Online College Courses

With so many high school students applying to dwindling spaces in colleges, and with adults considering higher education as a way to be more competitive in an unstable job market, the amount of applications universities receive has skyrocketed. With that increasing number comes a growing need to get any edge possible in your college application.

One very common and longstanding recommendation is for students to take a few college courses before the application process to show that the student is prepared for the academic rigor expected in a university. Unfortunately, not all students have access to a nearby school at which to take college courses. Fortunately, many very well-regarded universities are turning to the Internet to offer online college courses. No matter your location, you can enroll in an online college course and use your completion as evidence of your academic prowess on your college application.

Additionally, sampling a few university classes by taking online college courses will help you focus your interests and pick a major you're happy with early — rather than spending your first few years in school switching from major to major.

Open Yale Courses, a free service from Yale University in Connecticut, features introductory courses in a variety of topics, including astronomy, chemistry, economics, philosophy, psychology, and more. The courses are real lectures taught by real Yale professors and are intended for those with little or no background in the subject.

The Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom features a rich list of math lessons available for free online. The Institute also features a number of physics and biology topics, such as lectures on string theory or phylogenetics. While many of the topics may be difficult to grasp for someone who has only taken high school math and science courses, a diligent student should find the subjects within reach.

For individuals hoping to sharpen their foreign language skills or even pick up an entirely new language, BBC offers audio and video language courses in 36 different languages. Universities appreciate individuals who are able to view the world from multiple perspectives, and in-depth learning into a language and culture will make you appear more diverse in your college application. Additionally, your language learning may allow you to take a proficiency exam at your university to waive a foreign language requirement.

As a general resource, the education channel of YouTube also has a surprising number of college-level material. With categories including business, engineering, history, journalism, and law, YouTube features videos of actual college courses taught by professors at schools like Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and UC Berkeley. The quantity of videos on YouTube is large, but you may have to look through a lot of topics to find one that interests you.

Though none of these options will give you a degree or certificate, you should discuss your additional educational pursuits somewhere in your application packet. Not only will you show that you have gone above and beyond other students in your preparation for college, you will also ready yourself for college-level material and find a discipline that interests you.

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I think online college courses are a great idea - I wish there were more correspondence college courses where I live. Later this year I'm doing a course that is 3/4 correspondence & 1/4 on-site - I wish more courses were like that. Transport to university is a hassle. Sometimes I have to spend 2 1/2 hours getting in to University for one 50 minute lecture... I wish lectures were online, or audio-recorded.

- Amelia, 02/13/11 at 6:30 pm

I am based in the UK and completed a Law course in 2010. We had a lot of online courses to complete and attended the college only 3 occasions. I think that the online courses have got a lot better in recent years and are thought of highly as it shows real personal commitment to education. It is good for any future job prospects.

- Dom, 02/15/11 at 3:47 am

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