By: Brittany Clausman

This year brought some numerous and significant changes to college admissions; there’s a new SAT for students, and now you can file your FAFSA with tax information from two years before a student’s freshman year of college. While these changes have kept us and our clients on our toes, there’s one change that may have slipped under the radar, yet its effects may be the most significant: The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success.

The initial iteration of the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success started to pick up steam back in 2015 with the goal of “[improving] the college application process for all students as they search for and apply to their perfect college.” A collaborative effort between some of the top 90 schools in America (including some Ivy Leagues) and the software developer CollegeNet, the Coalition brings students a free, online platform composed of a Locker, Collaboration Platform, and even its own distinct application. Since being brought to the public’s attention, the Coalition has gone through a few changes, been the target of some noted criticisms, and pushed a few of its launch dates back. At first, the Locker and Collaboration Platform were planned to go live in January of this year, but now, we will see the first two components of this platform just in time for Spring Break when they launch in April.

What the Locker and Collaboration Platform are you may be wondering, and whether this Coalition is good news or bad news for college admissions is up in the air. We’ve been gathering all the information we can and tapping all our resources at Parros College Planning to learn the most we can regarding this new system. Here are some things you should know regarding the Coalition’s first release—the Locker and Collaboration Platform—and why they matter. Keep an eye out our workshop in the near future to address this subject.

The Locker

For some time now, college admissions officials have been faced with the unfortunate reality of a growing lack of diversity on college campuses. Affluent students are far more likely to be admitted to prestigious schools on the basis that they tend to have access to more mentors, tutors, and the ability to take an unpaid internship over the summer to better their college applications. Knowing that American colleges have cultivated an environment of insurmountable odds against students who cannot afford the necessities often needed for admittance, the Coalition was created as a way to attempt to level the playing field. By creating an online platform, the Coalition hopes to fulfill the ‘access’ component of its namesake by allowing students to sign up on their website for free. They can then begin to utilize the platform tools as early as 9th grade. Its distinguishing feature for many students will undoubtedly be the Locker.

From the Coalition’s website, we know that “The Locker offers a private space for students to collect and organize materials throughout their high school journey,” similar, they say, to DropBox and Google Drive. Students will be able to put whatever they wish in their Lockers, including awards, essays, artwork, or even video files. These documents are meant to be private to the student; however, he or she can choose to allow others to view what’s inside his or her locker and when. The Coalition hopes that the Locker may help the students in future college searches, and possibly use their Locker storage to determine the best fit college.

A student also has the option of attaching a document from the Locker to the Coalition’s application (which has a planned release for the summer of this year.) What can be seen by others is completely up to the discretion of the student; the Coalition often stresses on their website that at no time will any of the member colleges have access to the Lockers.

The Collaboration Platform

As previously stated, the Coalition makes no secret of their goal to assist the college planning process for students who come from a background where college might not typically be an option for them. For most underprivileged or first-generation students, the largest hurdle to overcome when planning for college if finding the appropriate people to connect with. This is the obstacle the Coalition wishes to make obsolete with their Collaboration Platform, which will launch simultaneously with the Locker this April.

The Coalition describes it as a “Meeting place where counselors, teachers, and mentors can support the student’s college search and application through feedback and editing.” Here, students will be able to connect in ways that may have eluded them in the past. As an added incentive, students and counselors can also use the Collaboration Platform to connect with Coalition schools’ members for a chance to connect and communicate at an improved level.

What’s it mean to my student?

As it stands, the full effects and ramifications of the Coalition’s online platform can mostly be speculative. The application—probably the most intriguing and controversial component of the platform–will not launch until the summer when it will presumably cause some confusion for juniors who may not know whether they should use the Coalition’s application, or the popular counterpart: The Common Application. Officials with the Coalition stress that juniors should not worry about choosing between the two; they argue that Coalition members will accept both just as most schools accept both the SAT and the ACT. But for many, the validity of that statement is still up in the air—especially when considering that member school the University of Washington recently announced that the Coalition application will be their only accepted application for incoming 2017 freshmen.

While the Coalition’s expressed intent does indeed highlight the need to alter the college admissions process and there exists a possibility that their platform is a step in the right direction, many still decry it as just another hoop student must jump through in an already muddled and complicated system. Whether a burden or a blessing for some, keeping these changes in mind are paramount for any parent with a student just beginning or still engaging in the college planning experience. We encourage any parent to contact us here at Parros College Planning if they have any concerns or reservations regarding the Coalition. We’ve been working our hardest since the Coalition’s announcement last September to learn about every aspect of it for the benefit of our clients. Just another reason to use our college planning services.