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Common App and Coalition: What Are They and Who Uses Them?

Those of you preparing for the upcoming college application season may have heard the words “Common App” and “Coalition” thrown around. But what are they, which schools use them, and crucially, what are the differences between them?

What Do The Common Application and Coalition for College Do?

The Common Application (Common App) and Coalition for College (Coalition) are both platforms that allow you to easily apply for college. They do this by creating a standard application that students fill out and then adding supplemental material for each school based on their individual requirements. This way, students only have to fill out their basic information, including their main college essay, once. That information is then included in all subsequent applications using the platform. In this respect, the two platforms are very similar. Below you’ll see images of the kind of stock-standard information asked for in both application platforms.

Which Schools Use Which Platform

Although the general information included on each of these platforms is the same, they have very different reach. Common App hosts over 900 colleges and universities around the world. Coalition, by comparison, is only used by around 130 schools. This is in part because Coalition places more restrictions on a school’s affordability and graduation rate if they would like to be hosted on the platform. Most of the schools hosted on Coalition are also on Common App. However, there are some schools that are exclusively available through Coalition.

Coalition Exclusive Schools Include:

When it comes to Common App, there are a dizzying number of schools. So much so that it might be easier to list schools not included on the Common App. However, to give you an idea, the following schools can all be applied to through Common App:

Common App Available Schools Include:

The list goes on. If it’s a university you know, there’s a decent chance that it’s hosted on Common App. Which is why navigating that application and preparing for that main essay is so important to the college application process.

However, there are schools that host their own applications and don’t use either Common App or Coalition. There are lots of reasons for this, including a desire to have greater control over the information collected and the essay prompts provided. Below, you’ll find a list of some schools you may have heard of that only accept applications through their own application portals.

Independent School Applications Include:

What is the difference between the two platforms?

The short answer to this question is that the two are very similar. Both application platforms ask for basic biographical information (name, address, gender), family information (useful for determining whether you are a “first generation” college applicant), demographic and citizenship information, and an overview of your 12th grade coursework. The most important difference between the two application platforms are size and focus - Common App includes a much greater number of schools and Coalition focuses more heavily on school affordability. However, don’t worry too much about choosing between the two. If you are able to do so, you would be better served doing all of your applications through Common App, as it will simplify your application process. However, it’s possible that at least one of your schools will only be listed on Coalition, in which case you will have to complete both applications.

One of the major differences in the two applications is the space you have to talk about your extracurriculars. Both allow you to list 5 honors or awards but Common App gives you space for 10 separate activities while Coalition only allows you to list 8. On the other hand, Coalition’s character limit for activity descriptions is more forgiving than the 150 characters (around 30 words) that Common App allows you. This can sometimes be difficult for students with a lot to say.


Overall, the most important difference between the two is the collection of schools that they are partnered with. My suggestion for college applicants is to work on completing their Common Apps as soon as possible - you’re almost guaranteed to use at least the Common App. After that, go to the websites of the schools you’re applying for and find out which of the two platforms they use (if not both) and figure out if you’ll need to fill out the Coalition application. Finally, keep an eye out for those few schools that have a completely separate application, as they will take longer to complete on average than sending applications to a bunch of schools through the Common App.

Good luck applying! Make sure to keep an eye on our website for more tips on the college application process or find out more about our college counseling!

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