College and Career Planning

Applying to College

The days of filling out an application for each college you want to apply for are fortunately a thing of the past. Although certain schools may require certain supplemental application elements, the core of student's information submitted to colleges is now collected on one of two universally accessed online application forms: the predominantly used Common Application, and the new Coalition application. Find out about each and start the application process now by selecting the corresponding icon to the right (or below on mobile devices).

The Common Application, which is accepted by more than 750 schools, including some located outside the U.S., helps to streamline one part of the admissions process for students.

Through the platform, first-time and transfer applicants can apply to multiple colleges at one time. So students only have to fill out details that most schools require, like name, address, parental employment and education, and extracurricular activities, once.

Quicklink Resource Videos

Need help sprucing up your College Common app to appeal to the schools you are applying? Read this guide by clicking the banner above!

When Can I Start Working on My College Application Through the Common App?

The new edition of the Common App opens on Aug. 1 every year. However, students can create an account at any time and transfer their information into the new app when it opens.

How Long Does it Take to Fill Out an Application?

The time it takes to fill out an application will vary based on a school's requirements, experts say. However, students need to give themselves at least six weeks to get everything they need for college applications. That's two weeks to fill out any background information and at least a month for other required documents.

What Are the Common App Essay Prompts and Where Can I Find Them?

The Common App essay prompts for the 2018-2019 school year will be the same as the seven prompts used this year. Applicants have a 650-word limit for essays. There is some variation among the topics. A few require students to reflect on their experiences and share examples of learning or personal growth. But students also have the option to share an essay on any topic of their choice or simply describe a topic that captivates them. Applicants can see the essay prompts on the Common App's blog. The organization reviews the prompts every other year.

What Should I Do if I Run Into Problems With the Common App?

Students who have questions about filling out the application can ask Dr. Rambo and the colleges they're applying to for help. The Common App also has a variety of resources to help make the application process easier, including video tutorials throughout the application, year-round technical support available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and an Applicant Solutions Center to which you can submit questions.

The Coalition Application is a new college application platform. The group behind its creation is the “Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success.” According to their website, the Coalition is a group of schools “that share a commitment to providing students with the best possible college experience, beginning with the college application process." In essence, the Coalition’s aim is to increase transparency and ease throughout the college application process. Of note, the Coalition states they will provide “a seamless experience whether [a student uses] a notebook computer, tablet, or even a mobile device.”

Created in September 2015, the Coalition application emphasizes affordability. Colleges must offer affordable tuition or sufficient financial aid, as well as meet or exceed “rigorous” graduation requirements. While the Coalition application started small, more than 130 schools are now members, with many more projected to join.

What is different about the Coalition Application?

The key word here is “portfolio.” The coalition will provide students with an online “college locker” that they can begin stuffing with material starting in ninth grade. The portfolio could include examples of their best work, essays, descriptions of activities, and so on. Students can choose which parts of the portfolio they want to share with colleges and can also share it with colleges and advisors throughout their high school career to get feedback. The idea is to help students plan for college early rather than in the fall of senior year.

How is the Coalition App structured?

MyCoalition contains the following tools and resources:

  • Locker: Students have private, unlimited space where they can upload important items, such as papers, videos, and photos, as a record of their high school experience; this cloud-based Locker becomes the foundation of their application to Coalition schools.
  • Collaboration Space: Students can connect with their teachers, counselors, coaches, mentors, or parents—and ask for advice, recommendations, and feedback on their path to college.
  • Application: Students can use the Coalition application to apply to all 130-plus member schools, and they can submit Locker items as part of their applications.
  • MyCoalition Counselor: Students have access to a collection of helpful and informative articles, checklists, and printables on the subject of applying to colleges, many authored by admissions experts.
Will Colleges and Universities still accept the Common Application?

Yes. As of right now, the Coalition Application is launching as an alternative to the Common Application or a school’s individual application, and basically, all of the Coalition Application members are Common App members as well. 

Who is the Coalition Application best for?

The Coalition Application is best suited for students who do well in school–who have worked hard on their papers and projects both in and out of school and would like these things to stand for them on the application rather than just an essay or a padded resume. In some cases, you don't have a choice. At some schools (such as Virginia Tech), the Coalition App is the only application type accepted. 

Is there a cost to use MyCoalition?

No. MyCoalition’s college planning tools—the Locker, Collaboration Space, and application as well as informative articles and other valuable resources for college preparation—are free for use by students, families, and high school counselors, teachers, and administrators.


Pam sure to ask the admissions department of the college you are applying to whether they accept the Coalition app before filling it out!