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Last Updated on November 14, 2021
There are multiple components in the college admissions process. Among all, “demonstrated interest” and “course rigor” is something every admission officer or college admission counselor stresses upon. In this post, we will discuss how MOOCs and online courses can help high school students to improve their college admission chances. Additionally, we have also listed some of the best free online courses for high school students, including a few paid online courses offered by top universities like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Penn, etc.
MOOCs and Online Courses
The college admissions process is far from being perfect. It’s highly subjective in nature, accompanied by flaws and competing interests. Every year thousands of high school students flex their muscles go through the hustle of college applications to get an admit to their dream schools.
MOOCs and Online courses are an excellent way to take explore your subjects of interest and take your knowledge to the next level. The majority of online courses are offered by the world’s top universities and organizations. Additionally, quite a few of those top online courses are free of cost.
With summer and lockdown in full swing, high school students can help fill the long, hot summer days by learning new areas from the comfort of their homes.
Free Online Courses for High School Students
Best Free Online Courses for High School Students on Coursera
Free Online Courses on Computer Science and Programming
Free Online Courses on Mathematics
Free Online Courses on Physical Sciences
Free Online Courses on Self-Discovery & Exploration
Related Article: Online Summer Program on Bioinformatics for High School Students
Best Free Online Courses for High School Students on edX
Free Online Courses on Arts and Humanities
Free Online Courses on Pre-Calculus and College-Level Maths
Introduction to Algebra – SchoolYourself
Mathematics for Year 13 – Course 2: General Motion, Moments and Equilibrium, The Normal Distribution, Vectors, Differentiation Methods, Integration Methods and Differential Equations – Imperial College London
Free Online Courses on Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Free Online Courses on Business and Entrepreneurship
Free Online Courses on Biosciences
Online Courses on Liberal Arts (Mix of Free and Paid Courses)
Psychology at Work – University of Western Australia
FREE Online Courses on Advanced Topics from edX (Harvard, MIT, Microsoft, etc.)
Advantages of Taking Online Courses for High School Students
Accessibility and Affordability
The most important and obvious benefit is accessibility. MOOCs are available worldwide and offered by the faculty members at the top universities.
The courses are self-paced and allow you to continue learning on your schedule and at a much lower cost than the traditional courses or a summer school program.
Several online courses for high school students are free of cost. Coursera is offering courses for free of cost till May 31, 2020. EdX allows the option to complete the online courses for free unless you want a certificate.
The paid online courses on Coursera or edX range from $49 – $150 (INR 3,700 – 11,500).
Help you Prepare for AP Exams
There over 35 Advanced Placement (AP) exams that can be taken by the high-school students can take to gain college credit. Getting AP college credit can save a lot of money and possibly shorten time to graduation.
To Get a Feel of the Colleges
When students are deciding which colleges to apply to or have a choice between schools they can attend, MOOCs can provide an additional sense of how professors teach and what it is like to learn there. Supporting MOOCs also reflects on the image of the school.
To Explore Majors
Quite often, students start university without knowing what major they want to choose. Eventually, an estimated 80% end up changing their major. Many students are inspired to embark upon a field of study while taking a class in an unfamiliar subject and being exposed to a passionate instructor.
Online courses and MOOCs can help with this, as they allow high school students to dabble in a few courses (and even without spending too much effort) get exposed to new subject areas. This too can help them save time and money when they reach college.
MOOCs can Impress College Admissions Team
“I’m seeing my students use MOOCs for their college applications,” says Ng of Coursera. “College admission officers are starting to take it very seriously.”
MOOCs allow you to customize your learning and demonstrate your education as a consequence of your passion for a particular subject area.
For international students interested in coming to the United States or other countries to study, MOOCs and online courses are a new way to showcase their college-readiness.
Indulge in Peer Learning
One of the hallmarks of MOOCs that reach even a modest ‘massive’ size, is that they draw learners from 100+ or even 150+ countries around the world.
High schoolers have the opportunity to observe (and, if they choose, contribute to) discussion board forums. They will hear the perspectives of many professionals in directly or indirectly related fields, and from people from all walks of life.
How to Choose the Right Online Course
If you search online courses on Coursera or edX, you will end up with thousands of courses. Below are the factors that you should consider before signing up for an online course, even a free one.
Focus on your Interest and Filter Your Search
While browsing the online courses, try to narrow down your focus. If you are looking for a math course, you would get countless results. However, if you think about what type of math you want to explore further, like linear algebra or trigonometry, then you can choose a course that dives more deeply into your specific interests.
When you’re searching for a course, think small and then expand. If you type “Engineering” into the search bar, you’ll get hundreds of results. Instead, think about what field of engineering you’re most interested in. Perhaps renewable energy engineering particularly intrigues you.
So you should type “Solar engineering” or “energy engineering” into the search bar and take a look at the courses offered. Toggle with the topics offered and be open to different focuses and courses that might explore different aspects of this subset of engineering. As with anything else, be sure to do your research.
Be Realistic and Manage your Expectations
Assess your level of expertise and try to pick a class that will both interest you and push you outside of your comfort zone. By choosing a course that is too easy, you won’t get too much out of it. Consequently, it might not add any value to your profile.
Make sure that you pay attention to the level of the course and pre-requisites so that you don’t accidentally enroll in an Advanced course when you’re really a beginner. The stimulation component is the key and requires choosing a course that you can actually follow along with. You won’t actually get anything out of the course if you can’t keep up or the content causes your eyes to glaze over.
Even if the class doesn’t cost you any money to enroll in, you will be wasting time on a course that is too easy or too advanced for you.
Do Research and Consult with Teachers/Counselors
Before signing up for an online course, do your research, and ensure that the course fits your academic interests. Read through the description of the class to understand the expectations, including the length of the lessons, frequency of classes, duration, and if any assignments or tests are required.
If needed, speak to your subject teacher or high school counselor. Alternatively, you could also consult with an independent college admissions counselor based in India or USA.
Opt for a Certificate, only if you need one
While nearly all classes on Coursera and edX are free to audit, you have the option to pay for a certificate. In the Common App, there is a section that asks students if they have taken a college course, and you must prove it with a certificate.
It helps your college application to stand out in the applicant pool by having the certificate to verify that you successfully finished the course. By paying for the certificate, you also can submit homework to a professor and receive feedback, helping you to get a bit more out of the course than you would have if you had just audited it.
Don’t Go Overboard! MOOCs Don’t Guarantee an Admit
More and more high school students are taking advantage of MOOCs to help them earn college credit, gain insight into schools, and learn more about different subjects.
But, don’t sign up for too many online courses to gain an edge in admissions.
Schools that weigh interest in their decision-making process often track the number of times a student has been in contact through tours, high school visits, college fairs, email, and online interaction. In fact, a few institutions go as far as to examine how long a student has spent on their website and on specific landing pages. So, don’t just assume that doing an online course from Harvard or MIT will actually improve your admission chances at those highly selective colleges.
How to Make the Most Out of Online Courses
Engage on Live Classes
However, students are most engaged and get the most out of a course when there is new content produced each week and there are other students participating at the same time.
So, it’s only wise to enroll in courses that are “Active”—oftentimes there are start dates that begin within the month. This is particularly important if you’re in the Beginner or Intermediate expertise level of your academic focus. The benefit of having a “live” class means that you often get the opportunity to ask questions and get responses in a timely manner and that the course is more dynamic.
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