Many students wonder if doing online courses or getting a certificate will help in their MS application or not.
You can look at improving some skills that might be helpful in your graduate program. You can self-learn or look at some courses online such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Developing good projects in these classes can be a great way to show you are a pro-active learner! These can also help to compensate for your low grades in a similar class you took in college or can fill in for lack of a formal education in the area you are applying to. For example, if you are expressing an interest in Computer Security and your college did not offer enough relevant electives, you can take such of courses on a MOOC. While MOOC grades might not be taken too seriously by the Admission Committee, it still shows enthusiasm on your part and gives additional credibility to your application. Few skills that can be advantageous during your hunt for on-campus jobs and assistantships are web development, perl scripting, excel modeling etc.
Need examples of how to use these in your applications? Please read my article on Tribune covering how two of my students use the MOOCs in their essays to land good admits –
Here are top sites to access high quality free courses that you can look at:
- Udemy Free Courses – http://www.udemy.com/
- Stanford Free Courses – stanford.edu/see/faq.aspx
- UC Berkeley Free Courses – http://webcast.berkeley.edu/
- MIT Free Courses – http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm
- Duke Free Courses – http://itunes.duke.edu/
- Harvard Free Courses – http://www.extension.harvard.edu/open-learning-initiative
- UCLA Free Courses – https://www.uclaextension.edu/r/search.aspx?c=free+courses
- Yale Free Courses – http://oyc.yale.edu/
- Carnegie Mellon Free Courses – http://oli.web.cmu.edu/openlearning/
- ITunesU Free Courses – http://www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/
While MOOCs are good for skill development, having a MOOC certificate alone may not help that much. This is because there is a problem with the trust factor – who knows if you only took the MOOC certification exam or your friend? Therefore, let not the certificate be your primary motivation, try to genuinely learn something and reflect that in your story.
This is a part of the MS Book: Smart Engineer’s Complete Guide to MS in USA.