Wondering about the best way to apply to college this year? Fortunately, you don’t have to do too much digging. Most college applications can be found on two online application platforms–the Common App and the Coalition Application.

The Common Application

The Common Application is the most widely-used, popular online platform by which high school and transfer students submit their college applications. Almost 900 colleges and universities in worldwide use the Common Application. The Common Application is the preferred method of application for many US universities. 

Common App allows students to submit applications to 20 colleges. Students can create a Common App essay (650 words or less) and submit that one essay to all schools. However, each school has its own requirements and additional essays called supplements. Some colleges require as many as 7 additional supplements while others require none. For students who don’t like to write, the Common App has features that allow them to highlight which colleges do not require additional supplements. Besides the Common App essay and essay supplements, most colleges will require a transcript, SAT/ACT testing results, a school report (including a counselor letter) and  1-2 recommendations. For international students in non-English speaking countries a TOEFL score should be submitted, too. Some schools allow students to self-report these scores through Common App and others require the scores to be sent officially from the testing agency. 

The Common App is free to use,list each school’s requirements and outlines the process for every student. Many university applications will be free to submit but most do require students to submit an additional application fee to apply. Those fees range from $25 – $90.

The Common Application opens every year on August 1. For students who want to get a jump on the application process, it is possible to start the application earlier. Common App will roll a student’s personal information over from year to year.

Troubleshooting issues with the Common App: Students planning to use the Common App should be aware that once an application is submitted to a university, it cannot be pulled back. Recommendation letters uploaded to the Common App also cannot be removed by the student. 

Common App has a robust support system with excellent response time. While not a perfect platform, Common App does respond fairly quickly to support requests. For best support from Common App, students should do their best to submit applications well in advance of major early action/early decision deadlines (usually around Nov 1) and regular decision deadlines (Jan 1). On those dates, student requests for technical support can overwhelm Common App support teams and response times are often slower. 

The Coalition Application

The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success is equally robust as Common App offering many unique features. Launched in 2016, it is also a bit newer application platform designed for college candidates.  Like Common App, the Coalition App is completely free for student use. Today, 140 schools use the Coalition Application. Many schools allow students the option of choosing Common App or Coalition App. 

The Coalition App allows students to apply to many top universities, but far fewer than the number allowed by Common App. All 8 of the Ivy League universities use both Common and Coalition Applications. This includes Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Cornell University, Columbia University, Brown University, Dartmouth University and University of Pennsylvania.  Other top colleges and universities also use both applications. These schools include the University of Chicago, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, and Stanford. Virginia Tech used the Coalition Application alone for years but moved last year to include other platforms. 

The Coalition Application was essentially designed to offer students with limited/fewer resources more access and support. The Coalition Application is designed to serve colleges that can demonstrate they offer students outstanding and significant support through need-based and merit-based aid (financial aid, tuition discounts, in-state discount offers,scholarships, and work study opportunities).  Coalition App, like Common App, is also free for students, and students pay application fees for each school they submit an application to.

Which application platform should you choose-Common App or Coalition App? 

This will really depend on the schools you are applying to. Common App offers applications for most schools in the United States and some abroad. While, Coalition App offers a limited number of school applications. What are the assets and deficits of opting for one platform over another?

If you are looking for a straightforward, easy-to-navigate process, the Common Application is the way to go! With more schools, a familiar structure to high school counselors, and great tech support, you will find many reasons to opt for the Common App over the Coalition. Once you enter your basic personal information, grades, testing scores and submit your Common App essay/personal statement, it is truly easy to apply to the majority of colleges on your list. You can then add all of your colleges up to 20 schools. High school counselors and the students they work with truly believe that the Common App is much more streamlined and easier to use.

On the other hand, if you are geared toward applying to schools that will offer more financial aid to help pay for college, you might opt for considering the Coalition App. If you are a student who is underrepresented, underserved, and needs financial support to successfully attend college, you might opt for Coalition App as it only allows schools meeting student need to be active on the application. High achieving, low income students will also want to explore another application called the Questbridge Application. Questbridge is an application and a scholarship that offers full tuition for high achieving domestic students and offers limited options.

Remember that most schools accept at least one of these applications, but not all of them! If you plan to apply to any University of California schools or to certain small private schools, you will not be able to use the Common App or Coalition App. Always be sure to check with the schools themselves to make sure you are filling out their application correctly.

Some schools, mainly state systems, do not use either platform. Schools like University of California and University of Texas have their own application platforms wholly separate from Common or Coalition App.  So, if you plan to apply to UC-Berkeley, UCLA, UC-San Diego, UC-Riverside, UC-Santa Cruz, UC-Santa Barbara, UC-Davis, or UC-Merced, you should opt to apply on the UC application system. The same is true of the Cal State system schools. Their applications are on Cal Apply. University of Texas and other Texas schools can be found on Apply Texas

Launching October 26th!

Full Application Review Service!

Have your completed application reviewed by an admission expert before you submit to your dream schools.