Which college application portal should I use?

August 02, 2016 / by Angela Suh Um

The Common Application opened for the 2016-17 season on August 1, and students have busily started filling out their online profiles. With the presence of the Universal College Application, and the addition of the Coalition Application this year, students and parents may be wondering if there is an advantage to using one portal over another to get into colleges.

Here are links to full lists of schools accepting applications for this year's freshman application cycle (the Class of 2021):

The Common Application (670 schools)
The Universal College Application (33 schools)
The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success Application (53 schools this fall, 41 more next fall)

As you can see, the Universal College Application is not really so universal, while the Coalition Application is just getting started this year. Being somewhat risk averse, I advise students to try and avoid being the first "test class" whenever there are any major changes in the college applications process. Should there be any problems, technical glitches, or operational issues, you don't want to be on the wrong end of that. The Coalition Application has some promise, and is targeted for those without the means to pay for other college application assistance.

The Common Application is still the most proven and flexible option for online college applications, allowing you to fill in their application once and use it to apply to many schools. We recommend it to all of our clients as a default.

This is not to say that no one should use the Universal or Coalition applications. If your schools of choice are completely represented by one or both of these other platforms, there is little reason to use the Common Application over them. The Coalition Application may allow for more flexibility in the essay topics, and so might be the right choice for some people.

Boston Academic Consulting Group is not affiliated with any application portal, nor do we officially support one application portal over another. This article is only meant to give strategic advice to our audience.

Angela Suh Um

Angela Suh Um, founder and Chief Consultant of Boston Academic Consulting Group, grew up in Los Angeles, California and graduated with honors from Harvard College, where she studied Government and East Asian Studies. She went on to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where she studied Public Policy. She loves working with young students and has also led seminars, training sessions, and workshops on academic planning, admissions strategies, and other topics in higher education.