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10 Free Online Courses for High School Students

Exploring free online pre-college courses is a great opportunity, especially if you have a deep passion for a particular subject. These courses allow you to enhance your knowledge, gain practical insights, and demonstrate your dedication, which can greatly benefit your college applications and future resumes.


Enrolling in online pre-college courses can significantly enhance your college applications by highlighting your commitment to academic excellence and practical expertise in your chosen field. Admission committees look for candidates who show a genuine passion for their chosen discipline, which you holistically work towards through courses, internships, research, and pre-college programs!


Courses offered by well-known institutions can carry substantial weight. However, regardless of the course's prestige, it's essential to emphasize your coursework, achievements, and the skills you've gained through online pre-college courses to effectively showcase your dedication to your chosen subject and your potential contributions to a college community.


We've also covered 20 great paid online courses here.


What should I look for when choosing an online course?

  1. Accreditation and Credibility: Look for institutions that are regionally accredited or have reputable national or international accreditation in the field that you’re interested in pursuing.

  2. Instructor Qualifications: Investigate the qualifications of the instructor who will be teaching the course. They should have a strong academic background in your chosen field, ideally with a relevant advanced degree (such as a Ph.D.) or extensive professional experience in the field.

  3. Course Content and Structure: Review the course content and structure carefully. Make sure that the curriculum covers the topics that align with your learning objectives and goals and look for a course that is well-organized, with clearly defined learning objectives, assignments, and assessments.

  4. Interactivity and Support: Online courses can vary in terms of interactivity and support. Choose a course that offers opportunities for active learning, such as discussion forums, live webinars, or group projects, as these can enhance your understanding of the concepts and foster collaboration with peers.

By carefully considering these aspects, you can make a well-informed choice that aligns with your academic and career goals.


Here are 10 of the best free online courses for high school students!


Cost: Free

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

Application Deadline: No deadline

Course Dates: Self-paced


MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is an initiative by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that provides free and open access to a wide array of high-quality educational materials, including lecture notes, assignments, and exams for a vast range of courses. One of the standout offerings in the OCW collection is the course titled "Thermodynamics and Climate Change."


This course delves into the fundamental principles of thermodynamics and their direct application to the critical issue of climate change. It explores the intricate relationship between energy, heat transfer, and the Earth's climate system, offering students a comprehensive understanding of the science behind global warming and climate fluctuations.


The course materials are exceptionally detailed, presenting a blend of theoretical knowledge and practical insights, and are designed to cater to a diverse audience, from seasoned scientists to interested learners looking to comprehend the science that underpins one of the most pressing challenges of our time.


Location: Online

Cost: Free without certificate and $672.30 with certificate (financial aid available)

Eligibility: Everyone is eligible to enroll in this course.

Application Deadline: Rolling Basis

Course Dates: 11 days in either June or July


HarvardX's "Fundamentals of Neuroscience" is an exceptional online course that offers a deep dive into the intricate world of neuroscience.


Designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to this complex field, the course covers essential topics, such as the structure and function of the nervous system, neural communication, sensory and motor systems, and higher-order cognitive functions.


This course, offered by Harvard University through edX, is an excellent choice for you if you’re interested in understanding the biological underpinnings of the human brain and how they relate to behavior, cognition, and neurological disorders. You will benefit from the expertise of Harvard's renowned faculty and access to high-quality learning materials, including engaging video lectures, interactive quizzes, and assignments that reinforce their understanding of key concepts.


Cost: Free

Eligibility: Everyone is eligible to enroll in this course

Application Deadline: Rolling Basis

Course Dates: 6 weeks at 4-6 hours per week (Self-paced)


This course intricately delves into the world of algorithms, dissecting their functions and practical applications. Through a series of meticulously crafted video lectures, esteemed professors guide you through the nuances of programming languages, elucidating the intricacies of syntax and semantics.


The focus extends to a comprehensive understanding of data structures, with real-world examples illustrating their significance in software development.


The hands-on component is robust, featuring a range of assignments that challenge your problem-solving skills and programming prowess.


One standout feature is the emphasis on software design principles, providing 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.


Cost: Free without certificate and $50 with certificate

Eligibility: Everyone is eligible to enroll in this course.

Application Deadline: Rolling Basis

Course Dates: Self-Paced (approx 10 weeks at 5-10 hours a week)


Harvard’s Principles of Economics on edX provides a comprehensive introduction to the fundamental principles of economics. This course is an exceptional opportunity for you to delve into the world of economics with the prestige and expertise associated with Harvard.


Through a blend of video lectures, assignments, quizzes, and readings, you will gain insights into various economic concepts, including supply and demand, market equilibrium, consumer behavior, and macroeconomic principles like inflation, unemployment, and fiscal policy.


The course typically features engaging content and valuable insights from Harvard's renowned faculty members, allowing students to grasp economic concepts and their real-world applications.


Cost: Free

Eligibility: Everyone is eligible to enroll in this course.

Application Deadline: Rolling Basis

Course Dates: Self-Paced


For a high school student delving into Yale Online's Capitalism: Success, Crisis, and Reform, get ready for an insightful exploration into the complex landscape of economic systems.


The course offers a thorough examination of capitalism, covering its historical successes, moments of crisis, and ongoing reform efforts. Through engaging modules, you'll 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 doesn't shy away from addressing crises and inequalities, providing 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.


Cost: Free without certificate and $199 with certificate (financial aid available)

Eligibility: Everyone is eligible to enroll in this course.

Application Deadline: Rolling Basis

Course Dates: Self-Paced


Entrepreneurship For All (Part I): The UC Berkeley Startup Guide for Students by Silicon Valley Insiders offered by BerkeleyX on edX is an invaluable resource for you if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking to dive into the world of startups and entrepreneurship.


Taught by experienced Silicon Valley insiders, this course typically provides a comprehensive guide to the entire startup process, from idea conception to launch and scaling.


You will gain insights into crucial aspects such as identifying market opportunities, developing business models, and crafting effective pitches. The course also typically covers real-world case studies and practical advice, drawing from the rich entrepreneurial ecosystem of Silicon Valley. It's designed to be highly engaging, including video lectures, readings, hands-on projects, and peer collaboration, allowing students to apply what they learn in a dynamic and interactive manner.


You can also take a look at a few programs and internships in entrepreneurship that we’ve covered in the past!


Cost: Free

Eligibility: Everyone is eligible to enroll in this course.

Application Deadline: Rolling Basis

Course Dates: Self-Paced


Embarking on Yale Online's Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature, you're in for a captivating exploration of fundamental questions about what it means to be human.


The course provides a comprehensive examination of philosophical inquiries into human nature, drawing on both classical and contemporary perspectives. From discussions on morality and free will to the nature of consciousness, each module invites you to contemplate age-old questions with a fresh perspective.


Engaging video lectures, readings, and interactive assignments enrich the learning experience, encouraging you to grapple with complex ideas and form your own reasoned conclusions.


The course maintains a balanced and impartial approach, presenting diverse viewpoints and allowing you to develop critical thinking skills.


Cost: Free

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

Application Deadline: No deadline

Course Dates: Self-paced


MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) offers an invaluable resource for learners around the world through their course, "Introduction to Statistical Physics." This course is an exploration of the principles that govern the behavior of matter and energy at the atomic and molecular levels. It provides a comprehensive understanding of statistical mechanics, offering insights into how macroscopic properties of systems emerge from the statistical behaviors of their microscopic constituents. The course materials, including lecture notes, problem sets, and additional resources, make it accessible to anyone with a passion for physics and a desire to explore the fundamental principles of the field.


Cost: Free

Eligibility: Everyone is eligible to enroll in this course

Application Deadline: Rolling Basis

Course Dates: 6 weeks at 4-6 hours per week (Self-paced)


As a highschool student engaging with Stanford Online's Advertising and the Language of Persuasion, you'll embark on a fascinating journey into the realm of persuasive communication. The course meticulously breaks down the art and science behind effective advertising language, offering a comprehensive exploration of the strategies employed to sway consumer decisions. From dissecting the psychology behind compelling messaging to analyzing real-world case studies, you'll gain valuable insights into how language choices impact audience perceptions.


Cost: Free

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

Application Deadline: No deadline

Course Dates: Self-paced


MIT OpenCourseWare's "Introduction to Oscillations and Waves" is an excellent resource for you if you’re interested in physics or engineering. This open and free course provides a structured and in-depth exploration of oscillations and wave phenomena, making it a valuable supplement to highschool curriculum. It offers a clear and concise presentation of complex concepts, making it accessible for high schoolers who want to deepen their understanding of physics or prepare for more advanced studies. The course includes video lectures, lecture notes, assignments, and problem sets, all of which serve as comprehensive learning materials.


Mastering oscillations and waves is essential for a strong foundation in physics and can greatly benefit students in areas like mechanics, electricity, and optics.


Moreover, it introduces you to MIT's rigorous academic standards and allows you to experience a taste of the college-level coursework. By engaging with this resource, you can enhance your knowledge, critical thinking skills, and overall academic preparedness for future studies in STEM fields.


Additionally, you can also work on independent research in AI, through Veritas AI's Fellowship Program!


Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests. The programs include collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship. 


These programs are designed and run by Harvard graduate students and alumni and you can expect a great, fulfilling educational experience. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of Python or are recommended to complete the AI scholars program before pursuing the fellowship. 


The AI Fellowship program will have students pursue their own independent AI research project. Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the field of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects here


Location: Virtual

Cost

  • $1,790 for the 10-week AI Scholars program

  • $4,900 for the 12-15 week AI Fellowship 

  • $4,700 for both

  • Need-based financial aid is available. You can apply here

Application deadline: On a rolling basis. Applications for fall cohort have closed September 3, 2023. 

Program dates: Various according to the cohort

Program selectivity: Moderately selective

Eligibility: Ambitious high school students located anywhere in the world. AI Fellowship applicants should either have completed the AI Scholars program or exhibit past experience with AI concepts or Python.

Application Requirements: Online application form, answers to a few questions pertaining to the students background & coding experience, math courses, and areas of interest. 



One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you would like to dive further into research, another way to stand out on applications and resumes, 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.


Jessica attends Harvard University where she studies Neuroscience and Computer Science as a Coca-Cola, Elks, and Albert Shankar Scholar. She is passionate about educational equity and hopes to one day combine this with her academic interests via social entrepreneurship. Outside of academics, she enjoys taking walks, listening to music, and running her jewelry business!


Image Source: MIT logo

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