Taking Free Online Summer Courses


Tips for High School Students

Summer Course Options

There are a number of courses offered on websites like EdX and Coursera that are free for students to try. This summer students can explore various subject areas that are of interest to them, and use the certification the websites provide for their college applications. These courses allow students to learn more about subjects they are interested in taking at university or just explore topics on their bucket list. The courses can provide students the opportunity to build their academic profile for the college application.

The Certificate Option

On these websites, students have the option of getting a certificate once they have completed the course. This option allows students to access all of the course materials and have their assignments graded.  Students can use the certificate to show that they have successfully completed the course. This means that students have to be committed to doing the work required by the course.

If the course is not what you imagined it would be, then make sure you read the refund policy for the certificate option. If you are exploring classes in the academic field you want to pursue and you do not like a course, figure out why you do not like it. Is it the subject matter? Or is it a teaching style? Or is it too much of a time commitment for you right now?

Time Commitment for Online Courses

Each of the courses lists how much time you need to set aside each week and/or how many weeks the course will take to complete. You need to pay attention to the amount of time needed each week or the total amount of time needed to complete. These are online courses and sometimes it is hard to fully engage in an online lesson which means that it may take you a bit longer each week to get through the lesson. You also need to see how long the courses last so you are aware how many weeks you will have to dedicate to each course you decide to take. It may be prudent to sign up for one course at a time. Once you have finished with one, then move on to another. This may also give you the ability to do more than one week’s worth of course material in a class if you are so inclined.

How many courses should I take?

Take courses to explore your areas of interest, but do not do it if your only intention is to rack up certificates for your courses. You can read books that can help you explore your interests rather than taking courses. You do not need to take courses to do so.

Use these course offerings as a means to explore topics that interest you or the career or academic pathways you want to pursue. It may not help your academic profile if you have a slew of random certificates in areas unrelated to your area of study. Choose what you want wisely.

Why Pay for the Certificate?

There are plenty of free courses on the websites mentioned above, but quite a few of them offer the option of getting a certificate upon payment of a fee. The Common Application, used by almost 900 universities, asks students if they have taken a college course with a transcript or for a certificate. It allows students to upload their certificates for the purposes of the application. The information about these courses can also be entered in the University of California applications under the Activities and Awards section.

Keep track of your certificates if you plan to upload them for your college application. Maintain electronic and paper copies of your certificates.

Are the courses being offered by reputable institutions?

On Coursera and EdX, the university that is teaching the course is clearly listed and there are reviews that have been submitted by people who have taken the course (unless it is new.) You have the ability to do your due diligence to see if you want to pursue the course. Some of the courses are taught by universities abroad, so make sure that the course is taught in English if you are taking a course unrelated to languages.  The name of the university and the instructors for the courses, provided in the course description, can be used to learn more about the university, the staff who are teaching the class, and their qualifications.

Are there other ways to use these courses in the admissions process?

If you are taking these courses to learn more about subjects you want to pursue at university, you can talk about it in your supplemental essays, for instance. Doing the coursework can help become the basis for more advanced projects, internships, or courses you can undertake to further your academic interests as well. It can help enhance critical thinking skills, or simply give you new perspectives on other academic subjects you are taking. Take time to reflect on how these courses you are taking have impacted you and what you have learned about yourself through the process or how you have changed as a result of the course(s) you have taken.

You can also just take courses on building so-called “soft skills.” There are courses offered to build skills in areas like public speaking, improving study habits, creative writing, among many other personal development areas. These are tools that will help you throughout high school and college.

Choose wisely and enjoy the courses you try. Hope you learn something that truly helps feed your quest for knowledge. 

Here are some websites which provide free courses with certificate options —





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Do you need help with selecting courses to take for the coming school year? Finding and Choosing extracurricular activities? Or help with summer courses and activities? Contact Veena to learn more about how The Summit  can help you with all of these tasks.