What to Know About Choosing a College Application Platform

The following is a guest post written by Anna Carapellotti of Admissionado, a premier college admissions consulting company focused on helping students get into their dream schools.

In addition to choosing which schools to apply to this year, rising high school seniors may have another choice to make: which college application platform to use. With the new Coalition app being released this year, some schools offer as many as four options to begin the path to admission. Here, we will explore four application portals and what each one has to offer:  

The Common Application

With over 600 schools in its network, The Common Application invariably offers access to more institutions than any other platform. Its membership is diverse, including colleges that are public, private, large, small, secular and religious, though they did receive some flack for changing their membership rules in 2014 to no longer require “holistic” admissions. (This means that member schools are no longer required to review students beyond their numbers using personal statements, school supplements, and letters of recommendation.)

The Common App has truly simplified the admissions process, aggregating each applicant’s information in one place and preventing them from having to re-enter details of their background and education over and over. This also enables students to manage most (if not all) of their deadlines in one place. They even released a mobile app last year, Common App onTrack, to help students keep track of their applications

Even with all of the hype surrounding the new Coalition app released this year, the Common App will likely remain the most popular for students, simply because it is so convenient and trustworthy.

The Coalition Application

Though the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success has also simplified the information collection process for students, it offers less options in terms of schools (just 56). What’s unique about this platform is that it gives students the opportunity to start planning early. One of the main features of the Coalition is the Virtual Locker, a free repository for students to store their work throughout high school. Such work could include a class essay, a video from a school performance, a piece of art created by the student, etc. The Virtual Locker allows students to begin storing items as early as ninth grade and then submit them to colleges and universities later as part of their application.

Another advantage of the Coalition is the Collaboration Space. Once students have stored work in their Virtual Locker, they can use the Collaboration Space to get feedback from teachers, counselors, and mentors, who can then engage with the students, measure their progress, and offer advice on coursework and application steps. Each student has complete control over whom they collaborate with and what items they choose to share from their locker.

The Coalition aims to make the application process more “holistic” by getting a more complete picture of applicants. This could include allowing students to add supplemental essays or submit things that are out of the ordinary to better represent themselves. However, it remains unclear whether students will be able to submit more via the Coalition as opposed to using another platform when applying to a particular school.

The Universal College Application

The Universal College Application (UCA), ironically, is the least ‘universal,’ as it can only be used to apply to just 34 schools. While all of the schools on UCS are accredited, this portal is like the Common App in that it does not require schools to use a “holistic” review process.


Of all of the application portals, Questbridge is the most competitive, as a successful application could grant both admission to a top school and financial support. This platform has partnered with 39 of the most selective research universities and liberal arts colleges with the goal of ‘matching’ high-achieving, low-income students with an outstanding education and a full, four-year scholarship worth over $200,000.

While there are no strict cutoffs for applying, Questbridge applicants should possess a high level of academic achievement that meets or exceeds the criteria of the partner schools’ admissions standards. In other words, applicants should have a profile that could get them into the Ivies, MIT, Amherst, and more.

It’s important to note that this application is due earlier than most (September 27). However, students who are not selected as College Match finalists are able to easily apply early and regular decision using the Questbridge platform.

School-specific applications

Some schools have made it easy (or more difficult?) by developing their own application portals. MIT, Georgetown, and all of the University of California campuses use their own systems, citing that they like the flexibility that having their own app gives them. For example, this year, the University of California has replaced the personal statement with a series of shorter personal insight questions, which they hope will help them get to know students better. MIT, on the other hand, offers students a chance to share hands-on projects they have worked on through the Maker Portfolio.

When choosing an application platform this year, we encourage students to start planning early. See which platforms the schools you are interested in are using and make a game plan that will simplify your life and maximize your chances of getting in.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.