Free Online Courses for High School Students to Improve College Admission Chances

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

Introduction to Programming – University of Edinburgh

C++ for C Programmer (Part A) – UC Santa Cruz

Algorithms (Part 1) – Princeton University

Algorithms (Part 2) – Princeton University

Building Your First Android App (Project-Centred Course) – CentraleSupelec

Free Online Courses on Mathematics 

Introduction to Calculus – University of Sydney

Calculus Single Variable: Function – University of Pennsylvania

Calculus Single Variable: Integration – University of Pennsylvania

Probability and Statistics – University of London

Free Online Courses on Physical Sciences

How Things Work: An Introduction to Physics – University of Virginia

Astronomy: Exploring Time and Space – University of Arizona

The Science of the Solar System – CalTech

Advanced High School Chemistry – University of Kentucky

Introduction to Chemistry: Structures and Solutions – Duke University

Introduction to Chemistry: Reaction and Ratios – Duke University

Free Online Courses on Self-Discovery & Exploration

Introduction to Philosophy – University of Edinburgh

Getting Started with Music Theory – Michigan State University

Big History: Connecting Knowledge – Macquarie University

Making Architecture – IE Business School

Fashion as Design – MoMA

Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential – McMaster University

The Science of Success – University of Michigan

Communication Strategies for a Virtual Age – University of Toronto

Essentials of Global Health – Yale University

The Challenges of Global Health – Duke University

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

Shakespeare’s Life and Work – Harvard University

Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens, and the Stuff Around You – Harvard University

Ancient Masterpieces of World Literature – Harvard University

Modern Masterpieces of World Literature – Harvard University

Introduction to Digital Humanities – Harvard University

Masterpieces of World Literature – Harvard University

How to Write an Essay – UC Berkeley

Free Online Courses on Pre-Calculus and College-Level Maths

Precalculus – Arizona State University

College Algebra and Problem Solving – Arizona State University

Pre-University Calculus – TU Delft

Linear Models and Matrix Algebra – Harvard University

Differential Equations – MIT

Introduction to Geometry – SchoolYourself

Introduction to Algebra – SchoolYourself

Statistics and R – Harvard University

Mathematics for Year 12 – Course 1: Algebraic Methods, Graphs and Applied Mathematics Methods – Imperial College London

Mathematics for Year 12 – Course 2: Calculus, Newton’s Laws and Hypothesis Testing – Imperial College London

Mathematics for Year 13 – Course 1: Functions, Sequences and Series, and Numerical Methods – Imperial College London

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)

Introduction to Artificial Intelligence with Python – Harvard University

Data Science: R Basics – Harvard University

Data Science: Visualization – Harvard University

Data Science and Machine Learning – Harvard University

Data Science: Capstone – Harvard University

Using Python for Research – Harvard University

Statistics and Computational Tools for Data Science – Harvard University

Free Online Courses on Business and Entrepreneurship

User Innovation & Entrepreneurship – MIT

Entrepreneurship 101: Who is your customer? – MIT

Technology Entrepreneurship: Lab to Market – Harvard University

Becoming an Entrepreneur – MIT

AP Microeconomics – MIT

Business and Impact Planning for Social Enterprise – MIT

Qualitative Research Methods: Conversational Interviewing – MIT

Free Online Courses on Biosciences

Molecular Biology: DNA Replication and Repair – MIT

Molecular Biology: Transcription and Transposition – MIT

Molecular Biology: RNA Processing and Translation – MIT

Quantitative Methods for Biology – Harvard University

Biochemistry: Biomolecules, Methods, and Mechanisms – MIT

Principles of Biochemistry – Harvard University

Neuroscience: Electrical Properties of Neuron – MIT

Neuroscience: Neurons and Networks – MIT

Neuroscience: The Brain – MIT

Principles of Synthetic Biology – MIT

More Online Courses from edX for High School Students on Precalculus, AP Exams, Finance, Economics, and College Admission Guidance

Online Courses on Liberal Arts (Mix of Free and Paid Courses)

English for Journalism – University of Pennsylvania

Better Business Writing in English – Georgia Tech

Intercultural Communication and Conflict Resolution – University of California, Irvine

Game Theory – Stanford University & University of British Columbia

Strategy and Sustainability – IESE Business School

Introduction to Mathematical Thinking – Stanford University

Discrete Mathematics – Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Moral Foundations of Politics – Yale University

Introduction to Logic – Stanford University

Effective Communication in the Globalised Workplace – National University of Singapore

The Arts and Science of Relationships: Understanding Human Needs – University of Toronto

Art & Activity: Interactive Strategies for Engaging with Art – The Museum of Modern Art

Global Diplomacy: Diplomacy in the Modern World – University of London, SOAS University of London

Getting Started With Music Theory – Michigan State University

The Art of Music Production – Berklee

The Art of Vocal Production – Berklee

Art & Ideas: Teaching with Themes – The Museum of Modern Art

Music as Biology: What We Like to Hear and Why – Duke University

Leading Innovation in Arts and Culture – Vanderbilt University & National Arts Strategies

Art & Activity: Interactive Strategies for Engaging with Art – The Museum of Art

Geopolitics of Europe – Sciences Po

Maps and the Geospatial Revolution – Pennsylvania State University

Arts and Culture Strategy – University of Pennsylvania & National Arts Strategies

Craft Your Story Like the Great Writers – Wesleyan University

Fundamentals of Music Theory – University of Edinburgh

Music Production – Berklee

English for Business and Entrepreneurship- University of Pennsylvania

Introduction to Psychology – University of Toronto

Psychology at Work – University of Western Australia

Crash Course in Data Science – Johns Hopkins University

Classical Sociological Theory – University of Amsterdam

Methods and Statistics in Social Sciences – University of Amsterdam

The Ancient Greeks – Wesleyan University

The Science of the Solar System – Caltech

Introduction to Human Behavioral Genetics – University of Minnesota

Biology Meets Programming: Bioinformatics for Beginners – University of California, San Diego

Genes and the Human Condition (From Behavior to Biotechnology) – University of Maryland, College Park

Chemistry – University of Kentucky

How Things Work: An Introduction to Physics – University of Virginia

Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity – Stanford University

Mechanics: Motion, Forces, Energy and Gravity, from Particles to Planets – University of New South Wales

Particle Physics: an Introduction – University of Geneva

The Evolving Universe – Caltech

Create Imaginative Games – CALARTS

Behavioral Finance – Duke University

Microeconomics: The Power of Markets – University of Pennsylvania

Econometrics: Methods and Applications – Erasmus University Rotterdam

Inferential Statistics – Duke University

Model Thinking – University of Michigan

FREE Online Courses on Advanced Topics from edX (Harvard, MIT, Microsoft, etc.)

FREE Computer Science courses

FREE Engineering courses

FREE Business Management courses

FREE Professional Skills courses

FREE Data Analytics courses

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

Online courses are a great way to take an interest to the next level. The most popular websites that offer a variety of online courses are Coursera and edX.

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.

Featured Image Source: SchoolFinder

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

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