Stanford to offer alternate to Common Application for Class of 2021

Oct. 29, 2015, 9:09 p.m.

Stanford and over 80 other universities have come together as the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success to create an alternative college application to The Common Application.

The website will go up in April 2016, and the joint application for the Class of 2021 will go live on July 1, 2016.

One of the major missions of the coalition is to attract first generation and low-income applicants by creating a streamlined, efficient website and online application that educate and guide high-school students of all backgrounds through the college process.

“A lot of kids who are very strong and competitive don’t choose to apply to some of the more selective schools in the country… Part of it is they don’t have any information,” said Richard Shaw, Stanford’s Dean of Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid. “So, the goal of the coalition is to give them… both an awareness and a tool to navigate the college process.”


Stanford has been involved with the development of an alternate joint application since its earliest discussions with the Consortium of Financing Higher Education (COFHE) almost two years ago.  

The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success consists of 83 public and private universities as of September 2015. In order to be a Coalition member, a university must have a graduation rate of at least 70 percent over six years. Additionally, there is a financial aid threshold: Private schools must meet the demonstrated needs of accepted students through financial aid, and public schools must have need-based financial aid and affordable tuition for in-state students.

Representatives from each member university of the Coalition will meet next Friday to discuss progress with the website and application.

Website and joint application

The Coalition website will provide two major components: the joint application itself and a central portfolio or “locker” for students to store materials — writing, art projects, descriptions of extracurricular activities — that will eventually be used in their college applications. The locker has the ability to allow for collaboration: If students so choose, they can “share” their locker with college guidance counselors and parents in order to receive feedback and assistance.

The Common App, which is used by 600 universities around the world and receives around 3.5 million applications from 1 million applicants per year, faced technical glitches in the fall of 2013 that hindered early applicants. The Coalition’s application seeks to eradicate such glitches. Their partner CollegeNet, which provides universities with on-demand, web-based technologies, has already created prototypes of the website.

Each university will be able to individualize the supplemental questions they ask in the joint application.

“Some questions might be different from the Common App. But, our [application] is so extensive already that we’re already pretty happy with what we have,” Shaw said. “It’s conceivable that most of [the Coalition’s application] would parallel with what we’re asking in other environments.”

The Coalition’s joint application is not meant to replace The Common App, and there will be no advantage of using one over the other.

“We’ve had good luck with The Common App, and we’re hoping that continues. It just seems really smart to have an alternative,” Shaw said. “In this case, the attractiveness is that we’re actually offering more to candidates by utilizing the portfolios well.”  

Low income & first generation applicants

According to Shaw, one of the major interests is to attract low income and first generation students through the Coalition’s website and joint application.

“If you take California, for example, in the public sector, the ratios of guidance counselors to kids can be as high as 1,000 to one,” Shaw said. “So, they don’t have the same sort of counseling that others in smaller schools might get.”

According to The Huffington Post, “on the site, students will be able to request advice from college admissions offices.” Shaw explained that this feature of the website is actually only under discussion.

At this point in time, the interaction is more at the secondary level of advising… That would be an interesting and challenging issue if we said we can open it up to the 42 thousand students who would love to engage with us,” Shaw said.

Julio Chavez ’18 is a member of Stanford’s First Generation and/or Low Income Partnership (FLIP), a student group that seeks to create community for undergraduates of that demographic. Chavez identifies as a first generation, low-income student. He sees the ability to ask university admissions officers questions on the Coalition website as an invaluable aspect of the new application.

“I think that [it would be] great if they can actually ask questions, even if it’s as simple as, ‘What should I write in my essays?’ or ‘What are you asking for in this aspect of the application?’” Chavez said. “Knowing that you have a resource is less intimidating; I would [have felt] more comfortable going into [the application process] with these resources.”

Chavez thinks the fact that schools in the Coalition must meet financial aid requirements  will be especially attractive to low income applicants.  

“A lot of low income students don’t want to apply to schools because of worrying about affording it. I think that’s the most devastating thing — a student gets into a place like Stanford, but says no because they can’t afford it,” said Chavez. “Just knowing that getting into these schools is hard, but once I get in, I don’t have to lose sleep over paying for it, is crucial.”


Contact Rebecca Aydin at raydin ‘at’

Rebecca Aydin, a writer for the University/Local beat and a senior hailing from NYC, is pursuing a major in English and a minor in Psychology. She has written for the Chicago Tribune and Worldcrunch, a digital news magazine based in Paris. On campus, she is the editor-in-chief of MINT style and culture magazine. This is her fourth year writing for The Stanford Daily. Contact her at raydin ‘at’

Login or create an account

Apply to The Daily’s High School Summer Program

Priority deadline is april 14