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10 Astronomy Courses for High School Students

Unlocking the doors to future academic and personal success begins with pursuing your passions while in high school. Taking an extra class in a subject you're genuinely interested in, like astronomy, not only deepens your understanding of that specific topic, but will also cultivate valuable skills and a love for learning. This proactive approach will not only enhance your expertise in your chosen field, but also foster a well-rounded academic foundation.

In this blog, we highlight 10 great astronomy courses for high school students.

Harvard’s Department of Continued Education (or, DCE) requires that both adult & college students must be at least 15 years old to enroll for a non credit Harvard Extension School course and at least 16 years old to enroll for a non credit Harvard Summer School course. Meaning, as a high school student, you could enroll in a course at Harvard University before even graduating from high school. Hosted entirely online, this course can be found under the code ASTR E-8 on the DCE course search.

This course discusses the origins of galaxies, the life cycle of stars, and the fascinating process of planetary formation, while uncovering the enigma of black holes, neutron stars, and other intriguing states of matter. You will also discuss the latest breakthroughs in astronomy: from detecting gravity waves emanating from merging neutron stars, to capturing unprecedented images of the colossal black hole at the heart of our galaxy. 

Dates: January 25th-May 9th 2024. 

Enrollment Deadline: December 18th, 2023. 

Tuition: $1,500.

Eligibility: 15-18 years of age. 

This course is taught through Yale’s Pre-College Summer Session Program, which is Yale’s annual summer program designed to expose highly motivated high school students to college-level academics. Planets and Stars, taught by professor Michael Faison, explores the fascinating realms of the solar system, extrasolar planets, planet and star formation, and the life cycle of stars. 

With no prerequisites required other than a basic understanding of elementary algebra, this would be a great option for any student looking to start learning about Astronomy. This course would also be offered completely online, allowing you to work from home. The 2024 course syllabi have not been released yet, but you can scroll through and read about Planets and Stars’ syllabus here

Dates: May 29th-June 30th 2024.

Enrollment Deadline: The enrollment deadline for the 2024 Summer Session has not been released.

Tuition: $4850.

Eligibility: Junior or senior in high school. 

University of California Irvine, (or, UCI) offers this course to anyone interested in learning more about our surrounding galaxy. This course is offered as a fully online introductory astronomy class, but operates hand-in-hand with UCI’s Astronomy & Astrophysics Outreach Program which offers students a tour of UCI’s Observatory as well as Astronomy and Astrophysics based workshops. The course is taught by Professor Tammy Smecker-Hane through both the Winter quarter and the Summer session, allowing you the flexibility to choose when you would have the most time to add an extra class to your schedule. 

Dates: Session 1: June 24th- August 1st & 10-Week: June 24- August 30th.

Enrollment Deadline: June 21st.

Tuition: $374/unit as well as a 1-time Mandatory Campus Fee of $290.

Eligibility: High school students, undergraduates, graduates, and the public. 

Hosted by Columbia’s Pre-College program, this course is available in person and in the summer; meaning you will get to enjoy Colombia's beautiful campus in New York City while learning all about our galaxy. This course, led by Professor James H Applegate, will take you through the history of astronomy, spanning from its ancient origins to the cutting-edge study of extrasolar planetary systems, cosmology, and black holes. 

Something that sets it apart from others on this list, however, is its deep dive into fundamental concepts such as Newton's laws of motion, universal gravitation, Kepler's laws, orbital dynamics, and space travel. You will explore the nature of light, matter, and nuclear physics, applying this knowledge to unravel the mysteries of our sun, solar system, distant galaxies, chemical element creation, and the expanding universe. 

Dates: Session 1: May 20th- June 28th, 2024 & Session 2: July 1st- August 9th, 2024.

Enrollment Deadline: April 1st, 2024.

Tuition: $2,376 per point

Eligibility: Junior or senior in high school. 

Through Brown University’s Summer@Brown program, you and other highly motivated high school students have the opportunity to choose from six different astronomy-based courses. For the purpose of this article, we will be looking into the syllabus for Introductory Astronomy: Exploring the Cosmos. This course is designed to provide a fundamental understanding of Astronomy and is offered only on-campus. So if you are only interested in online options, feel free to check out the other five courses offered to find one that is right for you!

The course syllabus states that you will be taught on subjects like notation, quantitative methods, and other basic concepts in physics. You will also review some of the most important laws of nature, such as Newton's and Kepler's laws. The rest of the course focuses on the study of local astronomy and the universe as we know it. Including solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, the rest of the planets in the solar system, as well as some rarer events like comet and meteor passes. This course is designed as an introduction to Astronomy, so if you are up for more of a challenge, maybe check out A Stellar Introduction: Stars, Galaxies, and Black Holes, which is also offered by Brown University’s summer program. 

Dates: June 26th- July 14th or July 10th- July 28th. 

Enrollment Deadline: May 10th, 2024.

Tuition: $3,406. 

Eligibility: Junior or senior in high school. 

California Institute of Technology offers this class to the public through Coursera, a trustworthy online educational service for high school students and adults alike. Taught by CalTech’s own Professor George Djorgovski, The Evolving Universe is taught across ten online modules and covers the history of modern Astronomical technology, the formation of the galaxies, the thermodynamics of Planets, and much more. 

All of this information is provided through pre-recorded lectures, provided readings, and scholarly works- meaning you can take this entire course on your own time and at your own pace. With free enrollment, 19 languages to choose from, and just 21 hours of work estimated for every week, this course would be a great choice for any student looking to get ahead before beginning their path towards gaining a higher education in Astronomy. 

Dates: December 19th 2023- January 9th 2024. 

Enrollment Deadline: December 19th, 2023. 

Tuition: N/A. 

Eligibility: Anyone interested in Astronomy can enroll. 

To be eligible to enroll in Dartmouth’s Community High School Program course, you must first consult your high school advisor as it is required that prospective students have exhausted all other available course options within their high school curriculum. So be sure to meet with your high school counselor to assess your eligibility before navigating the enrollment process. This course would be a great option for students who are looking for a more financially reasonable Astronomy course as Dartmouth offers its Community Program courses free of charge. 

This course places an emphasis on physical cosmology, talking through the history of our Universe from its creation, with a spotlight on galaxies, galaxy dynamics, clustering, dark matter, and evidence to support large-scale homogeneity. The course discusses the Universe from a top-down perspective, exploring the intricacies of Big Bang cosmology. This course is also only available during the winter term, meaning you will have to wait until next year to partake in this specific class.  

Dates: January 3rd- March 7th 2024.

Enrollment Deadline: November 22nd, 2023. 

Tuition: Free.

Eligibility: Juniors and seniors in high school. 

Udemy, a reputable online education platform, works to provide its users with access to an incredible selection of online courses that cover a variety of topics for much less than a university course. There are a few Astronomy courses available, but Getting Started with Astronomy is their beginners course with 4.2 stars and 473 active students. 

Featuring scholarly articles, downloadable materials, and 17 at-home pre recorded lectures, you will learn all about outer space, how to identify what objects in our solar system are (from a star to a planet, and even galaxies and nebulae), and how to observe the night sky from an Astronomer’s perspective- all without a telescope. This course would be a great option for students who don’t have the time to commit to an online or on-campus Astronomy course. Through Udemy, you can learn on your own time and at your own pace. 

Dates: N/A

Enrollment Deadline: Year-round. 

Tuition: $44.99

Eligibility: Any individual interested in Astronomy. 

Also offered through Coursera, The University of Arizona’s Astronomy: Exploring Time and Space course is a class designed for students who are interested in learning more about modern astronomy and the most recent astronomical discoveries. Similar to other courses in this article, this online option grants you the freedom to learn about Astronomy when you want to. With 11 modules, this course covers a wide variety of topics relating to Astronomy; ranging from the scientific history of Astronomy, to matter and radiation, Cosmology, and much more.

This course is also free to enroll, is offered in 19 different languages, and requires no previous experience- perfect for any high school student from anywhere in the world looking to start their path towards becoming an astronomer. 

Dates: December 19th 2023- January 9th 2024. 

Enrollment Deadline: December 19th, 2023. 

Tuition: N/A. 

Eligibility: There are no eligibility requirements. 

Offered completely online, the University of California LA’s Life in the Universe is a lecture and discussion based course designed to educate high school students on collegiate-level Astronomy. With no prerequisites, this course covers the formation and evolution of Earth and the Sun, life on Earth, the origin and evolution of life, our solar system, extrasolar planets, the search for intelligent life in the universe, and interstellar travel all over the course of six weeks. 

While this course does require attendance to biweekly lectures as well as weekly discussions, it is offered completely virtually in both the Fall and Summer semesters. Meaning you will have the freedom to choose when to add this extra class to your schedule, as well as the privilege of learning in real-time from a UCLA professor. 

Dates: June 26th- August 4th and August 7th- September 15th. 

Enrollment Deadline: May 1st, 2024 for international students and June 1st, 2024 for U.S. students. 

Tuition: $360 per unit.

Eligibility: High school students.

Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in conducting research in astronomy, astrophysics, and related fields, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Mandy Brenner is a current junior at Harvard University. She is concentrating in History and Literature and loves to read and write in her free time.

Image Source: Unsplash



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