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Last updated October 20, 2023

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Coalition Application Prompts: Dos and Don’ts

Key Takeaway

The Coalition Application prompts let you share personal experiences that have shaped your character, values, interests, or achievements. With six prompts to choose from, you can highlight different aspects of your identity and provide a deeper understanding of who you are and what you value.

Feeling overwhelmed by the college application process? You're not alone.
By this point, you may have already filled out your Common Application. Or maybe you’re kicking things off with the Coalition App.
Wherever you’re at in the process, you’ll need to know the Coalition Application prompts before you can write your personal statement.
In this post, we’ll go through all six of the Coalition Application prompts, and we’ll talk about how to answer each of them.

What is the Coalition Application?

Let's start with the basics.

Like the Common Application, the Coalition Application lets you apply to multiple colleges in one go.

It's a separate platform, used by some colleges that don't accept the Common App, or by students who've already applied to all their Common App colleges.

The good thing is that if you’ve already written your Common App essay, you probably won’t need to write another essay from scratch. As you’ll see, the Coalition prompts are pretty similar to the Common App ones, so you shouldn’t have trouble adjusting your Common App essay accordingly.

Now on to the prompts!

The Coalition Application Prompts + How to Answer Them

The Coalition Application offers six prompts for you to choose from.

Remember: although prompts are really, really important for supplemental essays and the UC essays, the prompts themselves are less important for your personal statement. You don’t need to do a close reading of the prompt in the same way you do when writing a supplemental or a PIQ.

1. Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.

Here's your chance to share a story that has actually shaped you into who you are today. Remember, college essays help you stand out to the admissions committee. Whatever character trait you choose, it should show admissions officers one of your strengths. Focus on an experience, value, or trait that shows your growth and introspection. The prompt is specifically asking about your character, so don’t be afraid to get personal. This essay should not be a list of your accomplishments.

2. What interests or excites you? How does it shape who you are now or who you might become in the future?

This prompt lets you share your passion, which could be academic or non-academic. You might write about a hobby, a cause, a tradition—anything that's significantly impacted your life. Make sure your passion connects clearly with who you are now and who you want to be. This could be a great place to discuss a specific extracurricular activity that has influenced you, too.

3. Describe a time when you had a positive impact on others. What were the challenges? What were the rewards?

To answer this prompt, cover all its parts: the experience, the challenges, and the rewards. Share a time when you made a difference, big or small. Showcasing your impact through your activities can demonstrate your organizational skills and ability to make a difference, so this is a good prompt to choose if there’s something specific and impressive you’ve done that you want admissions officers to know about.

4. Has there been a time when an idea or belief of yours was questioned? How did you respond? What did you learn?

Don’t choose this prompt unless you have a genuine instance to talk about. You’ll want to choose an experience that shows an authentic struggle you’ve dealt with, one that has helped you emerge as a better (or stronger, more thoughtful, more aware, etc.) person. This prompt tests your ability to handle tough conversations maturely. Admissions officers want to see if you can respect and navigate different perspectives. In your answer, use each part of the prompt to guide you—your initial belief, the challenge, your response, and what you learned.

5. What success have you achieved or obstacle have you faced? What advice would you give a sibling or friend going through a similar experience?

You don’t need to talk about a success AND an obstacle. Just pick one. Discuss what the experience meant to you and how it changed your life. If you’re writing about an obstacle, remember to end on a note of hope or forward movement. (It’s okay to write about challenges in your personal statement, but you want the admissions officer to leave the essay with a positive feeling about where you’re at now.) As for the second part of the prompt, reflecting on the advice you'd offer others can show admissions officers how you think about others and how you might shape the college community.

6. Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

If your Common App essay doesn't fit the other categories, then choose this prompt option. Or you can write an entirely new essay. What you should not do is recycle something you’ve written for class, like a research paper or a poem. This essay should still be a personal essay that offers insight into who you are as a person. Your goal is to write an essay that helps admissions officers understand where you come from and where you’re going.

Can I reuse my Common App essay for the Coalition App?

The short answer is: yes, you can! Interestingly, the Coalition Application prompts align quite well with the Common App prompts. It's likely your Common Application personal statement can be adjusted to fit one of the Coalition prompts. If not, there's always the wildcard option #6.
Just keep in mind that the essay must still show something meaningful about you, apart from your grades, test scores, and activities. Whatever you write should be the foundation of your cohesive application narrative.


Don't stress over the Coalition Application. The prompts are designed to let you share personal experiences that have shaped you. Each prompt offers a different way to highlight your character, values, interests, or achievements. If your Common App essay doesn't fit into any of the Coalition prompts, the "topic of your choice" option is there. Ultimately, your essay should provide a deeper understanding of who you are, what you value, and how you see your college journey. A strong, consistent narrative can help admissions officers understand and support your application, no matter which application platform you’re using.
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