The Coalition: Not convinced
I just attended a webinar on the new application platform under the working title of The Coalition. If you’re a client of mine, you’ve heard of this…but still not much about it as the specifics have been kept rather closely guarded by the creators and partners. Finally, OACAC invited members to attend a webinar hosted by a couple of The Coalition partner universities—Yale and Smith—inviting on the panel a US school guidance counselor and an Independent Educational Consultant, IEC, like me.
Here’s what I think in brief: there’s not much (certainly nothing compelling yet that I’ve seen) that sets it apart from the Common Application, in particular for my families—international or expat families. Even one of the representing institutions described it as “another option to the Common Application” comparing the ACT to the SAT in the standardized testing market. I’ll certainly be keeping an open ear to its progress and welcome the spirit of competition in any situation, but I believe my concerns outweigh that spirit right now (and how vexed I can get over the Common App)…
A few more specific points:
When pressed for hard take-aways that distinguish it from the Common App, I came away empty. Yes, there is a “locker”—perhaps a euphemism for international students and families that would not translate well (just like so many other aspects to this process, further confusing all of us)--where students can start “storing things they want in this repository beginning from Grade 9 to potentially use in their university applications”. You can imagine my greatest concern to this: more pressure, more anxiety, getting students—even if not intended by “the locker”—to put more pressure on themselves to start this process earlier and earlier. And, from my professional experience, this does not help the student in the long-run (preparing for university applications at such an early stage). It usually goes on to hurt them. See my earlier post about starting in Grade 9. I’m afraid this will be confusing for families and will create more anxiety.
Those speaking at the webinar as members of The Coalition stressed that application roll-out in July will be “version 1.0” meaning that the user should be patient. Like anything new, there will be glitches. A few years back we had so many glitches with the Common Application it caused students to lose applications or not be able to send some in. It was really stressful. This will be another reason I will not encourage families to consider using The Coalition application this year.
“More affordable and more accessible”
One of the main objectives and goals that The Coalition founders state was the impetus to creating yet another application portal for students is to make higher education more affordable and accessible to the student. Now this is compelling, in particular for someone who experienced it first-hand, paying off my undergraduate loans at age 39. However, how The Coalition is going to do this through their portal, I don’t know. The bulk of the webinar was literally going through the mechanics and how-to’s of the application.
“Why use The Coalition over the Common App?”
Then, I asked the question—it never got answered and to the organizers’ credit there were many of us on the webinar and they were maneuvering it very well with so many speakers and so many questions coming in—to help me help my families (all international or expat families applying to the US…and other countries) determine if they should use this application portal over the Common App: give me some clear arguments for it because otherwise the features and the components—save the “locker” which is really just a folder to keep stuff in—overlap clearly with the Common App (there will also be five essay prompts from which to chose to be sent to every college that uses The Coalition—same as CA); and, because I know the Common App well, it has been around for several years, its glitches have for the most part been resolved and over 800 colleges use it (as opposed to 80+ for The Coalition), I will be encouraging my students to use it. I’d love an alternative, but I need to get more compelling reasons in order to even consider The Coalition.
So, to tie this up, the positive takeaways are that, in general in life, things do run more smoothly and more effectively for the user when there’s competition. It’s great to have choice and I want my students to have options. So, if this is really just competition to the CA, I am all for it. There are some solid institutions behind The Coalition and surely they have thought about the pros and cons of signing on. It was reiterated to us that this year no college that uses The Coalition will be exclusive to it; in other words, if they use the CA they will stay there as well; if they are a state school and have their own application--as most do--they will keep that as an option, too. No student would be penalized for using one application over the other.
It’s just that further down the road, imagine a student then having to use 4 different application portals—state schools, CA-system, The Common Application, The Coalition—to apply to university. Very time consuming. Very confusing. No doubt bound to create even more anxiety, more fear, more rumors, more frustration for the student and family. Just what we don’t need more of.