Common Application versus the Coalition Application

Written by Beth Cassie

Most student will  use the Common Application and the Coalition application this coming season. A lot has been written in the higher education press about the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success movement and their goal to provide a centralized platform for students to “organize, build, and refine their applications.”

For the Class of 2017, we see students utilizing the Coalition app if there are schools on their lists that do not accept the Common Application but do accept the Coalition. This may be the case if you are applying to a lot of state schools.  We’ve identified some of the key similarities and differences in the table below.

Common Application 2016-2017 essay prompts:

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Coalition application 2016-2017 essay prompts:

  1. Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped shape it.
  2. Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the grater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  3. Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  4. What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  5. Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

In past years there was an official kick-off to application season when the Common Application went live on August 1st. As with many things for the Class of 2017, that is no longer the case. Both applications are available right now, so for students who are eager to get started, it’s safe to set up one or both applications and begin filling out the basic background information.  Click on images for links to the websites:


Stay tuned as we all learn more about how the Coalition application will unfold for the Class of 2017.

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