Mar 9, 2016

The Coalition moves closer to April launch with new ‘interim’ director

With the addition of new educational materials on its website and increased visibility at various Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success is moving closer to launching the first two of three components of a technology platform designed to support long-term college planning and a new approach to the application process. 

college conferences across the country, the

While no specific date has been set, the “Locker,” or portfolio development tool, and the associated “Collaboration Space” will be introduced as promised in April, with the application set to debut in July.

“Negativity is dying down,” said Colin Melinda Johnson, interim director of the Coalition in an interview on Coalition plans for the coming months. “We’ve been getting some positive press and the volume of misgivings is fading.”

In her new role, Ms. Johnson has been traveling to meet with various organizations to present the new set of online tools she hopes will improve the way students apply to college.  And from her office at the University of Chicago, she has been working with CollegeNet, the Portland, Oregon-based software developer, to put together instructional materials targeted to applicants, college counselors and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that work with low-income, underrepresented students.

She is also coordinating a Coalition Counselor Community composed of 65 counselors representing 33 public high schools, 21 private high schools and 11 CBOs. In addition, Ms. Johnson is overseeing a series of beta tests currently being conducted by one school district, a CBO, and a Charter School. 

And while elements of the application have yet to be totally finalized, the structure is in place and the organization feels confident the new platform reflects state-of-the-art application technology and will be met with an enthusiastic response by users.

Here is an update:

Staffing.  In addition to appointing Ms. Johnson as interim director, the University of Chicago Office of Admissions is currently interviewing for an Assistant Director of Coalition Outreach to “work primarily on the Coalition’s behalf for at least one year,” after which the position is expected to transition to the Coalition. Both positions report to Chicago’s Vice president and Dean of Admissions, James Nondorf, who currently serves as the chairman of the Coalition.

Membership. Membership currently stands at 91 colleges and universities. Many are also members of the Common Application, but many are also current customers of CollegeNet. Those CollegeNet institutions meeting current Coalition membership requirements are mostly migrating to the new platform. A number of additional colleges are currently in the pipeline, but it’s unlikely the total will get as high as 100 active institutions, as some may want the association but will delay offering the application for a year. In the meantime, a committee chaired by Zina Evans, vice president for enrollment management at the University of Florida and William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard College, is looking into loosening membership restrictions for next year.

Exclusives. For the moment, three universities have announced that they will be Coalition exclusive—University of Florida, University of Maryland College Park, and University of Washington. While a large percent are Common App members and intend to keep their association, others are hedging their bets by maintaining existing applications. Over the next several years, however, it is believed that many current CollegeNet customers will drop the redundant application and effectively be Coalition exclusive. Note that it is not the Coalition’s intent to encourage exclusivity. The new platform was created partly out of a perceived need for competition in the industry, which they feel benefits everyone.

Launch.  The Locker and associated Collaboration Space will go live in April. Students can open accounts at, where they will be asked to create a “profile” and have the opportunity to create a college list. For the class of 2017, the application portal will open in July, at which time students may begin the process of completing and submitting to those institutions ready to begin accepting applications.

Beta Testing.  For now, only the Locker and Collaboration Space are being beta tested. The application will begin testing later in the spring. Aside from technology input, the Coalition Counselor Community is providing feedback on educational materials, handouts, and press releases.

Training. The Coalition is in the process of putting together a series of webinars, a schedule for which should be posted on the website next week. In addition, representatives are meeting with various organizations, attending conferences and otherwise offering information and training as opportunities present themselves.

The Locker. Possibly the most controversial of the Coalition’s college planning tools, the Locker goes live next month and is a place for students to store documents related to the processes of planning and applying for college. It is entirely controlled by the student. While mentors may be offered opportunities to comment on items stored in the Locker, they will not be able to edit or otherwise “curate” these materials through the Collaboration Space. Examples of items a student may wish to include in the Locker would be a resume, a graded assignment, a research paper, a scientific abstract, a video or a recording.  These materials may be later transferred to specific applications as requested by individual colleges. For example, next year the University of Chicago plans to allow for the submission of a graded paper in its application process.  This paper may be one originally loaded into the Locker. Finally, the Locker will serve as a repository for confidential materials uploaded by teachers and counselors including recommendations, official transcripts, and school reports. These items will be placed in “sealed envelopes” and will not be visible to the student, but they will be available for submission to colleges as part of the Coalition application process. 

Mentors. A student may invite mentors to provide guidance and support and otherwise collaborate with them throughout the college planning and application processes. Mentors include, but are not limited to, teachers, counselors, CBO staff, clergy, coaches and independent educational consultants (IECs). They may be invited to comment on, but not alter or edit, items stored in the Locker and shared in the Collaboration Space. The Locker and its contents are not visible to universities and colleges, although a student may (under certain specific circumstances) use the Coalition Space to share an item from the Locker with an admissions officer acting as a mentor.  The purpose of the Locker is to facilitate college planning as well as to store and organize materials potentially relevant to the application process. Students using the Locker tool are not required to use the Coalition application. At the same time, students using the Coalition application are not required to make use of the Locker and/or invite mentor comments in the Collaboration Space. 

Naviance. The Coalition is looking toward integration with Naviance in Year Two.  For this year, a technical group representing Naviance and Hobsons is partnering with Coalition staff to put together a series of instructional documents walking counselors step-by-step through the process of coordinating the Naviance system with the Coalition application.  This guidance should be available on the Coalition website next week.  In the meantime, it is hoped that with cooperation from Naviance and input from school counselors beta testing the tools, any additional work involved for this year will be minimal and the systems will function together smoothly.  Counselors will be able to determine their level of engagement with the Coalition platform, which may range from document submission through the Collaboration Space to opening an account with a dashboard keeping track of all students using the Coalition application and their status in the application process—not too dissimilar to the dashboard provided by other shared application products.

As planned, the Coalition application will allow for a significant amount of customization of individual applications. There will be shared elements, and many of the individual applications will look similar, but they will differ in terms of what is required. This is not too much of a departure from how CollegeNet currently works with institutions using their application. Note that the decision whether or not to require a shared personal statement is still under consideration, but the Coalition is leaning away from this requirement in favor of allowing individual colleges to fully script their own writing requirements.

For more information and greater detail on the current status of various elements of the application, visit the Coalition website.

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