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What to Write for the Coalition Application Essay Prompts

by Story2 Guest Author, on Sep 20, 2016 4:00:00 AM


If you’re applying to college next year, now is the time to build your portfolio -- and your story.


The focus of college admissions discussions is shifting towards building solid, strong people, and, slowly but surely, the criteria for admission are shifting as well. Though hard stats like GPA and SAT and ACT scores still matter, there is an increasing emphasis on the trajectory of your high school journey, your unique independent work, and your journey of self-discovery.

For colleges, this means reaching students earlier in high school to begin college conversations and over time achieving a broader, more holistic understanding of the whole student.

Leading this reimagining is The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, known commonly as the Coalition, who launched the early release of their Coalition Application. This college search and application platform is streamlining applications, while giving students better and broader opportunities to show colleges their whole high school story through accomplishments and artifacts from their first day on campus, all the way to graduation.

For more detailed overview of the Coalition Application, check out the Story2 guide.

“Counseling students and families through the college search and application process is challenging, but vital,” said Annie Reznik, Executive Director of the Coalition, in an email to counselors and mentors. She also shared that the new college search and application platform is aimed at “improving access for all students, particularly those from lower-resourced backgrounds.”

Students, counselors, and mentors are invited to become familiar with the platform available now on

  • The Locker: students can upload and delete files from their Locker.
  • The Collaboration Space: students can invite counselors and mentors here to provide feedback and advice on items from their Locker. Counselors and mentors will be able to view and comment only on items their students have selected to share.
  • College search for Coalition member institutions and non-Coalition colleges, universities, and community colleges.
  • Guidance and advising resources.

Though these new features are changing the game, there is one constant that the Coalition App shares with the Common App and more traditional applications -- the essays.

Selective schools -- compared to less-selective schools -- place more emphasis on the essay than on your test scores. This means that the essays are your best opportunity to share your unique stories, the ones that reveal your authenticity, values and whole being. Practice the old adage -- show, don’t tell. Tell stories of moments that define who you are and what you believe in.

This is where you flex your storytelling muscle.

Write about when you made a challenging decision. Share the choice you made and how it changed you, how it impacted your actions, how it changed what you believed in and how it put you on pathway to applying to a particular school or major. Most importantly share stories of moments that made you a better YOU.

Double check to see if the schools you’re applying to require the general essay. If they do, now is the time to begin telling your stories. Here are the prompts for the 2016-17 application year:

  • Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  • Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  • Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  • What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  • Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

Ready to begin on the Coalition Application? Here’s our Guide to the Coalition Application to get you started.

Michael Crawford is a Learning, Innovation, and Social Impact Strategist. He's also a PhD Candidate in educational psychology, specializing in adolescent development and non-formal learning environments.

Topics:college admission