"With the Common Application now used by more than 625 schools, the coalition is marketing itself as a high-integrity brand. Coalition members must have a six-year graduation rate of at least 70 percent and meet students’ full financial need or, if public, offer “affordable” in-state tuition (as yet undefined). So far, more than 80 of about 140 eligible colleges and universities have signed on, including all the Ivys, liberal arts elites like Amherst and Bowdoin and publics like Texas A&M and Miami University of Ohio.
The coalition wants students as young as ninth grade to engage with its college planner. They will be able to upload videos, photos and written work to a portfolio, called a virtual college locker. Selected items from the portfolio could be added — in some cases years later — to a college application. They can also invite counselors, parents and even admissions officers to view the portfolio and advise on it. (Yes, it works on your phone.)
The organizers believe that access to their schools will be enhanced, in part by getting information sooner to low-income and first-generation students, thus giving them a better shot. Many discover too late the classes, tests and activities needed for a top college, said James G. Nondorf, coalition president and dean of admissions and financial aid at the University of Chicago. “Deciding you want to go to one of our kinds of schools, you have to be doing things all through your high school years.”