Common App vs. Coalition App: Which Should You Use?

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by Christina Payne

Updated December 6, 2021

Reviewed by Lonnie Woods III

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Common App vs. Coalition App: Which Should You Use?


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.1 million U.S. high school students who graduated between January and October in 2019 enrolled in college immediately after graduation. To get into college, aspiring students often need to apply to multiple schools, which requires submitting college essays, letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores.

The Common App and the Coalition App allow students to fill out one standardized application to apply to multiple universities.

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Ready to start your journey?

In the following sections, we'll go over the Coalition vs. the Common App and provide you with tips to help you determine which application you should use when applying for college.

What Are the Coalition App and Common App?

The Common Application, or Common App, and the Coalition Application, or Coalition App, both give students a way to track, fill, and submit applications to multiple schools. The platforms are free to use, though applicants may still need to pay application fees for the colleges they apply to.

Both platforms ask applicants to write an essay in response to a predetermined prompt for schools that require it. Individual universities may require additional essays or short answers that students must complete alongside the main Coalition App essay and Common App essay.

5 Key Differences Between the Common App and Coalition App

While the Common App and Coalition App share several similarities, the two platforms also feature key differences that applicants should consider before deciding which to use.

1. Number of Participating Colleges

Over 900 colleges in the U.S. use the Common App, which was created in 1975. The Coalition App, which was founded in 2015, partners with more than 150 colleges — a significantly smaller number than the Common App. That said, more schools are accepting the Coalition App as time goes on.

2. Application Features

With the Common App's rollover feature, students can save information from year to year, giving themselves more time to apply if needed. Meanwhile, the Coalition App features a tool called "Locker" through which students can store materials such as essays, videos, and projects that may be useful for the application process.

3. Platform Familiarity

Teachers and guidance counselors who help students with college applications generally have a better understanding of the Common App than they do the Coalition App. This is simply because counselors have had more time to familiarize themselves with the Common App, which has been around far longer than its competitor.

However, as the Coalition App gains popularity, more teachers and counselors will likely learn how to use it.

4. Emphasis on Students From Historically Underrepresented Groups

The Coalition App was created to make it easier for students from underrepresented groups to apply for college. Specifically, the platform only partners with schools that offer generous financial aid or low-cost tuition and graduate students with little to no debt.

Additionally, the Coalition App's "collaboration space" allows students to invite teachers, counselors, and family members to read and review their application materials and provide support and encouragement. Students can also apply for application fee waivers.

5. Level of Technical Support

With more than 3 million users each year, the Common App tends to get busy around deadlines. This means technical support may not be readily available when students need it most. The Coalition App has fewer users, so it may have more tech support available to answer requests as they come in.

In any case, to avoid potential bottlenecks, students should try to start the college application process sooner rather than later.

Common App vs. Coalition App: Which Do Colleges Prefer?

Colleges that accept both applications do not prefer one over the other. When possible, students should choose the application platform that works best for them. Colleges often offer more than one way to apply to cater to the unique needs of applicants.

Many colleges only accept the Common App because the platform has existed for longer and works with their application system. More teachers and counselors also know the Common App, which could make it easier for students to receive help should they need it.

Common App vs. Coalition App: Which Should You Use?

Students typically apply to more than one college. If all colleges on a student's application list appear on the Common App but not on the Coalition App, then choosing the Common App likely makes more sense — and vice versa. Students should strongly consider choosing the app that gives them the best access to their target schools.

Nevertheless, certain application features may play a role in determining which platform you use. The Coalition App caters more to students from underrepresented groups, meaning the platform may offer features that make it easier and/or more appealing for students to use.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Coalition vs. Common App

Can you use both the Common App and Coalition App?

Yes, students may use both the Common App and the Coalition App to apply for college at the same time. However, colleges only accept one application per student. While both the Common App and the Coalition App allow students to sign up for free, students must still pay all application fees associated with the universities they apply to through the application platform.

Is the Coalition App easier than the Common App?

The Coalition App isn't easier than the Common App -- students must still meet all application requirements from their colleges of choice -- but it does offer features that may help students from underrepresented groups navigate the college admissions process. Students should examine the features of both the Common App and the Coalition App to determine for themselves which application platform best meets their needs. Students can sign up for these platforms at any point during their high school career for free.

How many schools can you apply to on the Coalition App?

The Coalition App partners with over 150 colleges across the country. Students may apply to any of the schools that have partnered with the application platform, as long as they meet the application requirements set forth by the school. The Coalition App continues to add more partner schools, giving students increased access to different colleges. Additionally, all schools that partner with the Coalition App graduate students with little or no debt.

Feature Image: S Rawu Th Ni Rothr / EyeEm / Getty Images

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