Academic/Career Exploration for Pre-Business Majors: Free Online Courses

There are so many awesome (and free) beginner level courses online, it is a missed opportunity to not take advantage of at least one or two if you plan to study business in college. Here are a few of my favorites—many are self-paced—that you can sign up to take now.

Yale: Financial Markets

Michigan: Risk, Return & Valuation

Michigan: Bonds and Stocks

UVA: Introduction to Personal Branding

Penn:  Social Impact Strategy: Tools for Entrepreneurs and Innovators

Illinois: Financial Planning for Young Adults

To take the course for free, select enroll now and the option that reads “Full Course, No Certificate.” You will still have access to all course materials for this course without paying. Contact us if you have questions about Coursera classes and how they translate, and are useful, on college applications.

 

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5 Ways to Thoroughly Research Colleges

Subtitle: For when you can’t get to campus or want to go beyond what a traditional campus visit can provide!

The in-person campus tour is not the be-all-end-all of college research. Neither is that gigantic Fiske guide, College Confidential (that site is horribly stress-inducing please stay away from it, same with Reddit), or what your older sibling told you based on findings from their college search process. From my experience, most college research can take place from the comfort of your own home, but it takes time and effort. And planning, a little bit of starting early and planning!

College/University Websites

Read the websites of the schools on your list, and not just the admissions and financial aid pages. I would read those—but for the purpose of understanding how to apply, not why to apply. Unless it is one of the admissions office/officer’s blogs that I talk about here; those might help you see why you’d want to attend. If class visits are offered those can be very informative, but you’d need to get to campus to attend. I will talk more about how you can get a look at a college’s classrooms and student life later in this post.

I suggest starting with the pages of the department in which you hope to study (or think you might hope to study). What does the curriculum look like? How many and what type of classes are offered? Are there affiliated clubs, events, other special programs of interest? Find a faculty member who is undertaking research in your area of interest and reach out to them with three or four questions you have about the program or their research that you can’t find answers to online. If they are unable to speak to you, ask if they can suggest someone else who might be able to help. Can’t get through to any faculty members? Contact the department’s administrative assistant or department coordinator and see if they can help you make an initial connection. For example, here you can find the contact info for the program coordinator of Penn’s Department of Psychology. If not, ask your regional rep to help you get this information.

I also suggest pinpointing two or three clubs you might want to join. See if you can connect with a current student or faculty lead within each to learn more. Most clubs general admin contact info is posted online. Here is the contact info for Fordham’s Finance Society, as well as a zillion contacts for USC student clubs.

Lastly, you might want to get a sense of what the campus looks like, and can do so via a virtual tour if you can’t go in person. Many colleges provide virtual tour options now. For example, here is one created by Santa Clara University in California.

CampusReel

Speaking of tours, whether you can get to campus in person or not, you will want to check out CampusReel for an insider look at the colleges and universities on your list. Real college students submit their own video clips that take you through a day in the life, dorms, dining halls, classrooms, and so on. For example, I enjoyed this video from a UC Santa Barbara student on what she wished she knew before she started. You will also get a pretty good sense of what the campus looks like in reality as the guides are not employees of the admissions office, and what you see is probably closer to what you will get compared to the virtual tour created by the school.

Coursera and edX

If you can’t get to campus and glimpsing a school’s academics firsthand is important to you (it should be!), then head over to Coursera and edX and sign up for a class. They are free, informative, and you might learn something, not to mention they give you an extra talking point (or ten) for application materials and the interviews if you have them.  You will definitely get a sense of what college-level courses entail, and I also see it as a way to demonstrate interest. A few courses I like and have had students take include:

Case Studies in Personalized Medicine

Becoming an Entrepreneur

The Science of Wellbeing

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

A Law Student’s Toolkit

Local Alumni Groups

Don’t know anyone who went to your dream school? Look no further than your local alumni group. If you are not sure your area has an alumni group just ask Google. I entered “NYU alumni club NJ” and got the link to info on the NJ group right away. You will be sending a cold email but I don’t see anything wrong with that. You are showing interest in their alma mater. If someone is a member of their alumni group, they probably like to connect with people like you. You are demonstrating a desire above and beyond other prospective students to get to know the school, and they love their school! That is never a bad look. And if no one replies to you, at least you know you tried. If there is no local or even regional group where you live, try to one closest to you. Again, there is really no downside to trying to connect with alumni to learn more.

Social Media

Not the best way to get to know a school well, but some are not half bad. I follow quite a few schools on Instagram, and the “takeover” stories by admissions office staff and students can be insightful. I particularly like the UChicago and Barnard pages.

 

Everything above being said, if you have the opportunity to see a school in person or meet an admissions officer, regional representative, current student, faculty member, or alumni in person, take it! I wanted to present the suggestions here because not everyone can get to campus, and a standard campus visit alone is not a very good way to really get to know a school. If you believe in finding a school that is best matched with your goals for college (not just a school with a certain name, good sports team, etc.), the above outreach will help you figure out which school that might be—so time to get to work!

 

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Degrees via Coursera? Yes!!!

Any student who works with me knows that I love Coursera and edX. I love the content on both platforms, and I love that it is FREE. I encourage high school students to sign up for classes on both sites; it’s an excellent way to learn more about a specific school and what classes/faculty are like there, as well as take a deeper dive into potential fields of study/majors.

Given my love of MOOCs, I was excited to read about some big news today from Coursera:  it’s championing degree programs!!!

Read the full article on Inside Higher Ed here, and some highlights below:

If you dig through the ancient (circa 2011) archives of everything written about the high-octane brand of massive open online courses, you actually won’t find the founders of Coursera doubting the value of traditional degrees or the colleges and universities that created them (unlike some of their peers — yes, you, Sebastian Thrun). That would have been foolhardy since Coursera worked closely with and depended on universities to produce the content that the technology platform spread far and wide.

But plenty of prognosticators, futurists and journalists who should have known better disparaged higher education by trumpeting Coursera and the other MOOC providers, saying that by making course material freely available to anyone, anywhere, anytime, the platforms heralded the beginning of the end of higher education’s stranglehold over credentialing and, in due time, the institutions themselves.

Coursera is linked closely enough to the deepening meme about the digital “disruption” of traditional higher education that the company’s pivot back to higher education — underscored by today’s announcement that it is more than doubling, to 10, the number of degree programs it is creating with university partners, including its first bachelor’s degree — may seem surprising.

The company has its hands in many parts of the learning landscape, working closely with companies that want to train their workers and continuing to provide individual learners with thousands of courses they can take freely (or at low cost if they want to prove they completed successfully).

But Coursera is now putting much of its energy into — and staking much of its future on — academic programs launched in conjunction with some of the world’s leading universities, with Arizona State University, Imperial College London and the Universities of London and Michigan joining its degree-program ranks today.

The company and its campus partners believe these new credentials can take advantage of the platform’s extensive reach of 31 million users to drive down the costs of recruiting students (and hence the tuitions they charge) and help the universities begin to slice their degree programs into shorter-term credentials.

“We are squarely betting on universities — and on the continued relevance, even dominance, of the degree as the master credential,” says Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera’s CEO since June.

At the same time, he says, the company and its university partners are focused on “redesigning the degree to make it extremely compelling to learners around the world, and a formidable answer to any emerging credentials that might challenge the degree.”

Coursera’s Soon-to-Be 10 Degree Programs

Current Programs

New Programs:

  • Bachelor of computer science, University of London
  • Master of applied data science, University of Michigan
  • Master of computer science, Arizona State University
  • Master of computer science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Master of public health, Imperial College London
  • Master of public health, University of Michigan

 

MOOCs for Potential Business Majors

As I have said before, MOOCs are a no-brainer for high school students who want to explore their academics interests and possible college majors. And for those of you who have not started exploring your interests outside of school, you should; it is not terribly time-consuming, especially with online options you can access 24/7, and colleges look favorably upon applicants who explore outside of school. These are also applicable to pre-MBA applicants!

The four below are from Coursera, and are available now for sign-up:

Creativity, Innovation, and Change, The Pennsylvania State University

Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence, Case Western Reserve University

Creating a Startup from an Idea, Israel Institute of Technology

Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills, University of Michigan