What You Need to Know about the Coalition College Application

Getting admitted to collegeA few weeks ago I attended the Texas Association for College Admission Counseling (TACAC) annual conference held at Horseshoe Bay Resort just outside of Austin. This was my first time to attend, and as a high school counselor who helps with college admissions, I found many of the sessions insightful and useful.

One particular session I attended really stood out to me as being especially relevant. It discussed the latest and greatest college admission tool called the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success (“Coalition” for short). The presenters were from Texas A&M and Rice University, both of which have signed on to use the Coalition.

As if there weren’t already enough college applications (Apply Texas, Common App, the individual university applications, etc.), the Coalition is yet another option for students beginning with the senior class of 2017. With information trickling out about the Coalition I wanted to take this opportunity to explain it as much as possible.

What is the Coalition?

As stated above, the Coalition is another college application but one that is intended to make the admission process more fair for all students by providing a comprehensive and systematic account of the student’s 4 years in high school. As of now there are just over 90 colleges and Universities who have signed on to accept the Coalition as a form of application. The list includes many state schools and even a few Ivey League schools.

It’s important to note that this particular application is not required, and students are free to use any other form of application the college or university offers. For example, Texas A&M accepts Apply Texas and the Coalition. Students can do one or the other; they do not need to do both.

How does the Coalition work?

Simply put, the Coalition is a way for students to build a portfolio over their 4 years of high school that they can then present to colleges upon application for admission. The most useful tool in the Coalition is the “Coalition Locker”. Each student who creates an account with the Coalition then has his or her own Locker in which he or she can store items. Items students may want to put in their lockers include:

  • Resumes
  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Graded tests and essays
  • Videos they create
  • Artwork from class

Essentially the Locker becomes a place that a student can access throughout the 4 years of high school and provides a place to keep important documents for easy retrieval. If the student then applies to one of the colleges or universities that use the Coalition application, he or she can simply add those items from the Locker to the application. It’s a tool that gives colleges a deeper look into the student’s talents beyond what is required on the application as a student can attach a copy of a painting they made, a copy of a really good English essay, or even a video made for an extracurricular activity.

The nice thing about the Locker is that it’s completely controlled by the student. That means a student only adds what he or she wants and the student grants access only to the people he or she wants. For instance, it may be helpful for the student’s counselor to have access in order to help the student plan ahead and develop a comprehensive college admission strategy. In this case ONLY the counselor will see what is in the Locker; individual colleges and universities will not.

Who is eligible to use the Coalition?

Any high school student beginning in 9th grade may sign up for the Coalition and begin placing items in the Locker. Beginning sometime in July 2016 (the presenters did not have a definitive date) seniors will be able to submit their applications to the colleges and universities of their choice. This timeline is slightly earlier than the August 1 deadline for Common App and Apply Texas, but it’s good that students begin compiling their admissions materials early anyway.

What are the advantages of the Coalition?

The biggest advantage of the Coalition is that it encourages students to organize their application materials early and often and create a portfolio that reflects the students strengths and talents. The Locker allows students to add things any time they want, and they can add interactive materials such as videos and art projects. This provides the colleges a deeper look at the students as candidates and rewards those who have intangible qualities that are not easily put on to paper.

What are the disadvantages of the Coalition?

Honestly I see some problems with this right now. The presenters at TACAC were very open when saying this is an experiment to see if it works. That is not too reassuring. The Coalition application requires 5 essays, none of which necessarily overlap with the other essay topics on the various applications. That means a student may have up to 10 different essays to write to apply to all the colleges! Yikes! Also, the Coalition Locker is not recognized by the other application formats. So a student may spend a lot of time over 4 years compiling the Locker only to end up not using it in the end.

Time will tell if the Coalition is a useful admission tool or not, but it is good to understand what it is. For now I suggest that students sign up and begin placing items in their Lockers. At the very least it helps students organize their materials and create a storage space that is easily accessible. Even if a student does not use the Coalition application, the materials in the Locker will inevitably come in handy when it’s time to apply using another format.