Now on Coursera: College Applications 101


Online course teaching international students about US colleges


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Photo by Vivian Lee


Applying to college can be hard enough for American students. It’s even more difficult for international students but new Coursera class might help make the process a bit easier for them.

The course “Applying to U.S. Universities” aims to help familiarize international students and non-native English speakers who do not have the other forms of support throughout the application process — like guidance counselors — with the process of applying to undergraduate degree programs at American colleges and universities.

“In many countries, applying to universities is a centralized process, and here in the U.S. you couldn’t get more decentralized,” Erick Hyde, the course instructor and a University Connection Counseling specialist with the English Language Programs at Penn, said.

As of Sunday at 12:01 a.m., the APUSU course is offered in a four-week online format through Coursera, an online learning platform which provides free non-credit courses which partners with Penn. Already about 15,000 students worldwide are enrolled.

The course covers topics like what admissions officers look for in applications, strategies for self-assessment to find the right university and the logistics of planning and submitting all the necessary elements of an application.

The students are required to watch video lectures, read articles, submit weekly assignments and take a final exam at the end of the course. The capstone project in the final week of the course requires them to create an application plan, drawing on the knowledge and resources they have gained throughout the class.

The course has been offered in a classroom setting since 2004, when University Connection was first established to help international students navigate the application and admissions process, Jack Sullivan, associate director of programs for ELP, said in an email.

Hyde, who has been teaching APUSU for the past three years, said the content of the new version of the class is very similar to the original classroom version.

Students will receive a statement of accomplishment after fulfilling the requirements, but Hyde emphasized that the statement will not help a student gain admission to Penn or any specific university. “We really want to emphasize it’s the knowledge, it’s what the student learns in these four weeks,” he said. “That’s what will be able to help them submit a stronger application.”

Hyde and Rock said this course has a different demographic than most Coursera courses, which he described as attracting “professionals who have already completed advanced education.” Hyde has not seen any other Coursera offerings that appeal specifically to high school students or to English language learners.

While Hyde does not yet know how often the course will be offered in the future or if it will impact international application numbers, he hopes that APUSU will give them a better chance at success. “My hope for the class is that it gives students confidence in applying,” he said.

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