If you’re reading the CollegeVine blog as a 9th or 10th grader, you have probably already realized that in the college application process, it pays to start early. It can be difficult to get started when application deadlines seem distant, but resources exist to help you do so. A newly introduced college application system, the Coalition Application System (CAAS), aims to help students develop their applications over time rather than just facilitating the submission of applications.

While the CAAS Application is similar to the better-known Common Application in many ways, the CAAS Application offers additional tools that can help students stay on track throughout the process. The Locker function, which allows you to save documents and other information for later use in your applications, is one tool that can be extremely useful for students just starting high school as well as those currently applying to college.

Are you in your early years of high school? Do you intend to apply to college in a few years? Read on to find out how the CAAS Locker can help you prepare for the application process well before it begins.

Introducing the Coalition (CAAS) Application System

The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, often referred to as the Coalition or as CAAS, is an organization made up of colleges and universities that are working together to improve the college application process. They are particularly focused on improving access to higher education for all high school students, especially those who are under-resourced and would benefit most from changes to the application system.

The Coalition’s main project has been its own college application system. Like other application systems, such as the Common Application and the Universal College Application, this system allows students to centrally manage online applications for a number of different member colleges. However, the CAAS Application is uniquely designed not only to streamline application submission, but also to provide tools that will guide applicants through the process of applying to college.

Currently, 95 public and private colleges across the United States are members of the Coalition. Of these, 49 colleges are offering the CAAS Application as an option for the 2016-2017 school year. The remaining 46 colleges will introduce their CAAS Application options for the 2017-2018 school year. A list of all the member colleges and when they will begin offering the CAAS Application is available on the Coalition website.

The CAAS Application system is a brand-new addition to the college application process; in fact, the 2016-2017 school year is its first year in operation. Therefore, many of its pros and cons remain to be seen. We don’t yet know whether the tools developed by the Coalition will actually be helpful in improving college access, especially for disadvantaged students, and we don’t know how popular the CAAS Application will ultimately become.

However, the CAAS Application has the backing of a number of well-regarded colleges and universities, and it has the potential to become a valuable alternative to existing college application systems. The unique Locker function is one feature of the CAAS Application system that demonstrates how useful it can be to high-school students who intend to apply to college.

What’s the Locker, and what can I put in it?

On one level, the CAAS Locker is a storage system. Once you’ve signed up for a Locker account on the Coalition website, you can upload any documents or other items that you want to save for use in (eventually) putting together your college applications. Your items will be securely stored and password-protected, and you can access them on most devices that are connected to the internet.

However, the Locker isn’t just for storage. It also contains tools that you can use to share and receive feedback on the the items stored in your Locker. While other options for file-sharing exist, the Locker’s sharing system, known as the Collaboration Space, offers you considerable control over who is able to access your items, when they can do so, and for how long.

The Locker’s Collaboration Space allows you to grant access to your items to guidance counselors and other mentors who may be helping you with the college application process. Your mentors won’t have access to the Locker itselfonly to the information that you specifically choose to share with them. For more information about the CAAS privacy policy, visit the Coalition’s website.

Mentors can use the Collaboration space to comment and offer feedback on your Locker items. For instance, you might upload a college application essay to your Locker and share it with your guidance counselor in the Collaboration Space for editing and advice. You may share one item with one mentor at a time, and that mentor is not able to share the item with additional collaborators.

If you use the CAAS Application to apply to colleges, those colleges will not have access to your Locker or the items within it. However, you may be able to attach items from your Locker directly to your application using the CAAS system. (Not every school that accepts the CAAS Application currently offers this option.)

You can store almost anything in the Locker as long as it fits within the system’s format and size limits for electronic files. Items can be in the form of written documents (up to 50MB in size) , images (up to 100MB), audio files and videos (up to 500MB), spreadsheets (like Excel files, up to 50MB), or presentations (like Powerpoint files, up to 50MB).

You might use the Locker to store and share one or more of the following:

Basically, it’s up to you what you choose to upload to your Locker, as long as you remain within the given file size and overall storage limits. You’ll want to save anything that could potentially be helpful later in assembling your college applications, and you might be surprised by how many items from your high school years may come in handy then.

How will my Locker help me later on?

As we’ve mentioned, since the CAAS Application and the Locker are new to the college admissions world, in practice, their long-term advantages remain to be seen. However, there’s a lot to be said for the Locker and the ways in which it might help you to prepare for college application season.

If you’ve delved into admissions process yet, you likely know that college applications will require a great deal of information from you, from the names of the courses you took in high school to the dates of your involvement in extracurricular activities to the details of your most important accomplishments. Having this information already organized and stored in one place can be immensely helpful when you eventually fill out your applications.

Storing your important information in your Locker also carries some practical benefits. Even if you already have copies of these items stored on your home computer or an external hard drive, it’s always a good idea to have a backup. If something happens to your computer or other storage media, you’ll be glad to have another copy. It’s also useful to be able to access your items if you’re working on a school or library computer.

The sharing potential of the Collaboration Space can be a useful tool for helping your guidance counselor or other mentors to help you. Ultimately, however, you’ll maintain your privacy and control over your information; no one can access any of your items without your explicit consent.

There are few downsides to storing items in the CAAS Locker. Signing up for a Locker account doesn’t mean you’re obligated to use the CAAS Application or to apply to any CAAS member colleges. You still have the freedom to apply to the schools that fit you best, and regardless of where you apply, you’ll have access to all the features of the Locker and Collaboration Space.

Why should I start thinking about the CAAS Locker early in high school?

A major focus of the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success is providing students with the resources to prepare for the college application process before it formally begins. The Locker can help you to develop your resume and other application components over the course of high school rather than just in your senior year.

The Coalition recognizes that you need to start working toward your college goals early, especially if you’re applying to competitive colleges. Their research indicates that early preparation can significantly impact college application rates, an effect that is particularly important when considering applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds.

We at CollegeVine have addressed the need to start early in the college application process many times. In fact, it’s a feature of nearly every article we post. Applying to college is a long and complex path, and no matter what kind of background you come from, it’s important to  start learning about the process early so that you’ll be as prepared as possible when application season rolls around.

While there’s no need to start filling out applications—or even to decide where you want to apply—in your first year of high school, having a space to save important information and keep track of your progress will only help you later on. Using the Locker can help reduce future stress, keep your efforts organized, and ultimately ease the always-challenging process of finding and applying to the best college for you.

Are you ready to start filling out the Coalition Application itself? Visit the CollegeVine blog to find out “How to Write the Coalition Application Essays 2016-2017” as well as “Which Colleges Accept the Coalition Application.”

If you could use some additional help preparing for the college application process, CollegeVine can help. Our experienced admissions advisors can assist with every aspect of the application process, from standardized test preparation (check out our new SAT tutoring program!) to application essays to making a final college decision. To sign up for a free consultation, fill out the form below today![gravityform id=”2″ title=”false” description=”false”]

Monikah Schuschu

Monikah Schuschu

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Monikah Schuschu is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard University. As a graduate student, she took a job at the Harvard College Office of Financial Aid and Admissions, and discovered the satisfaction of helping students and parents with the often-baffling college admissions process. She also enjoys fiber art, murder mysteries, and amateur entomology.
Monikah Schuschu