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10 STEM Courses for High School Students

If you are a high schooler considering a career in STEM, taking a course in your field of interest can be a great way to get a headstart on your education. It can add to your existing knowledge about a subject. Not only that, educational courses demonstrate your dedication toward a subject—something college admissions officers look for! Do note that courses offered by prestigious institutions known for their STEM curriculum can carry substantial weight. Nevertheless, highlighting the skills and knowledge you acquired through the course, regardless of the prestige it carries, is more important.


Additionally, to choose a suitable course, you can check if the course instructors have relevant experience in the field, and/or an advanced degree in the subject. You can also review the course content and teaching methods, which will help you understand what it offers beyond the school curriculum. A course that utilizes multiple teaching methods, like group discussions, demonstrations, peer learning, and projects, in addition to lecture-based instruction can offer a comprehensive learning experience. 


Reviewing the above-mentioned course-related details can help you make an informed decision. To help you get started, we’ve curated a list of valuable STEM courses for high school students!


Location: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Cost: $5,550 | Financial aid is available—check whether you’re eligible.

Eligibility: Rising juniors and seniors who have completed a pre-calculus/trigonometry course and are familiar with complex numbers and matrices can apply.

Application deadline: January 10, 2024 (early); February 14, 2024 (regular); April 10, 2024 (late)

Duration/dates: July 7–19, 2024


The Introduction to Quantum Mechanics course is part of Harvard University’s 2-week summer program for high school students. The course consists of 3-hour sessions every day, from Monday to Friday. It covers the basic principles of quantum mechanics, emphasizing how its measurements differ from those of classical physics. The first part of this course covers superposition and the idea that states must be defined probabilistically, resulting in a description in terms of wavefunctions that obey the Schrodinger equation. These concepts are explored further with the help of two-state systems, matrices and vectors, and spin-1/2 particles. The second part of the course covers systems of two particles, specifically the concept of entanglement. Additionally, the idea of a quantum computer is discussed by understanding how it works in a basic toy model


The Harvard High School Summer program offers nearly 30 courses per session. As 2024 courses have not been confirmed yet, you can keep an eye out for an updated list here. You can also look at program details and other courses that summer school at Harvard offers.


Location: Online

Cost: $3,050. Financial aid is available.

Eligibility: School students in grades 8–11 can apply.

Application deadline: March 29, 2024

Duration/dates: Session 1: June 17–28, 2024

Session 2: July 8–19, 2024


The Topics in Bioscience course is part of Stanford’s Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes program. The course covers biomedical sciences—biology, anatomy, physiology, and other related fields of study. This can help high school students explore careers in medicine, pharmaceuticals, biomedical engineering, epidemiology, and more. Taking the example of the COVID-19 pandemic, the course offers an understanding of the real-world application of biomedical concepts. For instance, at the end of the course students will have an understanding of the gas exchange process in the lungs, how the heart and blood vessels respond to changes in oxygenation, how genetic material turns into proteins, and the connection between mRNA and vaccine development. Additionally, the course covers important epidemiologic and clinical research methods that form the basis of research in human subjects. These concepts will be taught with the help of 2-hour live lectures, asynchronous assignments, small group learning activities, and a group project. Further, it involves out-of-class work such as assigned readings, group work, and pre-recorded lectures. 


If you’re looking for a college-level biology course, you can consider the Johns Hopkins AP® Biology Course, which is a part of its Center for Talented Youth program. 


Location: Online via edX

Cost: Free. If you wish to obtain a certificate on completion, the course fees are $149.

Eligibility: Anyone who has studied high school chemistry (module 0 provides background information) and pre-calculus-level mathematics can enroll in the course.

Application deadline: Enrollment is open for the upcoming session. Keep an eye out for future sessions.

Duration/dates: 15 weeks (10–12 hours per week); Instructor-paced course. The upcoming available session starts on January 25, 2024.


This is an introductory chemistry course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on edX—an online education platform. The course is the first of two courses that cover first-year, university-level chemistry. In the first course, i.e., General Chemistry I: Atoms, Molecules, and Bonding, MIT professors will cover the principles of chemical bonding, starting from the very first experiments that disclosed the dual wave-particle nature of energy and matter. Additionally, concepts such as introductory quantum mechanics, electronic structure of atoms, molecular bonding and structure, and 

intermolecular and interatomic interactions will be explained with the help of instructor-led sessions. After completing this course, you will be eligible to enroll in the second course in the series—MITx General Chemistry II: Chemical Equilibrium, Kinetics, and Transition Metals, which covers the fundamentals of chemical reactions. 


Location: Online

Cost: $3,050. Financial aid is available.

Eligibility: High school sophomores and juniors who have completed an algebra course, and a physical science course and have some exposure to basic trigonometry can enroll in the course.

Application deadline: March 29, 2024

Duration/dates:

  • Session 1: June 17–28, 2024

  • Session 2: July 8–19, 2024


This is another course that Stanford offers as part of its Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes program. Frontiers in Physics covers key discoveries in the early 20th century that paved the way for modern physics. The course material revolves around three breakthroughs—quantum mechanics, particle physics, and Einstein’s theories of relativity. So, by tracing Albert Einstein, students will mathematically prove concepts such as time dilation and mass-energy equivalence. They will also discuss the twin paradox and the barn-pole paradox. Other key aspects of the course are learning about historical experiments that led to the understanding of quantum mechanics, solving Schrodinger's equation to understand how quantum mechanics predicts tunneling, and learning about the Bohr-Einstein debates and their philosophical implications. 


This intensive course involves assignments, which could take the form of a complete scientific article on relativity, an experiment to confirm light’s wave nature, or a general-public article on a subject in modern physics. The course consists of 2-hour live instruction sessions on weekdays in addition to assigned readings, pre-recorded lectures, and group work.


Location: Online

Cost: $955; Financial aid available

Eligibility: High school students with math test scores reflecting academic ability

approximately two grade levels above the currently enrolled grade can apply. Check the detailed eligibility criteria here.

Application deadline: None. Students can apply anytime and start within two weeks.

Duration/dates: 3 months (7–9 hours per week); self-paced course


Johns Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth (CTY) is an academic center for advanced school students. Its Advanced Java Programming course is offered under its online CTY program to cover features of the programming language like inheritance, interfaces, abstract classes, abstract methods, and polymorphism. The course is conducted in 12 units consisting of lessons, videos, forum discussions with challenge problems, interactive activities, a quiz, programming assignments, a midterm project, a final project, and a final exam. While there are no live classes, students can schedule meetings with the instructor. The course aims to help high school students design Java programs that use interfaces and write code that creates and uses interfaces, discover real-world applications of Java, and implement simple graphical user interfaces. Another key topic in the course is the significance and implementation of inheritance—the method for creating a hierarchy between classes by inheriting from other classes in Java. If you are considering a career in technology and computer science, this online course might be useful.


If you’re keen on exploring STEM subjects further, you can also consider the Differential Equations Course and/or Engineering Design Course, which are also offered under the CTY program at Johns Hopkins.


Location: Hybrid (Online and on-campus—Brown University campus in Providence, Rhode Island)

Cost: $9,870 (residential) | $8,100 (commuter)

Eligibility: High school students with basic knowledge of computer programming and intermediate-level knowledge of statistics and probabilities can enroll in this course.

Application deadline: May 10, 2024

Duration/dates: Mid-July–early August (tentatively, based on previous years)


The AI, Data Science, and Machine Learning course is part of the university’s Summer@Brown program. This course covers methodical data exploration and visualization, diagnostic analytics, and predictive modeling using statistical and machine-learning techniques. It also explores the practical application of machine learning. During the course, you will be introduced to concepts like text analytics, recommender systems, deep learning, and computer vision to help you prepare for a career as a data scientist or a machine learning expert. A key focus of this 4-week course is the machine learning process, in which potential ethical issues will be considered and solutions will be formulated to ultimately help you present your detailed data architecture. The course will also help you explore the application of the machine learning process in the fields of healthcare, hospitality, sports, and more. The course involves live instruction, homework, and prep work.


You can keep an eye out for the 2024 Summer@Brown course catalog here. The program offers about 300 courses in 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-week on-campus or 5-week hybrid (2 weeks online and 3 weeks on campus) sessions.


Location: Online via edX

Cost: Free. If you wish to obtain a certificate on completion, the course fees are $249. 

Eligibility: This course is open to everyone!

Application deadline: Enrollment is open.

Duration/dates: 6-week self-paced course (4–6 hours per week). Start at your convenience!


Offered by Stanford Online (Stanford School of Engineering’s online platform for academic and professional education) and edX, this is an introductory course designed for those with limited prior experience or knowledge of computer science. As the course covers basics, it is a great way to understand or even re-visit the key aspects of a computer—hardware, software, computer code, internet, computer security, and what a computer can and cannot do. The course also comes with a “lab” component, in which you will get to experiment with short bits of computer code to understand the utility as well as limitations of computers. Do note that all activities require nothing more than a browser, so there is no need to get additional software for the course. You can move at your own speed but are encouraged to finish the course in 6 weeks by investing at least 4 hours per day. The course is developed by Stanford faculty and is among a variety of paid and free STEM courses that high school students can check out here


Location: Online course via Coursera

Cost: Free

Eligibility: This course is open to everyone!

Application deadline: Enrollment is open.

Duration/dates: 3-week self-paced course (5 hours a week). Start at your convenience!


Georgia Institute of Technology offers several online courses online via Coursera. This course focuses on engineering mechanics, which is a core subject you might study if you pursue a mechanical engineering degree. So, this introductory course can help you get a head start. With this online course, you’ll learn about the principles required to solve engineering mechanics problems. Using physics and math concepts, the course will focus on the modeling and analysis of static equilibrium problems considering real-world engineering applications. The course is conducted through videos, reading material, and quizzes spread across 5 modules—Forces and Particle Equilibrium, Define and Calculate Moments, Equilibrium and Equivalence of Force Systems, Free Body Diagrams and Equilibrium Analysis Techniques, and Application of Equilibrium Equations. Upon finishing the course and taking the quizzes, you get a shareable course certificate.


Location: Applicants can choose between online and on-campus (Brown University campus in Providence, Rhode Island) options.

Cost: $9,870 for residential students and $8,100 for commuters

Eligibility: All high school students can enroll in this course.

Application deadline: May 10, 2024

Duration/dates: 1 week in June or July  (tentatively, based on previous years)


Another great course option, part of the Summer@Brown program, is this introductory course designed for high school students curious about a career in engineering. While the focus of the course is engineering design—a process that engineers follow to create processes and products, by the end of the course, participants will have explored multiple fields of engineering. They will also develop an engineering prototype formulated with the help of the engineering design process. Although any high school student without prior knowledge of engineering can enroll in this course, a basic understanding of classical physics, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry would be useful. Keep an eye out for the updated 2024 Summer@Brown course catalog here and verify availability and session dates.



Location: Online course via edX

Cost: Free. If you wish to obtain a certificate on completion, the course fees are $209. 

Eligibility: Anyone who has completed or is currently taking a single-variable calculus course (differential and integral) at the high school or college level.

Application deadline: Enrollment is open.

Duration/dates: 10-week self-paced course (3–6 hours per week). Start at your convenience!


Harvard University offers several online courses online via edX. This course, taught by some of Harvard’s faculty members, allows you to explore real-world applications of calculus. The course goes beyond the school curriculum, utilizing case studies, analyzing mathematical models, including variables, constants, and parameters, and hands-on learning to see how calculus is used in other fields. For instance, the course explores how biologists use differential equation models to derive when populations are likely to experience dramatic changes like extinction or outbreaks. You would look at data and graphs, write equations, and work on calculus computations to make educated guesses and predictions to understand the practical utility of calculus. This self-paced course is worth considering if you want to make the most of the basics of calculus you learned in school.


Take a look at some of the other STEM courses offered by Harvard University (online) here!


Bonus!


Location: Online course via Coursera

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Anyone can enroll in the course.

Application deadline: Enrollment is open for the next session. Keep an eye out for future sessions.

Duration/dates: The self-paced takes about 38 hours to complete and can last up to 10 weeks. The next available session starts on January 10, 2024.


Stanford University offers a few online courses via Coursera. This course equips high schoolers to develop their mathematical thinking skills, which are required to solve problems. This involves learning how to think outside the box when dealing with real-world mathematical challenges. The course starts with a reading assignment to familiarize participants with the material and get started. Through a combination of lecture videos, in-lecture quizzes, assignments, and tutorials for the assignments, you will be able to understand how to creatively solve problems. The course places special emphasis on the analysis of formalized language and linguistic apparatus in mathematics. While anyone can enroll in this course, it is especially recommended for high school seniors who are considering majoring in mathematics or a math-dependent subject in college. 



One other option

If you are interested in doing university-level research in STEM subjects, then 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, over 4,000 students applied 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.


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.


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