In a move some of the nation’s top colleges and universities say will help students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds apply for college, a new “Coalition Application” is set to launch in April. Similar to the Common Application, which allows students to apply to several colleges at once through a single portal, the Coalition Application would provide a free application platform where students can organize and build portfolios of their work and apply to more than 80 top-tier schools, including Princeton, Stanford, Cornell, Colgate, Northwestern and Northeastern universities.
The schools are members of the application’s sponsoring entity, known as the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success.
Unlike other applications, the Coalition App seeks to engage students well before the senior year of high school with a longer-term, interactive process of applying to college.
The Coalition Application will feature an intuitive interface that allows students to use notebooks, tablets, and mobile devices to create a robust college application. It will serve as a “virtual locker” of a student’s work selected and submitted by the student over several months or years.
Students can upload academic documents, letters of recommendation, supplemental essays and extracurricular activities to their virtual lockers beginning as early as freshman year. The Coalition Application also provides a collaboration platform where students share and collaborate on items in the virtual locker with guidance counselors, teachers and mentors. Together, they determine which items to include when submitting the Coalition Application.
The Coalition Application is expected to be available to freshmen, sophomores and juniors beginning in April and first used by students applying to college for fall 2017.
Not without controversy
Although it is touted as a way to improve access to top-tier schools for low-income students or those traditionally underrepresented in the college search process, the new Coalition App is being criticized by some who say the format may favor students who already have support from parents and others in shaping college applications and create undue stress.
“The people who will have the time and energy to strategize about that typically are not going to be low-income kids,” Parke P. Muth, a former associate dean of admissions at the University of Virginia, told The Harvard Crimson in a recent interview. “Now, you’re giving the hypercompetitive parents and students essentially a four-year opportunity to present who they are.”
In the same article, Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons also expressed concern about the application’s virtual locker feature creating additional stress for today’s students.
“I worry that you could create what I will term a ‘locker arms race’ that could begin as early as the ninth grade or earlier,” he said. “That could ramp up the stress and anxiety and pressure that many students feel and that many counselors feel.”
He did say that Harvard, which is a member of the Coalition, plans to use the Coalition Application, along with the Common Application and the Universal College Application.
“At the moment, we are part of the coalition, and consider it to be a work in progress,” Fitzsimmons told The Harvard Crimson. “We’ll see where it goes.”
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