Just as The Common Application was settling into our speech as truly common—with “Common App” and even CA being appropriate and recognizable shorthand—we’re faced with a new name on the admissions scene: The Coalition Application.

What Is It?

The first thing to keep in mind is that the Coalition Application—an initiative of approximately 80 universities aiming to “to make applications more reflective and in tune with how students organize and express themselves” — is still a project in-progress. The Coalition is open about the fact that it is doing its best to respond to comments and suggestions from admissions officers and college counselors, and therefore, even though the current timeline aims for free planning tools to be available this coming spring/summer and a new Application for the Class of 2021, these dates may change. The information here is as accurate as possible for the moment, but the Application is a growing concept, and its eventual implementation and form is still partially unknown.

With that in mind: even amidst the changes, both the ethos behind the Coalition Application and the two main components of the App have remained fairly consistent.

The Coalition is an initiative primarily aiming to do two things. First, they seek to provide support for students who don’t have access to college guidance or encouragement to seek higher education. The Coalition is looking to extend the invitation to apply to college to more students, and to provide better access to students with fewer resources in their own schools and communities.

Second, the Coalition Application is seeking to respond to the multimodal learning environment that students currently inhabit, encouraging more input from non-academic sources for students involved in community activities, and allowing for the inclusion of more multimedia elements within the application: art, video, research, and other portfolio elements will be more easily included in a student’s application so as to provide a more holistic sense of the person applying.

To this second point: the App is built from two main components—the Application and the Virtual College Locker. These two elements feed each other: the Virtual College Locker, which is something that students can access starting in 9th grade, will help students organize and save items from their progress through high school to reference and, if applicable, eventually add to their college application within the Coalition system. The idea is that if students are building a portfolio of work and logging involvement in activities over the course of their high school journey, they’ll be less inclined to scramble come senior year to gather information, or to find a starting point for essays.

What does it mean for me?

The first important thing to note: there will NOT be a preference for the Coalition App among member institutions. Think of Common v. Coalition App as ACT v. SAT—it’s a matter of which is the best fit for you.

With that in mind, here are some brief pointers about how you might want to approach the question: What does the Coalition Application mean for me?

Seniors: Unless you’re taking a gap-year: nothing. The Coalition App won’t go live until next fall, so if you’re looking to enter university this coming autumn, you can glance at this for your own edification, but then move on.

Upperclassmen: Ideally, you’ve already made progress in gathering the information you need to apply for schools in Fall 2016, which is when the Coalition Application is set to launch. As such, the tools the new App provides may or may not offer relevant features; using it might complicate your application process. Unless the Coalition App is clearly helpful to you, you may be better served by sticking to the Common App. The Coalition App’s impact is aiming for long-term effects—and you’re almost on your way out. Be aware of the Coalition app and what it might offer, but don’t add more work to your plate if it’s not going to ease the process for you.

Underclassmen: Be a discerning and proactive participant in your admissions process, and keep an eye on the Coalition App to help you keep track of the information that will serve you in the application process come Senior Year, whether you ultimately use the Coalition App to apply or not. The Virtual College Locker, for instance—helping you keep your records of work and involvement organized, and assisting in the college search process—may be very useful even if you don’t apply with the Coalition App.

Middle School and Earlier: Again, we don’t know for sure what kind of influence or pervasiveness the Coalition App will have over the coming years—the Common Application, behemoth that it is today, still took time to grow, evolve, and take root as an admissions staple. However, regardless of how the Coalition App eventually situates itself in the Admissions process at large, it will almost certainly contain elements that will benefit you, whether or not your eventual school choices prefer, or even accept, the Coalition App by 2021 and beyond.

The takeaway? Keep an eye on the Coalition Application, but remember that its purpose is to make the admissions process more responsive to the needs and interests of you, the student, and that should be your primary concern—making sure your approach to admissions reflects you in the best possible way, regardless of which exams or application you ultimately choose.

Have some questions about what application method is right for you? Ask Signet!