalition app?

    The Coalition Application, established in the last decade, aims to simplify the college application process for high school students. Over 150 colleges now accept the Coalition App, endorsing its mission to reduce student debt, offer substantial financial aid packages, and assist students in preparing for college. 

    Coalition for college application

    Just like the Common App, the Coalition App is free to all students, but remember, some colleges may still require an application fee. Something different between the apps though is that the Coalition App helps with application fee waivers through built-in programming.

    Eligible applicants include students who qualified for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program; received a College Board, ACT, and/or NACAC fee waiver; or are eligible for a Pell Grant.

    The Coalition Application, established in the last decade, aims to simplify the college application process for high school students. Over 150 colleges now accept the Coalition App, endorsing its mission to reduce student debt, offer substantial financial aid packages, and assist students in preparing for college. 

    Just like the Common App, the Coalition App is free to all students, but remember, some colleges may still require an application fee. Something different between the apps though is that the Coalition App helps with application fee waivers through built-in programming.

    Eligible applicants include students who qualified for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program; received a College Board, ACT, and/or NACAC fee waiver; or are eligible for a Pell Grant.

    Coalition for college application

    Coalition app basics

    The Coalition App saves all your basic contact information, just like the Common App. All you have to do is fill out your important information once and you won’t have to repeat the process again. 

    The Coalition App also includes a section for students to add up to three academic interests. This additional section is helpful to tell different colleges the majors that you’re interested in. 

    Coalition app personal essay

    Similar to the Common Application, the Coalition Application requires a personal essay. While not every college mandates it, providing a personal essay can be a distinguishing factor in your application. The Coalition App offers a selection of five essay prompts, encouraging essays around 500 words in length. Below are the prompts.

    • Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
    • What interests or excites you? How does it shape who you are now or who you might become in the future?
    • Describe a time when you had a positive impact on others. What were the challenges? What were the rewards?
    • Has there been a time when an idea or belief of yours was questioned? How did you respond? What did you learn?
    • What success have you achieved or obstacle have you faced? What advice would you give a sibling or friend going through a similar experience?
    • Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

    All schools that use the Coalition App share these prompts, meaning you won’t have to write a new essay for each school.

    Differences between the Common App and Coalition App

    • Extracurricular activities: The Common App gives you a chance to list more extracurricular activities than the Coalition App does, but the Coalition App allows for more characters to describe your activities. 
    • Number of schools: The Common App has a limit for how many colleges you can apply to at once, but the Coalition App doesn’t have a limit.
    • Multimedia uploads: Through its Locker feature, the Coalition App allows students to upload videos, audio files, spreadsheets, and other documents. This could be a nice way to stand out by showcasing your creative work. The Common App allows you to link to files hosted elsewhere (like YouTube or Vimeo) but not upload directly.
    • Support: There isn’t phone support provided for either app, but you can submit a request for any questions you may have. The Common App is devoted to responding to everyone’s questions 24/7, but with the Coalition App, they are only responding on weekdays.

    Do colleges prefer one app over the other?

    To put it simply: no. Colleges don’t have a preference either way. Colleges are more interested in you finding the best way for you to achieve your application process. 

    The same is true for schools that offer both their proprietary application system and the Common App and/or Coalition App. Your application will be treated the same regardless of which application system you choose. 

    Key takeaways and moving forward

    applying to college Submitting college applications has become a whole lot easier thanks to the Common App and Coalition App. In deciding which to use, weigh your individual needs against the features of each platform, from the number of colleges you’re applying to, to the detail required in showcasing extracurricular activities. 

    Moving forward, focus on selecting the platform that aligns best with your application strategy and the schools you want to apply to. Remember, colleges value the content of your application over the platform choice. For additional support and guidance on optimizing your college application process, reach out to our team to get started on your journey to attending a prestigious university.

    Submitting college applications has become a whole lot easier thanks to the Common App and Coalition App. In deciding which to use, weigh your individual needs against the features of each platform, from the number of colleges you’re applying to, to the detail required in showcasing extracurricular activities. 

    Moving forward, focus on selecting the platform that aligns best with your application strategy and the schools you want to apply to. Remember, colleges value the content of your application over the platform choice. For additional support and guidance on optimizing your college application process, reach out to our team to get started on your journey to attending a prestigious university.
    applying to college

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