Do MOOCs make a difference on your college application?Answered
I'm currently pursuing 25 courses in economics from various platforms like edX, Coursera and Future Learn. Apart from that, I'm planning to take more than 20 courses in Data analytics, Data Science, Python and other skills as well.
My question is: Do they make any difference on MY application? (I don't relay solely on these for my extracurriculars.) If so, how much of a difference would they make? Thank you!
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They show evidence of intellectual curiosity or vitality but they are no replacement for taking APs, IBs, and actual college classes that earn college credit. A typical for credit class takes either 1 or 2 semesters to complete and depending on what kind of college course you take, most of them will take 15 weeks +/- to earn 3 credits.
When an admissions officer/application reader sees you've completed the many of the hardest offerings at your high school, say 10 out of 16 APs course, that is impressive, especially if you get As in the class and 5s on the AP exam. The same goes for IBs and College courses. If you can get an A at a Top50 University course and earn 3 credits, that shows you are well prepared for the future rigors of taking a full load of college courses.
The problem with MOOCs is that they are all different durations, difficulties, and subject matter. Some are a short as 10 hours or 1 week, others are 10 weeks. There is no applied rule that can be used for all of the thousands of MOOC offerings. In addition, some MOOCS are very similar to the courses taught at the institution creating the content while others are more like cursory intro classes that don't get very deep in the subject matter. If you take MIT eDx courses in programming that take 15 weeks, and have pre-requisites, then you are showing the admissions officers/readers that you are doing some serious work.
For instance, these 2 offered by MITx:
Derivatives Markets: Advanced Modeling and Strategies
Machine Learning with Python: from Linear Models to Deep Learning
But if you take a 3-week course taught by IBM called Python Basics for Data Science, that doesn't have the same weight.
It's like the advice I give and hear from professional consultants about ECS. Don't sign up for 15 ECS and just be a member of this group or that group. It's better to pick a few ECS you are passionate about and do them because they give you joy and have something substantial to back up what you are doing.
Alternatives to MOOCS are taking for credit actual online college courses. That would be in my opinion more impressive and applicable to the college admissions selection process. Why? You are being evaluated on your ability to succeed at the school in the future so if you already succeed with college course material and getting top grades, you are removing much of the risk they have in picking you to attend.
I personally opted out of MOOCS, and took online college courses instead. I think they added course rigor to my academic narrative and also showed more tangible evidence of intellectual curiosity.
Yes, they will make a fairly substantial positive impact on your application. It is great that you are taking that many EC courses. Especially if you are majoring in computer science, statistical science, or something of that nature, it will definitely strengthen your resume. Good luck, hope this helps.
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