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10 Free College Courses for High School Students

If you're a high school student looking for free college courses to develop new skills and explore concepts beyond your school curriculum, this blog is for you! Pre-college courses and certifications can bolster your college applications by demonstrating your commitment to learning and a genuine interest in specific fields. These credentials indicate your ability to work with advanced material, enhancing your academic portfolio with tangible proof of your achievements and skills. 


Many universities and colleges offer free college courses, allowing you to expand your knowledge without any added expense. These courses provide a competitive advantage, prepare you for the demands of higher education, and help you make informed decisions about your academic and career goals. Such experiences also provide foundational expertise and practical skills that can help you initiate research projects or startups. 


To help you get started, here are 10 free college courses for high school students that you can consider!


Location: Students can participate in courses offered by their local high school in Texas. 

Application Deadline: Based on the high school’s schedule

Course Dates: A year-long course starting and ending with the school year. 

Eligibility: High school students should have completed Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS-based high school biology and chemistry to enroll in this course. 


OnRamps is an initiative of The University of Texas at Austin with support from the Texas Legislature that aims to provide advanced academic opportunities to high school students. OnRamps’ mission is to increase the number of students who access and engage in learning experiences aligned with the expectations of leading research universities. OnRamps offers over 17 dual enrollment courses designed by faculty from The University of Texas at Austin. Their dual enrollment courses have prepared more than 167,000 unique students in Texas for the rigor of college, and they continue to grow.


This year-long course explores three big ideas of biology: the structure and function of biomolecules, the flow of energy through living systems via photosynthesis and cellular respiration, and how genetic information is expressed and transmitted both within and between cells. The course provides 4 college credits (3 for lecture, 1 for lab). Eligible students can complete any OnRamps course at zero cost since The University of Texas at Austin has opted into the Financial Aid for Swift Transfer (FAST) program.

 

Location: In person at Ohio State University and on Ohio State University’s online webinar tool for high school students and distance students.

Application Deadline

  • Autumn semester (August — October): May 1

  • Spring semester (January — March): November 1 

Course Dates: Courses run per the University’s semester schedule, and are available for the Spring, Summer, and Autumn semesters. 

Eligibility: Ohio high school students can apply to the courses, but to check their prerequisites they should contact the OSU Math Advising Office. High school students who are interested in taking this course must apply and be accepted to Ohio State's post-secondary institution, the OSU Academy.


The College Credit Plus program provides dual high school/college credit and is free of charge to Ohio students in public middle and high schools. The Ohio State Math Department will offer a Flipped and Flexible Calculus class for Calculus 1: Math 1151 and Calculus 2: Math 1152 each fall and spring semester. This Flipped and Flexible Calculus class will be modeled after the flipped classroom approach. 


You will watch videos and do activities online before attending class to prepare for the day’s lessons. During class time, you will actively work on math problems, engage in discussions, and collaborate in groups. You will be able to hear the Ohio State instructor, see what the instructor is writing or showing, and communicate back to the instructor via chat box or using a microphone. You will be expected to show your work on class problems through writing/typing on the computer screen or taking photos of your work and uploading them in Carmen Connect. In Math 1151: Calculus 1, you’ll cover limits, derivatives, and integrals of single-variable functions, while Math 1152: Calculus 2 will focus on techniques and applications of integration, sequences, and series.


Location: TCLA College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota, MN

Application Deadline: TBD for 2025, most likely mid-April as per previous year’s schedule. Admitted students are eligible for both the Fall and/or Spring cycles with no other application deadline. 

Course Dates: Semester-long college course eligible to high school students every Fall, and Spring.

Eligibility: Minnesota-based high school juniors and seniors with a GPA of 3.6 are eligible to apply, although exceptions are made for no GPA high schools. While PSEO for 10th graders is not offered at the U of M, check other schools to participate.


The Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program through the University of Minnesota Twin Cities allows motivated high school juniors and seniors to take classes at the University for both high school and college credit. One such class is ENGL 1301W: Introduction to Multicultural Literatures of the United States, a writing-intensive literature course. Available in the fall and spring semesters, this course includes representative works by American Indian, African American, Asian American, Chicano/Chicana, and Jewish American writers, ranging from Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning masters to emerging genre authors and debut writers. 


In reading these works, you will get to discuss the social and cultural factors informing America’s literary past and present. Because the course is considered a ‘Writing Intensive’, you will spend considerable time drafting, discussing, and revising papers. Techniques for writing a paper, close reading strategies, and relevant critical approaches will be covered. As you analyze the meanings and methods of the texts, you will also be able to identify and examine key literary devices.


Location: Virtual

Application Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Course Dates: 6 weeks at 4–6 hours per week (Self-paced). The upcoming session runs between June 25 and September 1, 2024.

Eligibility: Everyone is eligible to enroll in this course.


This free online computer science course by Stanford University offers an in-depth exploration of algorithms, detailing their functions and practical applications. Through a series of meticulously crafted video lectures, esteemed professors explain the nuances of programming languages, elucidating syntax and semantics. The course also provides a comprehensive understanding of data structures, using real-world examples to demonstrate their significance in software development.


A robust hands-on component includes a variety of assignments designed to challenge problem-solving skills and enhance programming expertise. The course emphasizes software design principles, offering a holistic view of creating efficient and scalable solutions. The interactive nature of the course extends to collaborative forums, fostering a community where diverse perspectives converge. You can check out the topics covered in this course here.


Location: Students can concurrently take college courses at their local high school. Check if your high school is among the partner schools for this program. 

Application Deadline: TBD for 2025- typically October for first-semester and year-long courses and the following March for second-semester courses. 

Course Dates: Semester-long course (approximately 2.5–3 months) offered year-round. 

Eligibility: Any high school student who is academically prepared can sign up to take a UW course at their school and earn high school credit. 


UW in the High School provides students the opportunity to enroll in University of Washington courses and earn college credit while remaining on their high school campus. This program offers UW courses at no cost for public school students and a reduced rate for private school students.


One of the available courses is CHEM 110: Preparation for General Chemistry, which offers 3 UW credits (without lab) or 5 UW credits (with lab). This course will introduce you to general chemistry, focusing on developing your problem-solving skills. It covers fundamental chemistry concepts and incorporates the necessary mathematics for quantitative problem-solving.


Location: Virtual

Application Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Course Dates: Self-paced

Eligibility: Everyone is eligible to enroll in this course.


Open Yale Courses (OYC) provides online lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses to the students free of charge. The courses span the full range of liberal arts disciplines, including humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences. High school students diving into Yale Online’s “Capitalism: Success, Crisis, and Reform” can look forward to an insightful exploration of the intricate world of economic systems. This course provides a comprehensive examination of capitalism, highlighting its historical successes, moments of crisis, and ongoing reform efforts. 


Through engaging modules, you will gain a nuanced understanding of the economic forces that shape societies, exploring both the positive aspects of capitalism and the challenges it has faced. The curriculum addresses crises and inequalities head-on, offering a balanced perspective on the system’s impact on various aspects of society. Interactive elements and real-world examples enhance the learning experience, making the content accessible and relevant for you. You can check out the syllabus for this course here.


Location: Virtual

Application Deadline: No deadline

Course Dates: Self-paced

Eligibility: High School Students who are proficient in single variable Calculus and have experience with basic programming


MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) presents an invaluable resource for global learners through its course, “Introduction to Statistical Physics”. This course delves into the principles that govern matter and energy behavior at atomic and molecular scales. 


It provides an in-depth understanding of statistical mechanics, explaining how macroscopic properties of systems emerge from the statistical behaviors of their microscopic constituents. With comprehensive materials such as lecture notes, problem sets, and additional resources like exam materials along with solutions, this course is accessible to high school students passionate about physics and keen to explore its fundamental principles.


Location: Students partake in the course at their local New York public high school. Here is a list of partner schools to check which high schools are part of the College Now program. 

Application Deadline: Students can apply for CUNY courses through their local high school. The upcoming fall in-person course deadline is July 2, 2024.

Course Dates: Courses follow CUNY’s semester schedule. The upcoming fall course takes place on Saturdays from September 7 to December 21, 2024.

Eligibility: College Now is primarily for NYC DOE high school juniors and seniors with some limited opportunities for sophomores. Here are the general eligibility criteria by high school and academic level. 


College Now, a program offered by CUNY (City University of New York), provides a completely free opportunity for high school students in the New York City public school system. It is CUNY’s largest collaborative program with over 400 NYC high schools, enrolling more than 20,000 students annually. At The City College of New York, College Now offers college credit courses on campus, primarily on Saturdays and occasionally after school on weekdays.


One such course is Applications of Psychology in the Modern World (PSY 10200), which awards 3 college credits. The class meets on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. This introductory course covers topics including human development, learning, personality, motivation, sex differences, attitudes, aggression, interpersonal attraction, group behavior, and work settings. It also examines abnormal behavior and its treatment, emphasizing how psychological theories and research can be applied to individual and societal issues. 


Location: California-based high school students can do this course from Fullerton College for free at their local high school if their school is part of the dual enrollment program and offers this course. 

Application Deadline: Courses can be applied for at the timeline set by one’s local high school.

Course Dates: Courses run as per the college semester but this course typically runs for 3 weeks in June/July. The 2024 course runs between June 17 and July 2.

Eligibility: High school students from California who are part of any of the following partner schools can partake in the dual enrollment program. 


Fullerton College collaborates with local California school districts to offer K-12 students the opportunity to enroll in college-level classes through the Dual Enrollment program. These classes held either at Fullerton College or local high schools after regular school hours, guarantee students General Education (GE) college credits. Most courses align with the regular college semester schedule, with some exceptions that run for five weeks.


One such course is LIB 100F: Introduction to Research, which introduces students to research methods using print library materials, online databases, and the Web. The course focuses on developing the critical thinking skills necessary to identify research needs, locate and analyze relevant resources, and effectively cite sources. Dual Enrollment provides high school students the chance to take college courses for free, earn transferable credits applicable to universities, and explore various General Education courses while still in high school.


Location: Virtual via Edx

Application Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Course Dates: 6 weeks at 4–7 hours per week (Self-paced). The upcoming session runs between June 25 and November 30, 2024.

Eligibility: Open to all high school students


“Entrepreneurship For All (Part I)” offered by BerkeleyX on edX is a comprehensive learning experience tailored for aspiring entrepreneurs eager to embark on the startup journey. Led by seasoned insiders from Silicon Valley, this course offers a step-by-step exploration of the startup lifecycle, from inception through to scaling. You’ll get to delve into essential topics such as market identification, business model development, and the art of crafting compelling pitches. Real-world case studies and practical insights drawn from Silicon Valley’s vibrant entrepreneurial landscape enrich the learning experience.


Through a blend of video lectures, readings, interactive projects, and collaborative peer activities, the course fosters active learning and practical application of concepts. This hands-on approach will equip you with the skills and confidence to tackle the challenges inherent in launching and growing a startup. By the course’s conclusion, you will gain the knowledge and tools necessary to transform innovative ideas into successful ventures.



One other option — Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you would like to participate in a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you should 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.


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.


Trisha Malhotra, an Ashoka University alumna, has 5 years of experience being a freelance writer and currently writes for Lumiere Education. She is passionate about music, reading, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, as well as a devoted cat parent.


Image Source: Ohio State University seal.

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