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10 University Courses for High School Students

If you’re a high school student looking for exposure in university-level coursework, you should consider applying to university courses across various subjects! 

These courses not only strengthen your college applications by demonstrating your dedication to their field of interest but also prepare you with advanced knowledge and skills that set them apart from their peers. 

Certifications and coursework completed before college can serve as a strong foundation for building a comprehensive portfolio, showcasing your ability to handle rigorous academic challenges. Additionally, these early experiences can ignite a passion for research or entrepreneurship, equipping students with the necessary tools and confidence to start their own research projects or ventures. 

Whether aiming to stand out in college admissions or seeking to gain a head start in a chosen career path, taking university courses as a high school student is a strategic step towards achieving long-term academic and professional goals.

In this article, we dive into 10 outstanding university courses designed 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 democratizes education by providing free and open access to a vast collection of high-quality educational resources. This platform includes lecture notes, assignments, and exams for a wide range of courses, spanning multiple disciplines. One particularly noteworthy offering in the OCW catalog is the course titled "Thermodynamics and Climate Change."

"Thermodynamics and Climate Change" is a comprehensive course that explores the foundational principles of thermodynamics and their direct application to the critical issue of climate change. The course meticulously examines the intricate relationship between energy, heat transfer, and the Earth's climate system. It provides students with a robust understanding of how thermodynamic principles govern global warming and climate fluctuations. The detailed course materials present a balanced mix of theoretical knowledge and practical insights, making the complex science accessible to a diverse audience—from seasoned scientists to enthusiastic learners seeking to grasp the scientific underpinnings of one of today's most pressing global challenges. 

The materials are designed to not only educate but also inspire action by elucidating the scientific basis for climate change. This aligns perfectly with MIT's commitment to addressing global issues through education and innovation.

Cost: $329

Eligibility: High school students in grades 9-12

Application Deadline: Rolling Basis

Course Dates: Self-Paced

The UPenn Wharton Global Youth Program's "Understanding Your Money" course is an excellent educational opportunity tailored for high school students eager to get into financial literacy and personal finance. Offered by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, this program provides a comprehensive introduction to essential financial concepts.

Throughout the course, you'll engage in a variety of interactive activities, workshops, and discussions designed to enhance your understanding of key financial principles. Topics typically covered include budgeting, saving, investing, and making informed financial decisions. You'll explore how to manage your finances effectively, set realistic financial goals, and make responsible spending and saving choices.

Additionally, the course often incorporates fundamental economic principles and insights into the broader financial landscape, providing a well-rounded foundation in financial literacy. This practical knowledge is invaluable for making sound financial decisions and planning for your future. For a more detailed overview of the program and what it entails, check out this article.

Cost: $3,700 (4-credits) or $7,400 (8-credits) (Financial aid available)

Eligibility: Students aged 16-18 who Will graduate from high school and enter college in 2024, 2025, or 2026.

Application Deadline: January 10 (Early), February 14 (Regular), and April 10 (Late)

Course Dates: 7 weeks (June 22 – August 10, 2024)

Harvard Summer School's "Psychology of Cults" course offers a fascinating and rigorous exploration into the complex psychological dynamics that underpin cults and extremist groups. Designed specifically for high school students, this program explores the psychological, sociological, and ethical dimensions of cults, providing a thorough understanding of how individuals are drawn into these groups and the methods used to influence them.

Led by experienced instructors, the course covers a broad range of topics, including the psychological mechanisms that cults exploit, the strategies used for indoctrination, and the ethical dilemmas associated with studying and interacting with these groups. Students are encouraged to engage in critical thinking and evidence-based analysis, which allows for a deeper understanding of the factors contributing to cult membership. 

The program emphasizes a combination of theoretical knowledge and real-life case studies, offering students a comprehensive view of the psychological vulnerabilities that cults target. By examining various case studies, you will gain practical insights into human behavior and group dynamics, enhancing their ability to critically assess and understand the complexities of cult psychology. Through this course, you will not only learn about the psychological tactics used by cults but also develop a broader understanding of human susceptibility to influence and control.

Cost: $6,500 (financial aid available)

Eligibility: Be a 16 to 18 year old high school sophomore or junior by July 21, 2024

Application Deadline: January 10, 2024

Course Dates:

  • Session I: June 23 to July 5, 2024

  • Session II: July 7 to 19, 2024

  • Session III: July 21 to August 2, 2024

The Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) program is renowned for offering high-impact educational experiences to exceptional high school students from around the globe. One of its standout offerings is the "Economics, Politics, and Law" program. This intellectually stimulating and prestigious program allows students to explore complex economic concepts, the dynamics of politics and governance, and the foundational principles of legal systems. Students in the "Economics, Politics, and Law" program engage in a rich curriculum featuring engaging seminars, interactive discussions, and hands-on workshops. These sessions are conducted by Yale's esteemed faculty and experts in the respective fields, providing an unparalleled opportunity for young scholars to expand their horizons and deepen their understanding of critical global issues.

Students benefit from a variety of interactive activities and group projects, fostering collaboration and critical thinking. The program also grants access to Yale's extensive resources, enabling students to explore how economics, politics, and law intersect and shape the global landscape. Through this immersive experience, students gain valuable insights into the interconnected nature of these domains, preparing them for future academic and professional pursuits.

By participating in the YYGS "Economics, Politics, and Law" program, you will join a global network of young scholars, forming connections and building relationships that extend beyond the program itself. 

Cost: $3,700 (4-credits) or $7,400 (8-credits)

Eligibility: 16-18 year old high school sophomore or junior

Application Deadline: June 20, 2024 (last day to register, based on availability) 

Course Dates: June 24 to August 9, 2024

Harvard Secondary School Online Program’s "Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology" is an intellectually stimulating and academically rigorous course designed for high school students passionate about the life sciences. This program offers an exceptional opportunity to explore the intricate world of molecular and cellular biology, providing a foundational understanding of the fundamental processes that underpin life. 

Participants in this course are able to explore topics such as DNA structure, protein synthesis, cellular respiration, and genetic regulation. The program combines cutting-edge research with engaging lectures and hands-on laboratory work (where applicable), ensuring that students receive a well-rounded educational experience. Harvard's distinguished faculty and comprehensive resources guarantee top-tier instruction and a thorough curriculum.

This course not only equips students with solid knowledge in molecular and cellular biology but also fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for success in the field. It's an invaluable stepping stone for those considering careers in biology, medicine, or related disciplines, and it reflects Harvard's commitment to providing accessible and world-class education to aspiring young scientists.

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

Eligibility: Open to all high school students

Application Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis

Course Dates: Self-Paced

Entrepreneurship For All (Part I) offered by BerkeleyX on edX is an invaluable resource for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to dive into the world of startups and entrepreneurship. Taught by experienced Silicon Valley insiders, this course provides a comprehensive guide to the entire startup process, from idea conception to launch and scaling. Students gain insights into crucial aspects such as identifying market opportunities, developing business models, and crafting effective pitches. The course also covers real-world case studies and practical advice, drawing from the rich entrepreneurial ecosystem of Silicon Valley.

Designed to be highly engaging, the program includes video lectures, readings, hands-on projects, and peer collaboration. This interactive approach allows students to apply what they learn in a dynamic manner, preparing them to navigate the challenges of the entrepreneurial journey. By the end of the course, participants are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to turn innovative ideas into successful startups.

Cost: $3,094

Eligibility: One year of physics Algebra, Trigonometry Precalculus, and calculus are useful but not required

Application Deadline: January

Course Dates: July 15 to 26, 2024

From the Big Bang to Black Holes is a captivating course designed to take high school students on a cosmic journey through the mysteries of the universe. This program goes deep into the fascinating realms of astrophysics and cosmology, exploring the origins and evolution of the cosmos, from the explosive birth of the universe in the Big Bang to the enigmatic phenomena of black holes.

Students are exposed to cutting-edge research, theories, and scientific methodologies used to unravel the secrets of the universe, all under the guidance of experienced instructors. Through a blend of lectures, discussions, and hands-on activities, you will develop a profound understanding of space, time, and the forces shaping the cosmos.

The course not only fosters a deep appreciation for the wonders of the universe but also nurtures critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It provides a unique opportunity to engage with advanced concepts in astrophysics, making it an ideal program for those considering careers in astrophysics, astronomy, or related fields. The program's emphasis on scientific inquiry and discovery will equip you with the tools and knowledge needed to explore the vast, intriguing universe.

Cost: $1,950

Eligibility: Current high school juniors and seniors

Application Deadline: March 2024

Course Dates

  • Session I: June 24 to July 5, 2024

  • Session II: July 8 to 19, 2024

  • Session III: July 22 to August 2, 2024

Anatomy, Physiology, and Disease is an exceptional course designed to provide high school students with a comprehensive understanding of the human body's intricate systems, their functions, and the fundamental mechanisms of disease. This program offers an engaging and in-depth exploration of anatomy and physiology, laying the groundwork for students to grasp the complexities of health and wellness.

As a participant, you will learn about the structure and function of various organs and systems, as well as the underlying principles of health and disease. Through a combination of lectures, hands-on laboratory work (where applicable), and interactive discussions, you will gain insights into the factors influencing human health and the mechanisms of various diseases. The course covers a broad range of topics, including the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems, and examines common diseases that affect these systems.

This course not only equips aspiring healthcare professionals and future scientists with foundational knowledge but also fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills crucial for success in the field of medicine and related disciplines. By the end of the program, students will have developed a solid understanding of how the human body works and how various diseases impact its functioning, providing a valuable stepping stone for those considering careers in healthcare and biomedical sciences.

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Open to all high school students

Application Deadline: Applications accepted on a rolling basis

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

As a high school student engaging with Advertising and the Language of Persuasion, you'll embark on a fascinating journey into the realm of persuasive communication. This 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.

Throughout the course, you will learn about various techniques advertisers use to craft persuasive messages. You'll explore the role of rhetoric, the power of storytelling, and the influence of emotional appeal in advertising. The program will also cover the ethical considerations and the societal impacts of advertising, encouraging you to think critically about the information presented to consumers.

By engaging with this course, you'll develop a deeper understanding of how advertising shapes our world and influences our choices. This knowledge is not only valuable for those interested in marketing and communications but also for anyone looking to become a more informed and discerning consumer. The skills you acquire will be beneficial in various fields, helping you to communicate more effectively and persuasively in your academic and future professional endeavors.

Cost: $1,795

Eligibility: Open to all high school students

Application Deadline

  • Session I: May 26, 2024

  • Session II: June 2, 2024

  • Session III: June 2, 2024

Course Dates:

  • Session I: June 2 to 16, 2024

  • Session II: June 9 to 23, 2024

  • Session III: June 9 to July 7, 2024

Enrolling in Georgetown University’s Program in Investing is an outstanding choice if you're passionate about finance and eager to explore the intricate world of investment strategies and wealth management. This program is thoughtfully curated to provide high school students like you with a comprehensive understanding of the financial markets, investment principles, and the practical skills necessary to navigate the world of investing successfully. Taught by experienced instructors and industry experts, you will delve into a wide range of topics, including portfolio management, risk assessment, asset allocation, and the intricacies of different investment vehicles.

Throughout the course, you will gain a deep understanding of how financial markets operate and learn to make informed investment decisions. You'll explore how stock markets function and get hands-on experience with the stock trade process in the U.S. Additionally, you will learn about wealth creation, including the use of valuation models to determine a company's value and its impact on stock prices. The program also covers emerging areas in finance, such as fintech opportunities, digital assets, and cryptocurrencies.

One of the key components of this program is the Final Capstone Project, which allows you to apply what you have learned by developing and presenting your investment strategy. Successfully completing this project and the course will earn you a Certificate of Completion from Georgetown University, a great addition to your academic portfolio, as well as a step towards demonstrating interest in the university’s undergraduate program.

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re interested in pursuing university-level research, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs 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. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!

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.

Image Source: MIT OCW logo



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