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Should high school freshmen start applying to colleges?

If you think the college application is stressful enough now, dozens of the country's most elite colleges and universities want teenagers to start earnestly focusing on applications as early as freshman year.

Yes, that's right. Fourteen-year-olds can now get swept up in the process instead of waiting until junior or even senior year to start worrying about their applications.

A coalition of 80 colleges and universities -- and the number continues to grow -- recently announced it was rolling out a free college application platform intended to get teenagers thinking about applying to college as soon as they start high school.

The members of the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success say they want to recast the admission process by creating a new way to apply that will allow students to build admission portfolios as soon as they enter high school and encourage a "college-going mindset for all students."

The organizers claim the early start will actually broaden access by helping low-income students who are stuck with inadequate or nonexistent counseling programs at their high schools.

Many coalition schools will accept applications through the coalition's portal beginning in the summer of 2016.

However, with the coalition's announcement just days old, the organizers got hit with tremendous resistance earlier this month at the annual conference of the National Association for College Admission Counseling in San Diego. This conference attracts roughly 7,000 participants including college representatives, college consultants and high school counselors.

The criticism from counselors and consultants was so intense that the coalition -- which includes such elite schools as the Ivy League institutions, Stanford and Amherst, as well as some public flagships like University of North Carolina and the University of Virginia -- has delayed the planning tools' roll-out.

The group had expected a January launch date for allowing high school students to begin uploading their work into their own online portfolios, or what the coalition is now calling "virtual college lockers." But that has been pushed back to April. Using this platform, students can upload awards, essays and class work that they're proud of along with any other materials germane to the college application process. They can share their portfolios with schools as part of the admission process.

At the conference, a counselor from a Jesuit high school generated hearty applause when he had this to say about the new application: "I worry very deeply about my ninth graders, 10th graders and 11th graders focusing so much on preparing for college and not the high school experience."

Consultants and counselors at the conference predicted that the new application, along with the ability to create shareable portfolios, will make the application process more complicated and longer.

One of the chief complaints is that the new application will mostly help affluent students, who will focus on creating beautiful portfolios to impress colleges. Disadvantaged student often won't have help creating these portfolios, if they even know about this application.

At the conference, some counselors who work at affluent high schools complained that parents were already contacting them about helping students assemble portfolios that will help their children get into elite schools.