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Online Courses at Elite Universities Demonstrate Compound Interest

Years ago, comedian Al Franken (now a senator from Minnesota) portrayed a clueless character named Stuart Smalley in a recurring role on Saturday Night Live. Stuart was a power-of-positive-thinking type who, as a motivational coach, did his best to help people be happy. To psych himself for his Daily Affirmations TV show, he would recite his mantra: “I can do this because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggone it… people like me!

People like to be liked. If not for themselves, they’ll settle for being liked indirectly. For example, many people so closely identify themselves with their employer that liking their employer flatters them as much as liking them personally. Admissions officers at elite universities tend to be like this. To them, their job is not a typical 9-to-5 gig in a big bureaucracy. As true believers, they feel they’re where it’s at, career-wise. But, aside from this tendency, there’s no way to devise a well-targeted marketing message for them. They’re highly diverse demographically and psychographically. This is why IvySelect strongly advises you to emphasize that you like their employer, and, ipso facto, you like them. They’ll be that much more likely to like you in return.

Good news! The need to show that you are passionate about attending their college can dovetail nicely with the other thing that you need to show interest in… your intended area of academic specialization.

As college admission consultants for the Ivy League and other elite schools, IvySelect coaches students through all aspects of the admissions process. Among the most important contributions that we make, through strategic planning, is to help you identify and develop your intellectual interests. Once this is accomplished, the final step is to communicate this interest to admissions officials.

An ideal way to demonstrate the two types of interest simultaneously is to take courses during high school that indicate your dedication to your field of study and your enthusiasm for a specific targeted college. This blending of purposes is possible through educational resources that offer courses from Ivy League and other elite institutions as convenient, low cost, web-based services.

For example, consider Coursera. There are other online sources of college courses, including EdX and Udemy, but Coursera has certain advantages over them. Coursera conducts video seminar “classroom” sessions, but also offers students more opportunity to interact with professors after sessions, via Skype, email, and phone, and, if you’re planning a campus visit, in person. There are forums that enable students to ask questions and post comments. There are tests, essays, and assignments. Students don’t earn college credits, but they are graded and can earn a certificate.

Coursera offers courses developed by top-tier universities worldwide. In the U.S., these include Princeton, Stanford, Wesleyan, Vanderbilt, Case Western, Michigan, Penn, Columbia, Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Chapel Hill, Duke, Northwestern, Brown, Yale, Virginia, Caltech, California, and over 20 other elite American and international universities.

Of course, admissions officials realize that a Coursera course doesn’t equate to an on-campus undergraduate class at their university. Nevertheless, the fact that you are taking courses, particularly in your field of interest, will register with them as an expression of your academic passion. This helps to reinforce and demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and can help distinguish you from other equally qualified applicants.

Coursera courses may be taken individually or as part of a certificate program. There are no prerequisites for any course. Because the Coursera course catalog is remarkably extensive and diverse, it offers an opportunity to demonstrate very specific interest within your field. Below are a few examples in the wide range of disciplines, courses, and elite universities that Coursera offers.

Discipline Sample Courses University
Arts & Humanities – History American Education Reform: History, Policy, Practice Penn
Arts & Humanities – Philosophy Modern Foundations of Politics Yale
Math & Logic Robotics: Mobility Penn
Math & Logic Analytic Combinatorics Princeton
Environmental Science Sustainable Development Columbia
Physics Understanding Einstein: Special Theory of Relativity Stanford
Biology – Medicine Public Health and Vaccines Penn
Social Sciences – Economics The Global Financial Crisis Yale
Social Sciences – Governance The Paradoxes of War Yale
Social Sciences – Psychology The Neurobiology of Everyday Life Chicago
Social Sciences – Psychology Exploring Neural Data Brown
Personal Development Reasoning, Data Analysis, and Writing Duke
Data Science – Data Analysis Machine Learning Stanford
Business – Finance Accounting Analytics Penn

Your private IvySelect college admissions counselor is dedicated to your success in achieving your educational goals. Among the many contributions we make to advance your goal of admission to an elite college is to advise you on ways to demonstrate interest in your intended field of study as well as your targeted institutions. Coursera is only one means among many to accomplish these objectives. You can rely on your IvySelect consultant’s expertise to present your best self to the elite institutions of your choice.