Coalition Application Guide

Table of Contents

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

While the Common Application is the most popular way for students to apply to colleges, it is far from the only option. While the Coalition Application is less popular, used by only 147 schools compared to the 700+ who accept the Common App, it is still used by tens of thousands of students each year when applying to colleges.

The Coalition App, however, is dedicated to only working with schools who provide generous financial aid, and to providing free assistance to students who are applying to colleges. The Coalition App also maintains a cloud-based storage service where students can keep essays, schoolwork, and other materials they may need.

In this guide we’ll go through each section of the Coalition App in order, with instructions and advice on how to fill each out. While not every section is required by the app itself, most sections are required by the majority of colleges, and so will be described here as well.

Sections of the Coalition App

Personal Information

Schools need to know who you are exactly, so they know they sent acceptance letters to the right people. You may need to look up your Social Security number; your parents should have it if you don’t.

If you are serving in, or previously served in America’s armed forces, your application fees will be waived.

There is a question on Community Based Organizations. The Coalition App wants to know if you are receiving free help from a community organization when applying to colleges, or filling out their form. If you have hired a private consulting firm (like us), then you don’t have to put anything here.

Contact Information

The Coalition App, and the colleges you apply to, need to be able to communicate with you. As with the section above, this should be fairly straightforward. Ask your parents or guardians if you are uncertain about the answers to some of the questions, like when you started living at your current address.

Your permanent address will only be different from your mailing address if you do not live at home; for instance if you attend boarding school.

Demographic Information

You are able to select more than one option when choosing your ethnic background. If you are unsure about your parent’s background, ask them, as accuracy is important. 

There is then a place to list which languages you speak. As you are allowed to select a proficiency level, you can include languages you may not be totally fluent in. Do not overstate your fluency in a language; you may meet an interviewer who will want to speak to you in it. Only state you are fluent in a language if you are comfortable with that eventuality. There is no shame in putting down that you are merely learning a language; this lets colleges know your cultural influences and interests.

Citizenship Information

Colleges keep track of international applicants and students with dual citizenship. If you are a permanent resident or visa holder, or a DREAMer, then not having US citizenship will not generally hurt your admissions chances.

Family Information

Admissions officers want to understand you in context, and your family background is a big part of that context. Admissions officers want to know the unique quirks and possible challenges of your life, and those start with your family.

Schools also want to know where your parents, and any older siblings, went to college. Being the first in your family to go to college is seen as a sign of overcoming challenges, and is welcomed by colleges. Many colleges also give preference to students who are the children of former students, a process known as legacy admissions.

High School Information

Your academic record is the single most important aspect of how you are evaluated, and part of that is which high school you went to. Not all high schools have the same resources, or are equally challenging, and your academic performance is judged relative to your high school. The information you enter here is coupled with a report from your high school counselor.

12th Grade Coursework

While you may not have final grades for your 12th grade classes when you apply, colleges want to make sure you are continuing the academic trajectory you have shown in the rest of your coursework. On top of this, schools require a mid-year report, which is filed by your counselor.

9th-11th Grade Coursework

Schools want to see how academically prepared you are for college, and whether or not you have challenged yourself with the classes you’ve decided to take in high school. Taking the hardest courses available to you, and doing well in them, is the best way to impress colleges. You will need to report any classes you took in summer school as well.


Most colleges require standardized test scores, and even the schools which are test-optional will still accept these scores. For this section you will need to report all the times you have taken the test, and the scores you have received. Superscoring of the tests will be done by colleges themselves.

Some colleges will accept you only submitting scores from some sittings of the tests, but these colleges will want official score reports anyway, so there is no harm in reporting the scores here.

If all the colleges you are applying to are test optional, then you will need to decide if reporting your test scores at all is worth it.

College Information

This section is for students who have taken dual enrollment classes, or otherwise taken classes at a college level for credit while still in high school. AP and IB classes do not count for this, only classes which were administered by a college. This section does include online and summer courses offered by colleges.

Smart pretty young woman working with laptop on table in library. Studying in university, learning, freelancer, working, searching in internet, clever student, hard-working

Fee Waiver

It can cost a surprising amount of money to apply to colleges, anywhere from $50 to $90 per application. The Coalition App has several options for students to waive all of these fees. Students who fit the following criteria do not have to pay application fees:

  • Students on the free or reduced lunch program
  • Students who received a NACAC fee waiver
  • Students who received a College Board fee waiver
  • Students who received an ACT fee waiver
  • Students participating in programs such as Upward Bound

If you qualify for any of these fee waivers, we recommend you take them, as college is expensive enough already.

Additional Tests

International students are required to prove English proficiency with the TOEFL or IELTS tests. Scores for these tests are reported in this section. If you are not an international student, you don’t need to worry about this section.

Honors and Distinctions

The Coalition App allows you to list five honors you have earned, of any kind. You enter the award you earned, when it was earned, and the level of award (i.e. local, regional, or national). You should be specific in the title box, as there is nowhere else to describe the details of the award. Do not use acronyms colleges are unlikely to be familiar with; NHS is fine, but write “Youth American Grand Prix” instead of “YAGP.” 

If you have more than 5 awards you wish to mention, then list the most impressive awards. The more people who were competing for an award you won, the more impressive that accomplishment is.

Academic Interests

The purpose of this section is to let colleges know what majors you are interested in, and what academic subjects you are interested in pursuing. You may enter up to three, for those students who are undecided or interested in multiple fields. See here for how your choice of major can affect your chances of admission.


This is where you can tell colleges about everything you are involved in outside of the classroom. While high grades are important, they are far from the only thing colleges care about. See our article here for more guidance on what colleges want to see in your extracurricular participation.

The Coalition App only gives 8 spots for activities, in place of the Common Apps’ 10. They specify that the first two you include should be non-academic. This is to give admissions officers a first impression of who you are outside the classroom. Each activity you enter is placed into one of 6 categories, chosen via drop-down menu:

  • Academic
  • Arts
  • Club Activities
  • Family Responsibilities
  • Sports
  • Others

Of course, one activity may well fit into multiple categories. In these cases, select the category which best fits how you interacted with that activity. You also input how long and how frequently you participated in this activity, any leadership positions you’ve had, and any individual distinctions earned related to the activity. You also get a single sentence to describe what you did as part of this activity.

This sentence should focus on what you did, while not covering any information you put in elsewhere in the form. You only get this one sentence, so you need to make every word count. Focus on the actions you took, the accomplishments you had, and the impact your involvement created.

The Locker

This is not a section you fill out per se, but instead a cloud based storage system similar to google drive, where you upload the various documents required by colleges. These include recommendation letters, supplemental essays, your resume, a portfolio (if relevant), and anything else required by schools. 

There is no limit to the number of files you are allowed to upload to the locker, but there is a 50 MB file size limit per upload. Files are organized within sections within the locker, so your letters of recommendation are kept separate from your artistic portfolio.

Personal Statement

Just like with the Common App, you are expected to submit a personal statement when applying. The Coalition App recommends a 500-650 word limit, though they do not have a hard cap. Some schools do hard cap personal statements at 650 words, so we recommend keeping your personal statement below that length. What you write is far more impactful than how much you write.

The personal statement prompts from the Coalition App for the 2021-22 application cycle are: 

  • Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  • Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  • Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  • What is the hardest part of being a student now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  • Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

There is a great range of what you can talk about in your personal statement, but the most important part is to make sure it tells admissions officers something about who you are. For more advice on how to write an outstanding personal statement, see our article here.

Colleges That Use the Coalition Application

Here is a list of colleges that accept the Coalition App, but not the Common App. Some of these schools also have their own app portal, or accept applications through another system, like Apply Texas for Texas A&M. There are many other schools that accept both; research the schools you apply to see which applications they accept.

  • Clemson University
  • James Madison University
  • Loyola University Maryland
  • North Central College
  • Rutgers University
  • St. Mary’s University
  • Texas A&M University
  • University of New Mexico
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Maryland -College Park
  • University of Montana
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of South Carolina
  • UT Austin
  • University of Washington

Final Thoughts

Whichever application portal you choose, it merely serves as a vehicle for your application. The real substance universities want to see transcends the application itself; they want to know who you are, and the application is merely how they find that information out.
Applying to college is frequently stressful. There are many questions, new ways of writing essays, and details that seem confusing. If you want advice on which application you should use, which colleges you should apply to, or how to write the best possible essays, you should schedule a free consultation with us. We have a depth of experience helping students get into the school of their dreams, and are always eager to hear from you.

Need help with college admissions?

Download our "Guide to Everything," a 90-page PDF that covers everything you need to know about the college admission process.

More To Explore

College Applications

Women Only Liberal Arts Colleges

There was a time when all colleges were gender segregated, usually to the detriment of women. Today, all the nation’s top research universities are coeducational,

Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!