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Update on the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success

On this blog, we inform parents and students who are or soon will be engaged in the college admissions process of significant changes to admissions practices and procedures, especially at the most elite institutions. This is to help prepare you for the challenge ahead so that your plans and expectations align with current conditions. Toward this end, we’re updating you on one of most important forces for change in the admissions field—the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success.

The Coalition has over 93 member colleges and universities, including many top-tier institutions such as the eight Ivy League schools, Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr, CalTech, Claremont McKenna, Colby, Chicago, Duke, Emory, Hamilton, Johns Hopkins, Mt. Holyoke, Michigan, Pomona, Virginia, Stanford, Vassar, Williams, and William & Mary.

A few months ago, we described the Coalition’s organization, its mission, and its progress. The Coalition’s raison d’etre is the improvement and simplification of the college admissions process, especially with respect to correcting the imperfections of the Common Application. Last year, the Coalition announced that its members would transition to their new application starting in the summer of 2016.

Our previous post also listed several concerns about the Coalition that have been expressed by admissions professionals. We concluded the post with the observation that “…the Coalition is not ready for prime time”. However, we noted that, given its blue chip membership and the worthiness of it mission, the possibility that the Coalition would not meet its near-term objectives could be resolved.

The development process for any complex new product encounters unanticipated problems, so it’s no surprise that the Coalition is, in fact, postponing the implementation timeframe for its App. Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed reported the following on April 20 after attending a Coalition webinar:

“A few dozen members of the coalition of leading colleges that plans to reform college admissions with a new application system this summer don’t plan to use it for the next year.”

From the perspective of high school and private admissions counselors, as well as Coalition member colleges, the postponement announcement means that the pain of adopting a second application process will be extended over a longer period of time.

In addition to the short-term concern about the schedule slippage, there is also a rising long-term concern—process redundancy. The Common App isn’t going to go away. So, when the Coalition App is fully implemented for its member schools, all participants in the admissions process, including colleges, high schools, consultants, parents, and students, will need to cope with two parallel application frameworks—the Common App and the Coalition App—on an ongoing basis.

The need to operate redundant systems that perform the same function will increase overhead unnecessarily for all involved. Not all things are improved by competition. In fact, competition in certain settings is simply wasteful. Should there be a competition for survival between the Common App and the Coalition App? If so, it would be best for all concerned if it were to happen quickly. Counselors, admissions officials, and students could then focus their energies on the sole surviving methodology.

Some commenters have suggested that, due to the temporary technological meltdown of Common App processing a few years ago, the availability of a backup application system is prudent. In reality, there’s simply no capacity in the college admissions process for one application methodology to serve only as a “fail-safe” to another. There is too much developmental, administrative, and operating expense inherent in a system of this complexity to allow for a fully redundant backup system.

The Coalition has not yet identified which of its members will adopt their application methodology this year and which will postpone until next. They plan to identify these schools but have not yet done so. To the chagrin of counselors with students planning to apply to a school that may or may not be using the Coalition App this year, the Coalition has recently released the essay prompts for this year’s first iteration of its App.

Alas, the admissions process, especially for the most selective institutions, seems to get more complicated every time an effort is made to simplify it. By hiring an IvySelect private admissions consultant, you’re assured that you’ll have expert guidance through the thicket of admissions practices and procedures, not only for colleges in general but for each elite institution on your target list.