No matter which college or university to which to apply to, you will need to fill out an application form. Some U.S. schools will require you to use their own application forms while others will accept the Common, Universal or Coalition Application. The latter approach is very helpful for those applying to multiple institutes of higher education as it saves them precious time and nerves. Today I would like to answer frequently asked questions regarding using those online platforms as well as give you useful links on the topic.


When did these platforms appear? How many members do they include now?
Launched in 1975, the Common Application (https://www.commonapp.org/member-institutions) is justly considered the most popular one, having on board more than 800 public, private, large, small, religious, and secular colleges and universities throughout the USA and around the world. Last fall, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation also joined the Common App team.
The second oldest platform is the Universal College Application (https://www.universalcollegeapp.com/colleges) that started in 2007 and as of November 2018 has only 17 participating institutions.
The Coalition application is the youngest but very fast-growing creature. It started in September 2015 and this fall it comprises of 139 colleges and universities.

Which schools are represented in the application forms?
The Universal Application system consists of only private colleges and universities and, of course, is not able to compete with two others in terms of diversity of school members. The school lists of the other two include both private and public schools having all eight Ivy Leagues as well as many top colleges and universities. There are several institutes of higher education (23 of them) that exclusively use the Coalition Application.
The Coalition application system also declares it accepts only schools that can provide substantial support (in many cases fully meet demonstrated need) or offer free or low-cost in-state tuition. It mostly applies to students who are U.S. citizens, but if you look at the sites of Coalition schools you will find that many of them give funding to international students as well. Another specific criterion for Coalition membership is that “schools must graduate at least 70 percent of their students within six years”.

Do these application systems have something in common?
All these application tools are similar in many ways, beginning from their goals to simplify the application process for students and universities and ending with common features in their structure and data they require for submission (information about advisees, essays, supplements, etc.). All of them are free online forms that can be used both by high school students and transfer students moving to different institutes of higher education. You still need to pay the application fees to colleges and universities that are members of those platforms, but fee waivers to low-income students are available upon request.
They all use the main application, as well as require answering additional college-specific questions and submission of additional paperwork or materials, such as college admissions essays, recommendation letters, etc. Filling all those forms out is a long process, but this system allows you to properly allocate your time and submit everything by college-specific deadlines. Lastly, all the forms allow choosing a virtual mentor/adviser to monitor your progress!

Is there an advantage to using one application service over other? Are there any differences between them?
There’s no advantage in using one service over the other, so it is up you to decide what to choose. Your preferences in favor of a particular online service will depend upon your target school’s range, your portfolio, your financial situation as well as many other reasons. Look at their websites and choose the one that better serves your interests.
All three applications differ from each other in terms of number and size of the essays required, as well as course and activities reporting.  There are some features that are unique to each platform. For example, the Coalition offers you the option of starting to work on your profile three years before submitting the application. It has a so-called Locker Tool http://www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org/faq.html where you can “collect and organize materials that may be used during your high school careers (photos, videos, documents).” The Universal Application provides great tools to showcase achievements in sports and art through its Arts and Athletics supplements. The Common App is undoubtedly the most widespread among the schools. Look at their websites to learn more about each of them in detail.

Useful links:
  •    The Common, Coalition, and Universal College Applications – http://studentcaffe.com/apply/four-year-college/common-coalition-universal-applications
  •    Differences between Common application and Coalition application – https://www.ivycoach.com/the-ivy-coach-blog/the-application/differences-common-application-coalition-application
  •    Should I use the common or the Coalition – https://www.collegetransitions.com/blog/should-i-use-the-common-app-or-the-coalition-app/
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