Penn Launches Online Course on Navigating College Admissions Process

Starting in February, the Admissions Office at the University of Pennsylvania, in a partnership with Steppingstone Scholars Inc., is launching a free online learning initiative aimed at increasing access to college

The massive open online course, “How to Apply to College,” will be offered via the Coursera platform. 

“This course,” said Penn Provost Vincent Price, “embodies the power of online learning to reach new audiences and to provide them with invaluable resources that can improve their lives. It reflects Penn’s deep commitment to increasing access to applicants to all colleges, especially those who may come from underrepresented or underserved areas. Thanks to Penn Admissions, Steppingstone Scholars and everyone who has worked with them, this historic initiative is becoming a reality.” 

Led by Eric J. Furda, dean of admissions, and Sean Vereen, president of Steppingstone Scholars Inc., the course is designed to help students, family members and others navigate the college search and selection process, from finding the right school to making a successful transition to a college environment. 

“The goal isn’t to ‘go to college,’” Furda said. “Rather, the goal is to graduate from college. This course will be especially helpful in closing the information gap for students who are the first in their families to attend college and students who are underrepresented in higher education.” 

“It is essential,” Vereen said, “to pool all of the best resources together and share this information about a highly complex process in an easily accessible place. This is an innovative way to address access and equity issues.”

Each online class is interactive with videos and quizzes that deliver an overview of the college application process, what to look for in a college, how to pay for college and how to set oneself up for success following enrollment.

The course can be taken in its entirety or as individual segments according to the user’s interest.

“The authenticity of this course will really hit home,” Vereen said, “because we are sharing the stories of first-generation students, including some Steppingstone Scholars who are applying to or already in college, as well as four students from Penn, who have traversed the process, showing first-generation, low-income students that, yes, there are people just like you who are out there doing this.” 

Guidance on paying for higher education, includes step-by-step exercises on how to apply for financial aid, scholarship resources, how to use a net price calculator for an easy cost comparison as well as new resources like, a way for high school students to earn money for college beginning as early as the ninth grade. incentivizes smart decision-making and good academic behavior throughout high school,” Vereen said, “and it lets students raise money with its partner universities. For example, if a student in high school gets a 3.0, he or she might receive $200 toward financial aid.” 

How to Apply to College” will also provide students with access to online tools that they can use after they’ve completed the course. 

Penn and Steppingstone Scholars Inc. collaborated with several educational partners to create the course.

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