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University of Pennsylvania

Applying to College 101

University of Pennsylvania via Coursera


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Applying to College 101 empowers learners of all backgrounds to demystify and better understand the college search and selection process, combining the expertise of an Ivy League admissions office and a leading college access and success organization. Led by expert educators, including Whitney Soule, Dean of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Sean Vereen and Sara Woods, Co-presidents of Heights Philadelphia, this free course will help students, family members, college counselors, and any curious learner to navigate each stage from the start of the college search process through preparing your applications to colleges. This course includes a variety of videos, readings, and activities—all designed to encourage self-reflection, information sharing, and moments of connection. In this course, you’ll learn about:  1. The organizational skills you’ll need to be successful in this process  2. Important financial aid resources and how to make college affordable   3. How to better understand your story and how it connects to what interests you and what colleges look for  4. How to find your right college fit 5. The steps and materials needed to complete your college application This course is designed for students who are planning to apply to college soon (11th graders and 12th graders), but the activities and videos can still be useful for students who are earlier in their college search journey as they plan for the future. Regardless of where you are in your understanding of the college search process—from those who are the first in their family to pursue a bachelor’s degree and who may be trying to figure out where to even begin—to those who are well on their way to preparing an application—this course provides a road map to helping you move through this journey in your own way and on your own time.    This course is open to the public, asynchronous, and self-directed without a facilitator. Please note although this course is designed by the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), this is not a course about applying to Penn. The course is also intended for students who may not have access to college counseling – if you attend a school that offers college counseling, your counselor is the best source of information on applying to college. This course is for students who are applying to college for the first time, intending to pursue undergraduate degrees at a four-year institution in the U.S. If you are an international student attending a school outside the U.S. interested in learning more about navigating the U.S. university system and application process, we recommend enrolling in this course: Applying to US Universities.


  • You’re Applying to College! Where to Begin and Getting Organized
    • In this module, you'll have an opportunity to refine your reasons for why you want to attend college and how you hope to grow from this experience. In an overview of the college application process, you'll be introduced to the organizational skills you’ll need to stay on track with your college timelines. In addition, you'll identify who makes up your support team and how they can help you prioritize your wellbeing.
  • All About Financial Aid and Affording College
    • This module focuses on demystifying the financial aid process and explores resources for how to make college affordable. It includes an overview of financial aid packages and explains different components like cost of attendance, expected family contribution, grants, scholarships, loans, and more! You'll also explore tools to help you estimate the cost of college for you with your family.
  • Why Your Stories Matter and Identifying Your College Goals
    • This module encourages you to reflect on your interests to better understand how to tell your story through a college application. You'll also explore strategies for identifying which factors you want to prioritize as you begin your college search. In addition, you'll practice reflecting on how your academic work in high school connects to your journey to college.
  • Researching College Options and Finding Your Best Fit
    • This module provides an overview of different types of colleges and universities to help you determine what type of schools might be both a good community and academic fit. By aligning your interests with your college options, you'll be able to create a balanced list of schools with a range of selectivity to consider applying to and visiting.
  • Preparing Your Application Materials
    • This module prepares you to apply to colleges and gives an overview of how admissions offices may review your application materials. You'll explore strategies for writing essays for your applications, preparing a comprehensive activities list, and choosing recommenders to write on your behalf.

Taught by

Whitney Soule, Sean Vereen and Sara Woods


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