University Of Washington Essay Hell

The 5 New Essay Prompts for
the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success
Application (coming soon?)

(And a little rant)

What Coalition, you ask?

If you are like most of us, you either have never heard of this Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success application, or you are still waiting to learn how to use it.

Or you are wondering if it even matters at this point.

Here’s what I know:

This Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success is an alternative way to apply to college, a new application system very similar to The Common Application that most private colleges and many universities use (about 500+, including the ives).

Reportedly, about 90 colleges and universities have now signed up to allow applicants to their schools to use this new Coalition application as well. (Mostly same schools that already use the Common App.)

(Find links to posts on how to answer each of the 5 new essay prompts for the Coalition for Access at bottom of this post!)

The idea is that students have another option when applying to their schools.

Why do they need it if they cover pretty much the same schools?
Good question!

In a nutshell, in recent years, the Common Application had tech glitches and royally messed up a lot of people, including thousands of students applying for college and those who helped them with this process (parents, college admissions counselors, teachers, etc.)

As you can imagine, people were pissed!

So a group of higher education experts (supposedly about 60 college admissions counselors) teamed up to create this alternative application system. Competition is good, right?

(Just to confuse you more, there already is another alternative, called The Universal Application, and you can use that, but it doesn’t include many schools—about 50. Learn about the difference.)

This new Coalition application was supposed to be available to students applying to college this fall (entering fall 2017 and transfers), but it stalled out and the developers kept pushing back the launch date (the web site says April…).

Currently, word is it’s supposed to be available by July (which is crazy late in the game for an untested newbie.)

Also, about 30 of the participating schools have just pulled out and are now not using it this first year because of these delay issues.

Put it this way, there’s been a fundamental confidence fumble.

I’m not a college admissions counselor—I pretty much stick to the essays—but if it were me, or one of my kids, I wouldn’t touch this new Coalition application this year.

Just stick to The Common Application as long it has the schools you want to apply to. Or check out the Universal Application, for more options.

Wait until this new Coalition works out the kinks.

(If you plan to apply to the University of Washington, the University of Maryland at College Park, and/or the University of Florida for 2016-17, however, you will need to use this Coalition application, since these three schools opted to use it as their exclusive application.)


The New Essay Prompts for
the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success


If you do end up wanting to apply to any of your target schools using the new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, they just announced their five new essay prompts.

Good news on that front: You can write an essay about anything you want!

And they leave it up to the schools that use their application to decide what essays they require.

The Coalition folks recommend a word count around 300-500 (no longer than 550!) Read the longer advice re word count here.

The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success did provide optional prompts to help get you going on ideas, and one is called “Topic of Choice.” (See list of 5 prompts at bottom of this post.)

Two of the prompts are almost identical to Common App prompts (#1 and #3.).

Two are new and okay (#2 and #4).

The fifth is “Topic of Choice.” (#5)

I will write a follow-up post with specific ideas and advice on each of these new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success essays in coming weeks.

Bottom line: Just write a personal statement essay on any topic you like, stick to around 500 to 600 words tops, and you will be in good shape.

If you are applying to The Common App—JUST USE THAT ESSAY!

Yes, it’s that simple!


Excuse Me While I Vent About
this Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success


These essay prompts seem to be the first thing this new Coalition for Access, Success and Affordability got right that I know about.

Up to now, they only added confusion to an already bewildering college application process.

(And in an apparent attempt to make the college admissions game more fair, have made it less fair and crazier.)

First, what’s with the six-word name (with meaningless euphemisms) that’s impossible to remember?

To me, that’s the first red flag that the admissions pundits who put this together take themselves too seriously.

(Or what happens when you have 60+- clever professionals all from different institutions working on it. Hello scary group dynamics.)

Their initial intentions at least sounded noble.

They claimed to want to make this Coalition for Access, Success and Affordability easier and better for underprivileged and underrepresented students. (Check out this from their values statement: “We believe that early engagement supports under-resourced students during the college preparation process.”)

Sounds good.

But how do they plan to reach these “under-resourced” students, most of whom have little or no access to any outside support to even let them know this is an option?

This last minute release for 2016-17 is the opposite of “early engagement” for these students, and only would provide an advantage for privileged kids in the know.



They also floated this idea that students could start loading up a “virtual” student locker with examples of their most impressive student work starting freshman year in high school. (Check out how these lockers will work.)

This idea concerns me. Especially since it has been lauded as a way to “level the playing field.”

So now students can dump their past homework assignments in this virtual locker for colleges admissions officers to review, and that somehow is going to help them decide who to admit or not?

(College admissions counselors: Do you really want to have to read that stuff? Will it truly help you get a better picture of these students? Isn’t that what their grades were for?)

Wouldn’t these lockers just heighten the college admissions frenzy, and push it back even earlier to unsuspecting freshmen students who won’t know what hit them?

Beware teachers and administrators! Can you imagine the energy (alerting all tiger moms and helicopter parents!) that would go into loading those lockers with spectacular reports, essays, tests, projects, etc.

Just think: You could do extra work all through high school on top of your regular school demands to beef up your lockers and really bedazzle the college of your dreams!

Again, guess who is left in the dust?

Yes, those “under-resourced” students (often with no tigers or helicopters in sight) who will be the last to hear about those lockers and other mysterious resources yet to be revealed.

I just returned from giving essay workshops to some of the most promising college-bound, first-generation juniors in the Rio Grande Valley and not one of the 160 kids or their teachers had heard about this Coalition application.

As far as I can tell, the only people with any clue about any of this so far are private college admissions counselors who do their best to stay up to date on all these insider changes and help mainly well-resourced students.

These lockers most likely will help students who have involved parents and private counselors who can counsel them to capture their most impressive work, and have it poised to share with their target schools.

Over time, it’s likely this new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success will get its act together and provide a reliable and improved application alternative to The Common App.

They certainly have the clout and capital to succeed, and the potential to figure out a campaign to help underprivileged students understand how to take advantage of their snazzy digital resources, including the locker.

If that happens, I guess that’s a good thing.

I would still be nervous students (and parents) will now try to game these various application systems, and try to guess if one somehow gives them an edge at certain schools.

Does Harvard like students who use this Coalition app over those who use the Common App for some ridiculous reason?

Or will a school like a student better whose application shares some glowing academic project stashed in their locker over one who has none to offer? To stay in the game, will The Common App feel the need to create more enterprising ways students can enhance their applications?

Competition is good, right?

From what I’ve seen, it seems to be the source of the college admissions mania.


What Students Need to Know Now

If you are a high school junior or a college student planning to transfer, you don’t need to worry about all the politics or controversies swirling around this new Coalition application.

Just understand that it might, might, be another way to apply to the schools you want to attend this year.

And the only way I know that you can find out more about it, or when it will be available to you, or what it has to offer, is to keep manually checking the web site for updates. (In my opinion, probably not worth the effort this year. )

If you do end up using it, however, don’t sweat the essay because if you already have a Common App essay personal statement, you already have your essay done for this Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success.

Your main job is to figure out a unique topic to write about yourself and learn writing strategies and techniques to craft an effective personal statement, which you can use for The Common App or The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success.

Here are some of my best posts to get you started on that process:

Get ideas on how to write your Common App essay and use that for the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success essay!

Good luck!

Here are the essay prompts for the new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success application (released late April 2016:

Essay Prompts

The prompts for the 2016-17 application year are:

Check Out These Related Posts!

The Party
By: Hannah Metzler
Exton, PA
(Submitted for The Common Application)

While bringing out the orders for my party of six, I set down a cup of soup in front of one of the women. Virginia glanced down at the clam chowder, and then scowled up at me.

“Hannah, I asked for a half cup of soup,” she said, sounding as if the world was ending. “You are always so slow. I don’t know how you always mess up our orders.”

I politely mumbled an apology, hoping the rest of her group did not notice how upset I was or how personally I took her comment. It was only a cup of soup, and an honest mistake, but I felt like such a disaster.

Residents at the high-end senior living facility where I waited tables several nights a week expected nothing less than a five-star dining experience and my small mistake was not to be tolerated.

When I first started working at Shannondell last summer, I was already shy and couldn’t stand the idea that someone didn’t like me. Early on, when residents would scold or criticize me, I felt like crawling under a rock. Even when I clearly was in the right, I would bite my lip and try harder to please them.

The most difficult guests by far were a group of six well-heeled women who the servers nicknamed “The Party.” They came in every night, dressed to the nines, decked with diamonds and attitude. As the staff stood by the podium waiting for residents to arrive, every server in line prayed that the hostess would not call out their name.

At first, “The Party” seemed friendly. They seemed to want to get to know me personally, compared to the other residents who would barely say anything at all. But this was all for show. They were rude and demanding. Special orders were a daily occurrence: a rare end piece of prime rib or a chicken Caesar salad without lettuce. They snapped their fingers and tapped their silverware on glasses to get my attention. I would leave the dining room distraught almost every night.

Senior residents, in general, had a difficult time making a decision, either figuring out what to order or sometimes forgetting what they had ordered once it arrived. I used to get annoyed because twenty minutes to take a dessert order seemed excessive and unnecessary. With experience, though, I’m learning patience and compassion.

It must be very difficult for residents to feel as though they were losing their independence. They used to be able to get around easily, but many of them were pushing walkers or confined to wheelchairs. I realized that many cared for others their whole lives and now it was hard to accept others caring for them.

Somehow those rough nights started to change me. Without really trying, I have become more outgoing and self-assured. The residents depend on me and my “confident” smile. Some days, I’m the one person with whom they can share stories of their past. I used to have trouble speaking in front of a group and would be shy when I did. Now, I have no problem walking up to a table of fourteen people and making conversation as if I had known them my whole life.

I give credit to “The Party” for putting me in a situation where I had no choice but to smile and carry on. I know now that not everyone will like me, and that’s okay. I’ve learned that, while I will always treat people with respect and dignity, their behavior toward me may be more about their own personal circumstances rather than anything I have done. Today, when I see “The Party” being seated in my section, I still flinch a little inside, but then I pull back my shoulders, lift my chin and march up to them ask, “What’s it going to be today, ladies.”


Proud to Be Humble
By Andrew Aldaz
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
(Submitted as his personal statement essay for University of California)

During a Gestalt-type exercise in my psychology class, it was my turn on the infamous hot seat. After sitting in the chair in the center of the room, my teacher and peers started firing away with questions.

“What is your GPA?”

“What do you do for fun?”
“ What do you want to do after high school?”
“What did you do this past summer?”

I responded to each question with simple, straightforward answers, thinking it was a breeze. Then I had heard someone shout from the back of the room, “So you think you’re perfect?”                                         I was puzzled. I felt blood rush to my face and I broke into a sweat. The second it took for me to respond felt like an eternity.

“Of course not,” I replied.

Thoughts raced through my mind as I returned to my seat.

“Why would anyone be under the impression that I was perfect or that I would ever see myself as such?” I thought to myself.

The last thing I wanted was for someone to think that I was full of myself. I was mortified. I realized later that I had come off as somewhat egotistical or self-centered because I had shared my long list of extra-curricular activities, academic performance, and hopes for the future. Even though I knew this was not at all the case, I felt ashamed.

Humility was the quality within myself that I cherished the most. I understood that I may have accomplished a great deal and maintain high goals for my future, but I did not want to be seen as boastful or overly proud in any way. Ever! That day, on the hot seat, I knew that I would need to work harder to exude those qualities of meekness and servility which I strive for.

Every year since I was five years old, my father had taken me to the annual air show in Mirimar, California. The first time I attended the air show I had seen service members of different branches; in each of them I had seen one thing that will be carried on with me for the rest of my life. Humility. These men and women, deemed heroes by society, sought no recognition for their sacrifice and willingness to serve.

Attending these air shows not only pushed me to be humble and serve my nation as these men and women had, but also helped me realize there were plenty of other devoted service members within our society, such as policemen, firemen, and politicians. In high school, I also had seen this numerous times with the judges and lawyers I interacted with as I helped struggling teens in Youth Court, and when I befriended those involved in state politics while I interned for Senator Mike Morrell.

The truth is I’ve been extremely lucky, but I have jumped at every opportunity that has been available to me. Whether taking college courses, working in state politics, or playing for a sports team in a winning season, this should not make me any better than anyone else. I just wish to be as successful as possible while serving my nation to the best of my abilities and staying humble in all that I do, no matter where life may take me. While I can’t help but aim for perfection in all that I do, I hope to maintain that glorious face of humble pride.


Leaping Dancer
By Gabrielle Mark-Bachoua
San Diego, CA
(Submitted for the University of California application)

As my mom backs out of our driveway, I glance at the back seats to make sure my basketball gear is there, along with my schoolbooks, phone charger, and beat-up copy of Catch-22. We slowly wind through my neighborhood and over about a half dozen speed bumps, then pull onto the highway heading south with the other Sunday traffic.

I sit back and watch the familiar landmarks—the large Denny’s sign with the missing “N,” the short stretch of undeveloped land, the Shell billboard that meant we were almost there—flash past my window.

I’ve made this 20-mile trip between my parents’ homes for the last decade, four times a week, ever since they divorced when I was seven. I must have taken it more than a thousand times. Sometimes I dreaded getting into that car, and resented my parents for putting my older sister and I through the circular logic that moving us back and forth will make our lives normal because we see each parent often, but moving back and forth isn’t normal, unless they make it normal, which isn’t normal. Now I know it makes sense because normal isn’t ideal, normal is the unexpected and the crazy and the unforgiving.

I now realize that those rides are the consistency amidst the madness. Looking out the window and down to the lane reflectors I think… about how on Friday’s basketball game my jump shot was off because I was floating to the left, about how I’m excited to see my dog and cat, about how upset I am because of Yossarian’s predicament, about how I’ll miss my dad, about how veterinary medicine is fascinating, about how I needed to study for my chemistry test, about how I will work harder to get into my dream school, and about how I’m glad that I get to take a nice nap before I go to mom’s.

I even remember the first time years ago when I noticed the smudge on the rear driver’s side window, which was shaped into a leaping dancer—a dancer in white. I would watch her move through the trees in El Cajon Valley, bob my head up and down to help her jump over hillside terraces of Spring Valley, and keep her from crashing into the Westfield mall sign two miles from my mom’s home.

It was those hours I spent thinking silently to myself when I learned more about who I am, where I envision myself going, and what my role is in this world. Sitting in the front seat, I’d take a moment to look back to see that same dancer in white, however faceless, nameless, and abstract, gave me a sense of comfort. That even though I wasn’t really ‘home’, I still was, because home isn’t simply where you rest your head, but also where you have the security to dream inside of it.

Time to Move On
By Clara Ross
Seattle, Washington
University of Washington, Seattle, WA

As I ran past the one-mile mark, I felt a little woozy, but I might have been just tired. I stopped briefly to measure my blood sugar. While other runners glanced questioningly in my direction, I poked myself with the lancet, squeezed my finger, and collected a tiny droplet of blood.

Five seconds later, my blood sugar level flashed at 43—

uncomfortably close to a level where I could pass out or have a seizure. Disappointed, I stepped off the racecourse and drank a juice box, waiting for my blood sugar to recover. This was the third race where I was forced to the sidelines.

I found out I was a type I diabetic at age ten, but after a few days spent in the hospital learning how to manage the disease, I returned to my life. However, everything had changed. Being a diabetic since 2003 has forced me out of many activities, but at the same time it has pushed me to be independent, to value my health, and, most importantly, to keep trying in the face of obstacles.

Every day, several times a day, I count my carbohydrates, inject my insulin, and measure my blood sugar. I’ve done this ever since my diagnosis. How many grams of carbohydrate in a slice of bread? About fifteen. In a can of coke? Around thirty-eight.

I have to know the exact amounts of sugars in everything I eat in order to dose my insulin correctly. Along with the food, I take my exercise, my emotions, and even the time of day into account. I’ll get low blood sugar when I exercise, stress can raise my levels, and I tend to go low in the evening.

I remember the first time I gave myself my own insulin injection. Only a few months after being diagnosed, I woke up hungry, but unable to eat until I received my dose of insulin. Normally my mom would have done it, but she had gone for a walk with my dad. However, I wanted breakfast.

I gathered my courage and did what I hadn’t been able to do before: stuck in the syringe. A few minutes later, I smiled to myself with pleasure as I ate my cereal. At that moment, I knew I could get through anything.

The one thing I never imagine it would prepare me for, however, was suddenly facing life alone. In 2008, during my freshman year of high school, both of my parents passed away from cancer and I moved to Southern California to live with my aunt and uncle. Although I still struggle with this loss, I know the lessons I have learned from handling a chronic illness will help me face my current challenges.

Diabetes hinders me in many situations, such as cross-country races, but it never stops me. While I could let the loss of my parents slow me down, I refuse to lose the vivacity for life they instilled in me. In order to accomplish this, I use the independence and self-awareness I’ve gained from my diabetes to have the freedom to live happily.

As I stood on the sidelines during that recent cross-country race, waiting for my sugars to slowly rise to normal levels, I reflected upon my recent losses. It was time to move on, I thought. I rechecked my blood sugar and saw that I had reached a safe level to continue exercising. By this time, all the other runners had passed me. I didn’t win, but I fulfilled my own personal goal: finishing the race.



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