Friday, May 20, 2016

Understanding the New Coalition Application

The Coalition Application is the brainchild of over 90 colleges and universities (including many elite and top-tier schools) who want to improve access to education for all students. This application, which encourages kids to be working on their colleges applications throughout grades 9 - 12, offers tools you won't find on the two existing private school applications, The Common Application and the Universal Application, such as the opportunity to collect classwork, art and music samples, and other materials to support future applications in an online "locker." Though all of the features of the application are still rolling out, the "locker" and essay prompts are now available.

It's likely that over 100 colleges will accept the Coalition Application as an option in the Fall of 2016, and some, including the University of Washington, will use it exclusively.

What are the pros and cons for students?
For some kids, the Coalition application process will be an opportunity to highlight their unique talents and educational accomplishments. It also might encourage the planning process throughout high school and enable them to demonstrate their interest in particular colleges earlier and with more detail.

On the downside, for kids who already feel like their entire high school experience is nothing but a breakneck race to college, the Coalition application might just be one more task to manage and one more thing to stress about. This might be especially true for kids in grades 10 and 11, who could feel like the game board they were beginning to understand was just upended beneath them: Should I use the Common Application or the Coalition Application? Do colleges (as they say) really have no preference? What if I don't have work saved from grades 9 and 10 to add to my locker? Will not doing it mean I can't get into (fill in the blank)?

There also seems to be no real plan for training high school counselors in using the Coalition application. Many of them are already busy trying to support students and families in using Naviance, another college planning tool which many high school have purchased to help families navigate the college process. And speaking of Naviance, will the new application interface with Naviance features like storing and uploading teacher recommendations (as it does with the Common Application), or will kids and teachers need to go though yet another process to add recommendations for Coalition schools?

It's early days and there are still many unanswered questions. Our hope is that the new application truly will improve access for underrepresented students and support all students in having a kinder, gentler application process that lets them truly show colleges who they are and what they have to offer. But at least for the near future, his new application will raise questions and, no doubt, stress levels, for students and the parents, teachers and counselors who are working to support them.