The other day, I was on a webinar and the main focus was on the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. Overall there seems to be a lot of confusion about what the Application is, what the Locker is and how things will move forward this coming year. Let’s just be sure of one thing – this is new, and not a lot of people know how the process will unfold exactly.
What we do know is that there are over 90 colleges and universities who will use the Coalition application. Only THREE schools will use it exclusively, at this point. Those schools are University of Washington, University of Maryland, and the University of Florida. Every other school is on a Wait-to-See basis. As mentioned there is a lot that is not known.
So let’s try to separate the different pieces. There are three main aspects of the Coalition For Access website: the Tools, the Locker and the Application. It is important not to confuse each of these items, as they are generally separate pieces to the larger puzzle of assisting students through the maze of the application process. So let’s tackle them one by one.
The Tool section will be comprised of exactly what it says – tools to help students and their families through various aspects of applying to university. Things like Financial Aid calculators, links to Financial Aid and Scholarship providers, links to Community Based Organizations (CBO’s) to assist students who do not have the financial resources for college counselors, information on a wide variety of topics related to applying to schools will all be accessible through this portion of the portal. One thing to remember is that the primary focus, supposedly, is to help underprivileged, first generation students, and provide tools they might not otherwise have access to, so they can go to university.
The Locker is the area where a lot of people seem to have the most confusion. Basically the Locker is a storage space where students can drop items like graded essays, research papers, videos, journals, resumes, awards, certificates and other important documents. Again this is a storage space. No one other than the student can see or access this portion of the portal (unless a student has given access to a mentor/counselor etc…) Colleges and universities will not see this information.
What is the purpose of this storage space? To give a student access to information collected throughout their High School career. It is a way to remember what they did from the beginning to the virtual end of the formative years. More importantly, by being able to collect and preserve that information, the idea of the Locker is to give a student time to reflect on their experiences over those three and a half years. How did they become the person they are today, and what events led to the development of that person?
What is definitely certain is that during the application process all of this material will not be sent to admission offices. Schools, in the application process, will ask for one or two items that they deem are instrumental in their development and show what kind of student/person they are, above and beyond grades, letters of recommendation, and essays. Each school will set their parameters of how many pieces of evidence they want a student to send. Also, I believe students may choose one set of items for one school and a completely different set to another.
The Locker is also where other documents will be stored – transcripts and letters of recommendation from teachers and counselors. These will remain LOCKED and inaccessible to students accept in the sending process of the application. Students will still not be able to see them, but they will link them to their application and be able to send them with their other materials.
This now brings us to the Application portion of the portal. The application will be pretty much the same as any other application. There will be biographical information, educational information i.e. where a student currently attends or has attended school, activities and essays. Really, the actual application process will not be much different than before, other than the fact that a student will now need to decide which application they will use – the Common Application, the Coalition Application, or a school’s own application.
With the exception of the three schools listed at the beginning of this article, there is no advantage in using the Coalition Application. Schools will not give the Coalition Application priority over any other application. All applications will be viewed as equal.
What advice would I give? I would say for this year, unless you are applying to those three schools, avoid the Coalition Application. First, there is no stated benefit in using their application. Second, there are too many unknowns at this point – whether the technology be able to handle the number of students using that application being one of the major concerns. Any glitches will affect applicants and that adds a level of anxiety to a process already filled with enough anxiety. Like any new toy or invention it is always a good plan to wait for Version 2.0. There will be lots of improvements to the system as the Coalition works through all the issues of this process.
Finally, for most students here who have College Counselors or consultants, there are still a lot that we do not know about the application (no one has seen it), no one has seen how it will work and overall there is just too much confusion. Go with what you know and wait. There is no reason to be a test subject in something so important as an application, plus there are too many new things to sort through this year – the rSAT, ACT (with its current security issues), and Financial Aid processes to add on more concern. Be safe, choose wisely and by all means, keep it simple.
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