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Carleton to accept Coalition App with class of 2021

<ir="ltr">The high school class of 2017 will have a new college application option in addition to the Common App. Next year, Carleton will begin accepting the new Coalition Application, which allows students to upload relevant work from all four years of high school and which is used by a different set of schools than the Common App is.

“There needed to be another option,” said Jaime Anthony, associate dean of admissions and Coalition App institutional representative. Thinking back to the 2014 problems in the Common App technology, in which the site slowed so much that many schools pushed back early decision deadlines, Anthony explained, “We were unable to have control over a process we needed control over.”   

Vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid, Paul Thiboutot agreed wholeheartedly. He said “if the Common App fizzled, we had no other options to turn to. It made no sense.” Thiboutot has been heavily involved in the creation of the Coalition Application. He currently serves on the board, which is composed of the volunteers from Coalition Application members, according to the website. Yet, his engagement in conversations about a new form of application began long before then. About two years ago, some colleges and universities agreed that an “alternative platform” to the Common App was needed, according to Thiboutot.

Although the two applications share many similarities, the Common App and Coalition Application possess a few key differences. When the Coalition Application was formed, the Common App worked on a “10-month life cycle,” in which students could not begin their applications until senior year, said Anthony. Whereas, the Coalition Application can “be used from 9th grade onward.” In other words, students can begin their application anytime in their four years of high school.

Not everyone considers this ability to open applications early in students’ high school careers as a positive step. In his article for the New Yorker titled “The Poisonous Reach of the College- Admissions Process”, opinion writer Matt Feeney touched on the dangers of the Coalition Application in the already competitive world of admissions. In the present environment, of course, “can start a portfolio in ninth grade” will mean “must start a portfolio in ninth grade.”

Since then, the Common App has shifted its date when the application becomes accessible to students earlier, in part due to pressure from competitors such as the Coalition Application and Questbridge application, and more changes to the Common App will probably come soon, according to Thiboutot. “Even as I talk to you, the Common App is evolving,” he said.

One feature the Common App still does not contain is the “locker.” Compared loosely to Dropbox, it acts as a storage tool for PDFs of papers, photos of art projects or videos of soccer games. Students can add as much or as little to the locker after opening an application, whether they begin freshmen fall or senior fall.  Meant as a reference tool for students applying to college, Thiboutot assures “it isn’t changing any requirements to go to college.” Instead, it is a tool to gather excellent work, spot trends in your work over the years or remember various accomplishments throughout high school, according to Thiboutot. Applicants can choose to submit some or none of the materials stored in the “locker” to different colleges.  

The new application allows for students to invite mentors, teachers or community partners to edit and look at students’ progress. According to Anthony, this could be a huge help, particularly for under resourced students or first-generation college students working with community organizations who do not own storage space or a platform to collaborate on the application. Perhaps, the most significant difference between the Common App and the Coalition Application are the eligibility requirements for colleges and universities to use each given application. In order to be a member of the Coalition App, an institution must strive for “access, affordability, and success,” said Thiboutot.  

To fulfill the “access” requirement schools must show their efforts to reach a wide variety of students. “If you only seek out upper-middle-class kids, you can’t be a part of us,” said Thiboutot. In order to meet the “affordability” standard, the schools must also demonstrate their ability to ensure full financial need is covered for their incoming students. The last pillar, “success” can be achieved with a 70% 6-year graduation rate or higher. Schools that not meet the standards in these three categories cannot use the application.

The elite nature of the schools qualified to join the Coalition has created some controversy. “It’s created some complaints about an elitist group,” said Thiboutot. Yet, he says the criteria are meant as “quality measures” to ensure students are applying to good institutions, so when asked about the criticism, he “can accept that.” One hundred fifty schools met these standards. Ninety three agreed to become members, but only 60 are able to start accepting applications next year. The others deferred this year for legal reasons, systemic slowness or a lack of needed technology.

The Common App, founded on the desire for a holistic approach in the admissions process, requires member schools to use an application that, most importantly, includes an essay. “That’s one of the issues I have with the Common App–too much uniformity in what you would do with the nature of the application,” said Thiboutot. The more standardized form of application used by the Common App limits the type of schools represented. “The Common App has a lot more schools. It’s 600 plus and it’s heavily private ” school based.  According to Thiboutot, this majority of private schools stems from the difference in criteria for entering many public universities, which often do not require the written essay needed in the Common App.

“The Coalition Application is  a combination of small liberal arts colleges, private research universities and public research universities,” said Thiboutot. The flexibility of the application allows for a wider variety of institutional types.

Both Thiboutot and Anthony ensure that all the accepted applications, including the Common App and new Coalition Application, are treated similarly in the admissions process. No type will be given preference over others. Anthony would be “surprised if there was more than two dozen” applicants using the Coalition App this next year, but is “both optimistic and aware that it takes a certain level of courage to change.”

Thiboutot is also hopeful for the new application. He acknowledges that 10 years from now, the Coalition App could look completely different or not even exist at all. As he said, “this could all change. This is where we began.”

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