Differences Between Common Application and Coalition Application

Common App., Coalition App., Common Application Differences

Learn some key differences between the Common App. and the Coalition App.

Wondering about some of the specific differences between the Common Application and the Coalition Application? Wonder no more. While yesterday we discussed the difference between the Common Application and Coalition Application with respect to the number of subscribing colleges to the two platforms, today let’s take a deep dive into some of the pluses and minuses of the two applications. From different character counts in the activity section of the applications to differing ways on how students are asked to report their coursework, some of the variation may seem minor but can have a major impact on one’s case for admission to highly selective colleges.

Activities on the Common App. and Coalition App.

The Coalition Application offers applicants eight slots for activities, whereas the Common Application offers students the opportunity to include ten of their most meaningful activities. We prefer that students have the option of including ten activities. In fact, we can make no argument for why presenting only eight activities would better suit an applicant unless that applicant really doesn’t have more than eight strong activities. In that case, they should not include that they watch “The Handmaid’s Tale” as a ninth activity. That would be very silly. In that case, less would indeed be more.

But while we favor the Common Application offering students the chance to include ten activities, we prefer the Coalition Application’s character count for the description of these activities. The Coalition Application allows 64 characters for the activity and another 255 characters for the description of each activity. The Common Application allows only 50 characters for the activity and another 150 characters for the description of each. With over 100 more characters offered for each activity, the Coalition scores points with us here. It gives students more of an opportunity to describe what they do in these activities and why they’re meaningful to them.

Reporting Coursework on the Common App. and Coalition App.

The Coalition Application asks students to list all courses and grades — much like the somewhat cumbersome University of California application. While some colleges do ask students to list all courses and grades, the vast majority of highly selective institutions do not ask this and on the Common Application, students are only asked to insert their most recent courses. As it states on Common App., “Please list all courses you are taking this academic year. If you are not currently enrolled, please list courses from your most recent academic year.”

On this particular issue, we favor the Common App. And why? Because reporting all coursework and grades offers opportunity to make mistakes in transcription. Maybe they mistakenly insert an ‘A’ for AP Biology when they really got an ‘A-.’ Such a mistake could cost the student admission when the admissions officer reviews the student’s transcript as he or she could perceive the student to be dishonest when in fact it may have been an honest error of transcription.

The Storage Function of the Coalition App.

The Coalition Application allows students to store information early on during high school that they think may prove important come the time they apply to colleges. With the Locker function of the Coalition App., students can store audio files, artwork, video recordings, photographs, etc. Applicants using the Common App. can’t currently store such files, though Ivy Coach’s famously accurate crystal ball, one quoted on the pages of America’s oldest college newspaper, “The Dartmouth,” hereby makes the prediction that the Common Application will have such a storage function in the near future.

However, is this really such a benefit of the Coalition App.? While we recognize one of the purposes of the Locker is to make it possible for low-income students who don’t have access to computers to store files (and we applaud the effort!), the Coalition Application didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel on cloud computing. Low-income students who don’t have access to computers can just as easily store such files in the cloud.

Essay Prompts on Common App. and Coalition App.

Many folks previously made the case that students should look at the various essay prompts of the Common Application and the Coalition Application before deciding which application better suited them. But now that the Common Application has reinstated the most commonly utilized essay prompt, the “topic of your choice” essay question, we no longer believe it’s worthwhile to compare the different essay prompts between the two applications. The Common App. offers students the creativity and flexibility to write whatever it is they wish.

Have a question about the differences between the Common Application and the Coalition Application? Let us know your thoughts, your questions, your musings, and whatever else you’d like to share by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.

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