Does it Matter If I Apply with the Common App or the Coalition App?

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Dennis Bua
Dennis Bua

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Choices, choices, choices. We are constantly forced to choose between equally great options! Coke vs. Pepsi, iOS vs. Android, Batman vs. Superman. In the college application arena, some students will have to choose between the Common App and the Coalition App.

Before you spend valuable time filling out one of these applications first decide if your college list requires that you complete one or both (or none).  Today, we will discuss:

  1. how to choose between these college application platforms
  2. some salient features of each.

When their powers are combined, these two college application portals enable students to apply to over 700 colleges in the United States and beyond.

How to choose between the Common App and the Coalition App

Do schools prefer A or B?

Do colleges prefer one type of application over the other? The answer is NO. If a college accepts both the Common App and the Coalition App there will not be a preference given to either form of application. Why is this? Pound for pound, line by line, both applications essentially ask for the same information (but there are some differences, see below).

Your list matters

Taking this into account, how does a student decide? This completely depends on the student’s college list. There are some great resources for making a college list on the College Board’s website and on Empowerly’s blog. Let’s talk strategy. Choose the application platform used by the most schools on your college list. Looking at the numbers, the Common App is accepted by nearly 700 schools and the Coalition App is accepted by a little more than 50. There is only one Coalition App-exclusive school: the University of Florida. Thus, it is likely that the majority of students will only need to submit applications via the Common App portal during this application cycle. Students should never submit 2 applications (e.g. 1 Common App and 1 Coalition App) to the same school during a single admission cycle.  

What are some similarities and differences between the Common App and the Coalition App?


There is not a common thread among the nearly 700 schools that use the Common App. Some are public, some are private, some require supplemental essays, some do not. Most importantly, their deadlines vary by school so do your research to identify the deadlines for the schools on your college list. In contrast, a school must meet certain criteria to be a member of the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. If it is a public college/university it must provide affordable tuition in combination with need-based financial aid for in-state residents. If it is a private college/university it must provide sufficient financial aid to meet the full demonstrated need of every domestic student. There is also a requirement that the institution graduates at least 70% of their students within six years of matriculation. Again, their application deadlines vary by school so check each school individually.


For the base application (not including supplements) both the Common App and the Coalition App require the student choose 1 of 5 prompts to answer. Although the topics are similar, the word limit for the Common App essay (the official prompts can be found here) is 650 words, which is 100 words greater than limit for the Coalition App essay (the official prompts can be found here). Notably, one of the Coalition App’s prompts gives students the option of choosing their own topic, so there is a possibility that some students will just submit their Common App essay.

Honors, Distinctions, and Activities

Both the Common App and the Coalition App allow students to list 5 Honors & Distinctions (choose wisely). The Coalition App allows students to list 8 activities while the Comm App has space reserved for 10 activities. Will the additional 2 spots for activities matter? Probably not. However it is conceivable that in some cases the additional two activities will shed light onto an interesting part of a student’s story.  


The Common App has Naviance integration. There is a video explaining how to match a student’s Common App account with his/her Naviance account at this Naviance resource page. On the other hand, Naviance does not have a partnership with the Coalition App (see the announcement here).   

Concluding remarks

Be strategic. If most of the schools on your school list accept the Common App, focus on the Common App. The most important thing is that your application gives the reader a good sense of your accomplishments inside and outside of the classroom. Navigating the college application process can be difficult and confusing. If you would like a free consultation contact us at Empowerly. We will assess your needs and help you successfully complete your college applications (Common App, Coalition App, and beyond).

Questions? Let us know!