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8 Free Ivy League Courses Every High Schooler Should Sign Up For

If you are looking to enhance your applications and dive deeper into your subjects of interest, check out these free Ivy League courses that are offered online! Institutions such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton have opened their virtual doors, providing high-quality, college-level courses covering a diverse range of subjects. By enrolling in these courses, you can demonstrate your commitment to intellectual curiosity and academic excellence, showcasing to college admissions committees that you have actively sought out challenges and engaged with advanced coursework.

Participating in free Ivy League courses can help you stand out for college applications. Completing these courses demonstrates initiative, self-motivation, and a willingness to go above and beyond standard academic requirements. Moreover, it showcases a proactive approach to learning, highlighting qualities such as resilience, adaptability, and a genuine passion for education—attributes highly valued by top-tier universities. 

Below, we’ve covered 8 amazing Ivy League courses that you can sign up for. Plus, they’re completely free of cost!

Application Date: December 12

Program Dates: 12 weeks at 6-8 hours per week

Harvard's CS50x, Introduction to Computer Science, is a transformative opportunity for you to explore the world of computer science and programming. This course, led by the renowned David J. Malan, serves as a gateway to the intellectual enterprises of computer science for majors and non-majors alike, irrespective of prior programming experience. Covering a diverse array of topics including abstraction, algorithms, data structures, encapsulation, resource management, security, software engineering, and web development, CS50x equips students with a broad and robust understanding of computer science.

One of the key reasons high school students should consider taking CS50x is the course's focus on teaching students how to think algorithmically and solve problems efficiently. The curriculum includes languages like C, Python, SQL, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML, ensuring exposure to a versatile set of tools. The problem sets, inspired by real-world domains such as biology, cryptography, finance, forensics, and gaming, provide practical applications of the concepts learned. By completing 9 programming assignments and a final project, you become eligible for a certificate, marking a significant achievement and showcasing their proficiency in computer science. The self-paced nature of CS50x also allows you to navigate the course on their own schedule, making it accessible and accommodating for various learning styles.

Application Date: Rolling

Program Dates: 10 weeks (70 hours)

Yale Online's Essentials of Global Health gives you an introduction to the complexities of global health, making it an ideal learning experience for high school students. The course is meticulously designed to provide you with a clear and structured understanding of global health issues, emphasizing five fundamental questions: What are the causes of illness, disability, and death? Why do these conditions persist? Who is most affected by these health challenges? Why should we be concerned about these issues? And, importantly, what can be done to address key health concerns efficiently, rapidly, and sustainably?

With a global scope and a specific focus on low- and middle-income countries, health disparities, and the well-being of the poor, Essentials of Global Health delves into critical topics related to health systems, the interconnectedness of health and development, and the global interdependence of health issues. The course goes beyond theoretical concepts, offering a practical orientation that equips you with the knowledge and skills to understand and address real-world health challenges. The course encourages critical thinking about why global health matters and inspires a sense of responsibility in finding effective and sustainable solutions.

Application Date: December 12

Program Dates: 7 weeks at 2-5 hours per week

PrincetonX's course on Civil Liberties allows you to explore crucial issues in civil rights, making it an invaluable experience for high school students. This course delves into topics such as slavery, segregation, abortion, campaign finance, free speech, religion, affirmative action, and marriage. By examining historical contexts and influential thinkers like John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Hayek, and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as landmark Supreme Court opinions, the course provides a comprehensive understanding of the foundations of civil rights and liberties in the United States. 

A distinctive aspect of the course lies in its commitment to fostering an environment that encourages diverse perspectives. Students are guided through the majority and dissenting opinions in pivotal Supreme Court cases, including Dred Scott v. Sandford, Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, Citizens United v. FEC, and Obergefell v. Hodges. The aim is not to seek unanimity of opinion but rather to deepen understanding and critical thinking. The course challenges you to explore your own views—whether liberal, conservative, or otherwise—sympathetically but also encourages you to engage with alternative viewpoints.

Application Date: Rolling

Program Dates: 3 weeks at 2-3 hours per week

BrownX's Introduction to Engineering and Design is a great way for you to explore the exciting world of engineering. Throughout the course, you will delve into the primary fields of engineering, gaining insight into the intricacies of the engineering design process. From conceptual design and optimal choice evaluation to prototyping and project construction, this introductory course provides a comprehensive overview of the fundamental principles that underpin engineering. Specifically focusing on key engineering fields, including Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Materials, and Mechanical Engineering, the course offers a unique opportunity for you to hear directly from industry experts. These professionals will share insights into the design challenges within their respective fields, providing a real-world perspective that enhances the learning experience.

A standout feature of this course is the practical application of knowledge through the "Design Challenge." Students will have the opportunity to apply what they've learned in real time, engaging in the process of designing, constructing, and testing a prototype. The course offers flexibility, allowing students to choose between CAD-based design or actual physical build, ensuring a tailored and hands-on experience. They will develop the skills necessary to conceptualize, design, build, and assess prototypes that address real-world engineering problems. 

Application Date: Rolling

Program Dates: 24 weeks at 9 hours per week

Columbia Engineering's AI Boot Camp for high schoolers is a great opportunity for you if you’re interested in Artificial Intelligence (AI). This will allow you to explore the realms of programming, data preparation for AI, and machine learning, thus providing you with a comprehensive foundation in the fundamental concepts that drive AI innovation. You will dive into the intricacies of programming, gaining hands-on experience in data preparation specifically tailored for AI applications.

The curriculum extends beyond technical skills, addressing crucial aspects of AI ethics. As you navigate through machine learning fundamentals, you will also engage in discussions about the ethical considerations that accompany the deployment of AI technologies. This unique component of the bootcamp ensures that you not only acquire technical proficiency but also develop a nuanced understanding of the responsible and ethical use of AI in real-world scenarios.

Columbia Engineering's AI Bootcamp also explores the fascinating realm of Natural Language Processing (NLP), a field integral to AI applications such as chatbots, language translation, and sentiment analysis. This hands-on experience in NLP equips you with the skills needed to navigate the evolving landscape of AI and harness its power for effective communication and problem-solving.

Application Date: December 19

Program Dates: 4 weeks at 3-4 hours a week

PennX's course, "Hollywood: History, Industry, Art," is a great way for you to explore the multifaceted world of the film industry. Throughout the course, you will gain a deep understanding of the history of the studio system, and dive into the evolution of Hollywood as a cultural and artistic powerhouse. The curriculum guides you in honing your analytical skills, teaching you how to critically analyze films and appreciate the artistic elements that contribute to cinematic masterpieces.

An integral part of the course is an exploration of how Hollywood has adapted to and embraced new technologies within the film industry. Students will learn about the dynamic relationship between technological advancements and the creative processes that define the art of filmmaking. The impact of global audiences on Hollywood is another key area of study, providing insights into how the film industry has responded to diverse cultural influences. The course also examines the complex relationship between Hollywood and independent media, shedding light on the dynamics of the broader media landscape. In exploring how Hollywood has reacted to major political events, you will gain valuable insights into the intersection of cinema and socio-political contexts. The course concludes with a forward-looking perspective, exploring what the future holds for Hollywood in a rapidly evolving global landscape.

Application Date: December 19

Program Dates: 6 weeks at 4-6 hours a week

CornellX's course, "A Hands-on Introduction to Engineering Simulations," is a unique and hands-on opportunity for you to dive into the world of engineering simulations. Tailored for aspiring engineers and those curious about the field, this course explores big ideas in finite-element analysis and computational fluid dynamics, essential components of modern engineering. You will gain practical experience in fluid dynamics simulations using Ansys Fluent™, a powerful tool widely used in the engineering industry. The course extends its reach into structural mechanics simulations using Ansys Mechanical™, allowing students to explore the complexities of engineering structures.

A key focus of the course is understanding the mathematical models that underlie simulations, providing you with a strong theoretical foundation. Through hands-on projects, you will apply these models to simulate real-world applications using Ansys® software, gaining valuable insights into the practical aspects of engineering analysis. The course also emphasizes the crucial processes of verification and validation of simulations, ensuring that you learn how to rigorously check their results against hand calculations and real-world benchmarks. This attention to detail is fundamental for building confidence in the accuracy and reliability of engineering simulations.

Application Date: December 19

Program Dates: 4 weeks at 2-4 hours per week

DartmouthX's course, "C Programming: Getting Started," begins with foundational concepts, guiding you to define and distinguish key terms such as hardware/software, computer programs/algorithms. A significant focus of the course is on mastering the concept of variables. You will not only understand the theoretical underpinnings of variables but also gain practical skills in declaring, initializing, and modifying variables of data types such as int, double, and char. This hands-on experience with variables forms a crucial aspect of building a solid foundation in programming.

As you progress throughout the course, the course delves into creating and commenting on simple C-programs. These programs are designed to print text, special characters, and variables to the screen with controlled formatting. This practical application of programming concepts allows you to see your code in action and understand the real-world implications of their work. The course further expands into more complex programming structures, guiding you in creating C-programs that utilize for-loops to repeat blocks of instructions. This introduction to loop structures provides you with the skills needed to create efficient and scalable programs, a fundamental aspect of programming logic.

One bonus opportunity - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you would like to further expand your academic portfolio, 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: Ivy League logo



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