Hi! Rising junior, and planning to apply to schools more on the selective side. :) These questions are just about the website Outlier.org.
I just came across Outlier.org and am now considering enrolling in one of the courses. My questions are:
- Are those classes fit for high school students?
- Would they look good on college applications?
- Are they worth it?
- How does the credit transferring work?
For context, my school does not offer Intro to Psych, which is the course I am considering enrolling in on Outlier.org. I am also low-income so the $400 it costs would make a decent-sized dent in my pockets (something to keep in mind while answering whether it's worth it or not).
I think the fit would be fine if you're a strong high school student, able to handle the rigor of a dual enrollment class. Also consider your comfort/aptitude with the online learning format. It would look good on your application, but maybe not to the extent you're hoping.
The credits are from Pitt so you'll have a Pitt transcript and the school you choose to attend will decide if they want to accept the credits. If you know what schools you'll apply to, you can ask the admissions counselor if they typically accept credits from Pitt. A few notes about transferring credits: sometimes the course will match 1:1 and advance your placement in a course progression (you'd have credit for Psych I and able to enroll in Psych II), other times the credits will transfer in as elective credit (you'd have general credits and still have to take Psych I if required for your major), finally, you can negotiate credits with the school.
I transferred a lot of credits from multiple schools and recommend proposing course matches based on course descriptions available from each school. I took a 6 credit Calc I &II course at one school and proposed a match to a 4 credit Calc I course at my next school (to meet the grad requirement for my major). I had to talk with the instructor to make my case that the courses were equivalent and in the end he offered to give me credit for Calc II as well if I enrolled in Calc III.
Regarding worth, many people try to take dual enrollment courses to save money on their UG degree. However, if the $400 will pose a financial burden, it may not be worth it for you. If you're low income and looking at 100% need met schools, it may benefit you to just wait and take Psych I when you have financial aid to help you pay for it. A cheaper alternative could be doing self-study using a free platform such as Kahn Academy and taking either an AP or CLEP test to secure the college credit.
I enrolled in Outlier because:
1. I didn't want to take AP Calc and AP Psych Senior year for a whole year and this option took significantly less time.
2. I wanted to experience being taught by Ivy/Elite Ph.D. professors to see how difficult/easy it would be to follow along and do the work.
3. I wanted the rigor section of my academics to look better since I would be earning 6 college credits not HS weighted AP classes that still would require a college board test in May with the slight possibility of getting 5s and having them count for college credit.
I didn't care:
1. Whether the college credits came from NYU, Cornell, Yale, or UPitt. That was not part of my decision-making process.
2. The $400 per class was much less than an ACT/SAT prep program and not much different than taking a Community College Course so my family and decided it was a good value regardless of whether the credits would be applied to the college I end up attending. Some wealthy families spend $5000-$10000 sending their kids to top universities for summer programs (Notre Dame, UChicago, Columbia) where they only earn 1 credit in some cases, so this is not elitist but a new learning platform to take rigorous courses taught by arguably the top of their game in the higher education learning space.
-Are those classes fit for high school students? These are college-level courses and 95% of the target audience are adults or those who are working who want to take some college courses to fill gaps in their learning. I took Outlier Calculus I and was maybe the only HS student out of 180.
- Would they look good on college applications? For the most part yes since it shows three things. a.) you are not afraid to challenge yourself, b.) you have the maturity and discipline to take a fast-paced course (Calc.I was like AP Calculus AB in 7 weeks), and c.) If you get an A like I did it shows that you can perform at a college level, get the grades, and the 3 credits.
- Are they worth it? The price is great. If I took Calc I at Sarah Lawrence it would be $5439 + $976 for the college fee versus $400 on outlier.org, that's 15 times as expensive. If I took it at U of Oregon it would be $1150 for in-state tuition or 3 times the cost.
- How does the credit transferring work? You get a Univ. of Pitt transcript and it shows your 3 credits and your grade. Since UPitt is ranked #57 is a very competitive research university similar to Purdue, Ohio State, Penn State, U of Miami, Syracuse, and FSU. If you end up at a T25-T75 college, transferring the 3 credit should be no problem. At elite colleges, they may only use your credits to place you in a higher course or you might have to appeal to the math department to give you the credit.
My experience with outlier.org was great. I give it 4 stars out of 5. On the plus side, courses are taught by multiple professors who use different teaching styles. 3 Ph.D. professors, 1 from MIT, 1 from Davidson, and 1 from UC London. For Calc I, I got to pick from someone who used a chalkboard, someone who uses a pen and paper, and someone who used a tablet device for each subject/chapter. I toggled between all three. Sometimes 1 method was better than another method to learn the material. There was a quiz after each section of the chapter so all together like 30 quizzes (45% of your grade). I took 2 mid-terms and 1 final (Tests are 50% grade). And class participation was 5% of your grade. All the tests use remote proctoring so you have to keep your camera on your laptop/PC. Math has never been my best subject but I managed a solid A by grinding. They recommend you have 15-20 hours a week to do homework but I ended up spending like 25-30 hours a week to get an A. If that helps. The downside is the technology. Similar to my experience with the AP exams this Spring, sometimes the test would freeze up in the middle of the test. On my first midterm, I was 90% done with the test and the whole remote test system froze out. I had to call Tech Support and after many hours, they allowed me to re-take the entire exam. I was disappointed I had to re-do almost everything but in the end, it all worked out.
I'm taking Intro to Psychology this fall for 3 credits and it's being taught by 9 professors at Top research colleges like Columbia, NYU, Yale, Cornell, and Suffolk U. I decided to do the 14-week version instead of the 7-week version.
Lastly, I can't weigh in what $400 means to you or your family. For me, it meant that I don't get to go back to school clothes shopping. It's no big deal when you have spent your entire K-12 trying to be your best person to get into the best college possible.
The soft sciences might be OK but the hard science or calculus courses --well, they look good and they are good courses, but the organization really has no professional tutors at the other end. That means if you need to review a concept you have to go to an outside source. They use a group called brainfuse but this service is expensive and slow. I just spent 25 dollars on one problem and we didn't finish. So in reality, the 400 dollar course will cost you alot of money. They do not have a staf of math people. This is not a professional situation.
Edit: I am new to Collegevine. I think I posted this below the original and not the comment. Thank you for sharing your experience in such detail! We considered Outlier, but there is no option to decide whether or not to transcript so we went with ASU Universal Learner classes, as they are $25 to sign up and $400 if a student chooses to transcript. The work is manageable and some are self-paced with no deadlines (work must be completed one year from beginning of class). I wish Outlier would offer the same option.
Hey - I know your question was answered and hope you enjoyed your class, but just in case others see this post and deciding if they should do it or not... I am taking their calculus course now. The rigorousness is there for those that are interested, so make sure you have time to take the course (I spend like 2-4 hrs every weekday working on the course). I just want to caution people though. Outlier is a start-up, so it does have its share of problems. Sometimes the website doesn't work (and/or new features are implemented and they don't work) and answers to questions are not correct (or there is some type of website problem causing lecture notes/answers to not show up correctly). This can be problematic especially for those that have very tight schedules (i.e., work, other classes, etc.) as you have to wait for a resolution from the staff. Although I like the idea of Outlier and the instruction itself is awesome, if you have an opportunity to take an online course elsewhere, I would recommend as such. Running into bugs and wasting time on trying to find a workaround is really hard for those that don't have time.
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