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The Complete Guide to the Coalition Application


The Coalition Application can make applying to colleges much fast and easier, but only if you know how to use it. In this in-depth guide to the Coalition Application, we explain every part of the website you should know, what the best strategies are for using it, and how to decide if you should make use of the Coalition Application during your college application process.

Image Source: Coalition for College


What Is the Coalition Application?

The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, often known as the Coalition Application, is a college application system that makes it easier to apply to multiple colleges. As long as a school accepts the Coalition App, you can apply to it using the online Coalition Application. Most colleges will have supplements you need to fill out for them, such as a personal statement, but by using the Coalition App, you only need to fill out basic information, like your address, grades, classes you took, etc. once. Then it'll be filled for each school you're applying to. So it's a great way to save time and make the college application process a little easier. It doesn't cost anything to use the Coalition Application, although if the colleges you're applying to have fees, you'll still need to pay those.

The Coalition App was only created in 2016, and it's less commonly used and less well-known than the Common Application, another college application system. Currently about 150 schools use the Coalition Application, including Texas A&M, Clemson University, the University of Michigan, Harvard, and Yale.

One of the Coalition Application system's biggest selling points is that it emphasizes supporting "lower-income, under-resourced, and/or first generation students." 

For colleges to use the Coalition Application, they must:

  • Be open to students of different cultural, socio-economic, and geographic backgrounds
  • Have low or no-debt financial aid, meet full demonstrated need, or offer in-state tuition
  • Have high graduation rates (for low-income and under-represented students as well as overall)

As such, you can expect most schools that use the Coalition College Application to offer strong financial aid packages to make college more affordable to students and help them graduate with little or no debt.


Why Should You Use the Coalition Application Over the Common Application?

Using a college application system like the Coalition App makes applying to multiple colleges easier because you only need to enter most of your information one time, rather than once for each school you're applying to. 

But why and when should you use the Coalition App over the Common Application, a much more widely-used college application system? About 800 schools use the Common App, while about 150 use the Coalition App. However, the Coalition App has other benefits, such as including a virtual locker where you can organize your different application components (we discuss this more further in the article). The Coalition App also guarantees that each school that joins has made a commitment to offering strong financial aid. The Common App doesn't offer that same promise.

Ultimately though, your decision will likely be based on the schools you're applying to. Applying through the Common App or the Coalition App (or neither) won't make any difference to the schools you're applying to, so you don't need to worry about putting yourself at a disadvantage with your choice.

If all the schools you're applying to accept the Common App but not the Coalition App, then you should use the Common Application because then you'll only need to fill most information out once. If all your schools accept the Coalition App and you prefer its interface to the Common App's, then use that system to apply. If the schools you're applying to are split, you can decide if you want to use both application systems, or use just one and apply to the other schools individually.




How Can You Sign Up for the Coalition Application?

Creating a Coalition Application account is a quick process. You'll go to their website, then create a username (your email address) and password for yourself. You'll then have access to the "Coalition Locker and Application Service."

Then you'll complete some basic demographic questions and select a few schools you're interested in. This doesn't mean you're applying to those schools; it's just to give you an idea of what different applications look like. Once you've done that, you're all set and have access to the entire Coalition App website. You can create a Coalition Application account as early as 9th grade to store items in your locker, but you won't be able to apply to colleges until the fall of your senior year.


What Are the Different Sections of the Coalition Application Site? How Should You Use Each Section?

The Coalition Application website has several different sections, and it can be difficult at first to know which information gets sent to college, which can be viewed by teachers/counselors, and which is for your own private use. Here, we go over what each section includes, who has access to it, and how to best make use of each section.



Your profile is where you'll enter information that will be added to the applications of all the schools you apply to. You'll fill out demographic information, classes you took, GPA and test scores, etc., in this section. When you submit your applications, all the information you entered in this section will be sent to colleges, so make sure you're only including information you're happy with them seeing.

Here are the sections you'll complete:

  • Personal statement
  • Contact information
  • Demographic information
  • Citizenship information
  • Family information
  • High school information
  • College information
  • 9th-11th grade coursework
  • 12th grade coursework
  • College coursework
  • Additional tests
  • English proficiency tests
  • Fee waiver
  • Honors and distinctions
  • Activities/experience
  • Coalition essay

On the Coalition App, you can click on each section to expand it. You may not need to fill out all sections, either because they don't apply to you or the colleges you're applying to don't require them. There will be asterisks throughout this section to indicate whether information is required or not. As we mentioned earlier, the Coalition App will keep track of what information you're missing for each school you're applying to so all your applications are complete.

While the information in the Profile will make up the bulk of your college applications, you'll also likely need to submit supplements for at least some of the schools you're applying to. These are often personal statements, but can include other information the school wants to have.



You can think of your locker as the digital space where you organize everything (similar to your locker at school). You can add pretty much anything you want here, including documents, photos, and videos. The Coalition Application encourages you to use it as "your own personal trophy case" where you upload anything you're particularly proud of from high school, including papers you wrote, awards you won, videos of performances you took part in, etc. None of this information can be seen by the schools you apply to unless you specifically add it to your application, so you can get everything organized before deciding what you want schools to see.

You don't want to inundate colleges with additional material, but, if the college allows you to submit supplemental materials, feel free to add a few (we'd recommend up to three). These could be awards you won, material that supports an extracurricular you're particularly dedicated to (such as a video of you playing a sport, an audio file of music you wrote or played, a PDF of your science fair project), etc...

You can begin uploading things to your locker as early as 9th grade. If you upload important items throughout your high school career, your locker then becomes a great way to track your progress and success throughout high school, even if you don't upload most of those items to your college applications.





In this space, you can keep track of the colleges you're interested in and applying to. For each college you add to the list, you'll see when important deadlines are. If you decide to apply to one or more of those colleges, you'll see a tracker showing what percentage of the application you've completed as you continue to fill out your Profile and supplement information.

We recommend adding all the colleges you're thinking about applying to. Then, once you've narrowed down your list and know where you'll be applying, remove all the schools you're no longer interested in. That way, you'll only be seeing information for schools you're actually submitting applications to, which can reduce confusion/you doing extra work. Colleges won't see which other schools you're applying to, but you have the option of allowing them to view your contact information and potentially contact you. 



Here you can add contacts to help you add information to your application or give them access to look it over. The contacts might include teachers, counselors, parents, and friends. For each contact, you can determine what help you want from them, and what information they're able to access. You send or receive messages from your contacts via your inbox.

This is where you can ask for letters of recommendation, transcripts, or other documents you need. You can also allow specific contacts to review your application and ask for their feedback. You can also give contacts permission to view specific items in your locker and ask for their feedback on them. Because the Coalition App is newer than the Common App and used by fewer schools, teachers and guidance counselors may be less familiar with it, so we recommend giving them plenty of time (at least 8 weeks) to complete your letters of recommendation.


Tips for Using the Coalition Application

To get the most out of the Coalition App, follow these four tips throughout your college application process.


#1 Know Which Schools Use It, and Which Don't

Only about 150 colleges accept the Coalition App, so there's a significant chance that one or more of the schools you're applying to don't use it. In that case, you'll either need to use another college application system, like the Common App, or apply to those schools individually. This can make things a bit more complicated logistically, but as long as you stay organized, it's nothing you can't handle. Once you'd created your list of schools you're going to apply to, write down how you'll apply to each one, along with important dates to keep in mind. Keep this list somewhere you'll look at often. That'll help you avoid forgetting a school's deadline because it doesn't use the Coalition App. 


#2: Use Your Locker to Organize Information

The locker is a feature unique to the Coalition Application, and it can come in handy while you're trying to get all your documents and additional materials organized for your college applications. 

But, its benefits go beyond just college applications. You can create a Coalition Application account as early as 9th grade and begin uploading items to your locker. You can keep doing this even if you choose not to use the Coalition App to apply to any colleges. Your locker gives you a way to organize your high school progress and keep track of your achievements. Beyond college applications, your locker can be a great resource down the line when you're creating a resume for a job or applying for scholarships.


#3: Choose Your Essay Wisely

The Coalition Application includes an essay, and most schools will require you to complete it. There's no official word limit for the essay, but aim for about 500-550 words. There are five prompts to choose from, but you only need to answer one. Each of them can showcase a different side of you to schools, so be sure to select your essay prompt wisely. Regardless of which prompt you choose, make sure it shows you in a positive light and highlights how you'll be an asset to the school through your intelligence, interests, and character.


#4: Remember Supplements

Again, while the Profile section of the Coalition Application contains the majority of the information you need to fill out for applications, most schools will also request you complete a supplement. If you don't, your application will be incomplete and won't be considered for admission. These supplements are often personal statements that can take time to thoughtfully complete, so stay on top of them and don't leave them to the last minute. If the supplemental essay asks you to explain why you're interested in that particular school, we have lots of advice on how to write that essay in our "why this college" essay article.




Summary: Coalition College Application

The Coalition Application is a college application designed to make it easier to apply to multiple colleges. Instead of filling out each school's application individually, you can complete the Coalition App, and that information will be filled in for all the colleges you're applying to (that use the Coalition App). While the Coalition Application is newer and used by far fewer schools than the Common Application, it has some benefits of its own. Two of the most important of these are that every school that uses the Coalition College Application is committed to providing strong financial aid and an affordable college experience to students. The other is access to an online locker, where you can track your achievements throughout high school for later use in college applications, jobs, and more.


What's Next?

The Coalition App isn't the only centralized application system in town. Find out which schools use the Common Application and which schools use the Universal College Application.

Should you use the Common App or the Coalition App to apply to college? Our expert guide breaks down the pros and cons of each system.

Application systems aside, how do you figure out what colleges belong on your wishlist to begin with? Learn more about how to figure out what colleges you should apply to by reading our guide.



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Christine Sarikas
About the Author

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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