The Coalition Application: What to Know

If you are starting your college application process, you might have seen or heard about the Coalition Application. And you might have the following questions about it:

    • What is the Coalition Application?
    • How is it different from the Common Application? How is it the same?
    • Which application should I fill out? Or should I do both?

MEK is here to answer all of your questions.

What is the Coalition Application?

The Coalition Application is a relatively new college application platform that students can complete through an online portal. It was introduced in 2016 as an alternative to the Common Application, the most well-known online college application. The Coalition Application is quickly gaining popularity with colleges admission officers and applicants.

The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success allows colleges to join the portal only if the institution has pledged to provide support mainly through financial aid and scholarships to low- income, under-represented, or hardship applicants.  All 8 Ivy League schools and many other highly competitive universities make up the 144 members that will use the Coalition Application for 2018-19 applications.

How is it similar to or different from the Common Application?


  • Both allow students to apply to college.
  • Both are online applications in which students create an individual log-in and submit through their online portal.
  • Both are accepted by all 8 Ivy League Schools.
  • Both have comparable essay prompts for 2019-2020:

The Coalition App Essay Prompts:

          • 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 to a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
          • Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

The Common App 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?
          • Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
          • 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.


Number of Members:

The Coalition Application: 144

The Common Application: 750+

The Common Application has been around since 1975 and is the college application platform most students are familiar with. Therefore, many more schools exclusively accept the Common Application or accept both the Common App and the Coalition App. Only the University of Maryland, the University of Florida, and the University of Washington only accept the Coalition Application. Furthermore, a few schools – such as MIT, Georgetown, CUNY, and the University of California – accept neither the Common App nor the Coalition App, but instead have their own school specific application.

**New Jersey students should note that Rutgers University is a new member of the Coalition Application. Applicants will have a choice to submit the Rutgers specific school application or the Coalition application.**

Number of Applications:

The Coalition Application: Students can apply to an unlimited number of schools.

The Common Application: Students can apply to 20 schools.

Features of Online Portal:

The Coalition Application: Has a Locker feature that allows applicants to submit material such as artwork, video performances, certificates, and other documents.

The Common Application: Has no such feature.

This is just one major feature that is different from the Coalition App and the Common App. There are other smaller differences such as the way the application will look, the technological assistance provided, and the options available for previewing applications, formatting essays, limiting word count or spaces for essays, supplementary essays, activities, etc. By and large, the Common Application has been around for longer, so tends to be more user friendly.

How do I choose which application to complete?

Students should look at the admissions page of their prospective college and see which applications the school accepts.

If the school only accepts the Common Application, only accepts the Coalition Application,  or only accepts its own specific application, then a student simply completes the required application.

However, if a college accepts multiple types of applications, students should consider the following:

Colleges that accept both the Common Application and a school specific application:

Most students apply to multiple colleges and therefore, need to save time and be efficient. Thus, with the sheer number of schools accepting the Common Application, students should opt to complete the Common Application in order to use the same application multiple times. Then a student will only need to worry about turning in any supplementary materials for each individual college.

Colleges that accept both the Coalition Application and a school specific application: 

Again, students should try to save time and energy.  By choosing to complete the Coalition Application, they can use the same application for any of their other prospective schools that accept the Coalition App. If they complete the school specific application, they can only use that application for that specific college.

Colleges that accept both the Common Application and the Coalition application:

For this scenario, students should take several factors into account:

          • Again, students should take into account time and efficiency. They should find out which application is accepted/required for all or most of their prospective schools (probably the Common Application) and complete that application.
          • However, students who expect to rely heavily on financial aid and other support as a means to attend college should consider completing the Coalition Application. As previously mentioned, colleges that are members of the Coalition must adhere to the Coalition’s mission to “help make college a reality for all students,” especially students from under-represented groups (low-income, 1st generation, etc.) You can read more about their mission here.
          • On the other hand, students should keep in mind how much older the Common Application is in comparison to the Coalition Application. Most college admission officers are far more familiar with the Common Application and might prefer to view an application in the form they are most accustomed to. Therefore, if financial aid is not a top priority, students should complete the Common Application.


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