The University Network

Free Online Courses to Help You Prepare for College

As students look ahead to fall, colleges are announcing reopening plans for the coming semester after closing early due to the spread of COVID-19 this past spring. While a majority of colleges are currently planning on reopening campus and holding in-person classes in the fall, some are preparing for a semester of virtual courses and others have announced hybrid plans that include a mixture of online education and in-person classes. 

The transition from high school to college courses and a college workload can be a difficult experience in any year, but incoming freshmen in 2020 face even bigger hurdles. Students looking forward to at-home learning may have a harder time accessing resources like tutoring and professor office hours. Even on campuses that do reopen, social distancing measures may make it more difficult to form study groups and seek out help with their coursework.

College preparedness is always important, but given these obstacles, incoming freshmen in 2020 should do all they can to ensure they are prepared for colleges to the best of their ability.

One effective way that students can get ready for college coursework is by taking online courses in their major or in subjects they anticipate studying in the fall. Getting a taste of the pace and rigor of a college class before starting in earnest can help make the adjustment easier.

With that in mind, here are some excellent online courses that students can take for free to prepare for college:

Humanities and Law

Academic Writing Made Easy – Technical University Munich

Another great writing course for incoming freshmen that will help you learn the tenets, techniques, and style of academic writing. Learn how to structure and edit your writing to make it clearer and more cohesive, as well as strategies for overcoming writer’s block and other common issues that writers face.

  • Level: Introductory
  • Instructor: Heidi Minning, Lecturer + 10 more
  • College credits: NO — Verified Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a $49 fee to earn and buy a Verified Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

International Women’s Health and Human Rights – Stanford University

This course focuses on global issues of women’s health through the lens of human rights. With lessons on a variety of issues affecting women of all age groups, in many areas around the world. An important course for students interested in international politics and humanitarian work.

  • Level: Beginner
  • Instructor: Ann Firth Murray, Consulting Professor in Human Biology
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Love as a Force for Social Justice – Stanford University

This sociology course explores the potentiality of love as an agent of social justice. The course will delve into love as a philosophical and religious concept as well as its application in political theory and practice.

  • Level: Beginner
  • Instructor: Ann Firth Murray, Consulting Professor in Human Biology
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Masterpieces of World Literature – Harvard University

What better way for an English major to prepare for college than by learning about the classics. This course covers ancient and modern major works in international literature, from “The Epic of Gilgamesh” to the writings of Salman Rushdie.

  • Level: Introductory
  • Instructor: David Damrosch, Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature + 1 more
  • College credits: NO — Verified Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a $149 fee to earn and buy a Verified Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Health Sciences

Child Nutrition and Cooking – Stanford University

Eating habits during childhood have long-term effects on health and wellness. This course examines the effects of processed foods on childhood health and lifelong well-being. An excellent course for students interested in nutrition or pediatrics.

  • Level: Beginner
  • Instructor: Maya Adam, MD, Lecturer
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Introduction to Food and Health – Stanford University

Nutrition is the issue at the center of some of the most important issues in public health. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and obesity are rooted in diet, food access, and nutrition. This course explores the complex relationship between food and public health.

  • Level: Beginner
  • Instructor: Maya Adam, MD, Lecturer
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Math and Computer Science

Introduction to Mathematical Thinking – Stanford University

If you are planning on studying mathematics, this course can help you prepare cognitively for your major and future career. Stanford’s “Introduction to Mathematical Thinking” teaches students how to think critically and creatively about mathematical concepts and problems.

  • Level: Beginner
  • Instructor: Dr. Keith Devlin, Co-founder & Executive Director of H-Star Institute
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Computer Science: Programming With A Purpose – Princeton University

An introduction to major concepts in computing, this course is a great opportunity to develop a familiarity with the basics of computer science before diving into more advanced topics. Undeclared students who are considering a computer science major may also want to take this class to get a sense of the discipline.

  • Level: Beginner
  • Instructor: Robert Sedgewick, Professor of Computer Science
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Cryptography I – Stanford University

With the continued expansion of the digital world, cybersecurity has grown into one of the most important fields in computer science. In this course, students with some computer science background can dive headfirst into cryptography, a central tool in protecting digital information and one of the most relevant and interesting topics in computer science. Students who enjoyed this course and are eager for more can take Cryptography II, which will cover more advanced cryptographic tasks.

  • Level: Beginner
  • Instructor: Dan Boneh, Professor of Computer Science
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Algorithms Specialization – Stanford University

Algorithms are a central topic in computer science, one which all programmers need to be familiar with. The Stanford University Algorithms specialization is a rigorous but largely big-picture set of courses designed for students with at least a little programming experience.

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Instructor: Tom Roughgarden, Professor of Computer Science
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Introduction to Logic – Stanford University

An introductory course on logic through a computer science lens. Learn about logic technology and its applications in science, mathematics, engineering, business, and more.

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Instructor: Michael Genesereth, Associate Professor of Computer Science
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Machine Learning – Stanford University

Machine learning is one of the fastest-developing and most interesting fields in computer science. Take this course to develop your familiarity with fundamental concepts in data analysis and probability modeling. 

  • Level: Advanced
  • Instructor: John W. Paisley, Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Columbia University
  • College credits: NO — Verified Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a $249 fee to earn and buy a Verified Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Probabilistic Graphical Models Specialization – Stanford University 

Probabilistic graphical models are a tool used frequently in machine learning, and therefore a crucial topic for students interested in engineering artificial intelligence. This is a great introduction to common types of probabilistic models including Bayesian networks and Markov networks.

  • Level: Advanced
  • Instructor: Daphne Kohler, Professor of Engineering
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

General Sciences

Basic Analytical Chemistry – University of Tokyo

In the University of Tokyo’s “Basic Analytical Chemistry,” students learn about the role of analytical chemistry in experimental science, as well as its applications in industry and clinical settings.

  • Level: Introductory
  • Instructor: Takeaki Ozawa, Professor of Analytical Chemistry + 1 more
  • College credits: NO — Verified Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a $49 fee to earn and buy a Verified Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life – MIT

If you’re planning on pursuing a biology or pre-med degree, this is a great course to help you get up to speed on some of the concepts you may cover in your first semester classes. In it, students learn about the structure and function of biological macromolecules like DNA, RNA, and proteins and their functions in the body, as well as the function of heredity and the communication of information between cells. 

  • Level: Introductory
  • Instructor: Eric S. Lander, Professor of Biology + 4 more
  • College credits: NO — Verified Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a $150 fee to earn and buy a Verified Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science – Harvard University

Taking this course is a fun and interesting way to engage with major concepts in physics. Explore how cooking — and the physical transformation of food during cooking — elucidates various principles of chemistry, physics, and engineering. During the course, you’ll hear from various renowned chefs about different cooking techniques and explore how their techniques can be explained through science.

  • Level: Introductory
  • Instructor: Michael Brenner, Glover Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics + 2 more
  • College credits: NO — Verified Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a $169 fee to earn and buy a Verified Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Writing In the Sciences – Stanford University

This course teaches students to produce clearer and more communicative technical writing. Students will learn strategies for writing quickly and effectively and also how to write in the style and format of various kinds of scientific writing, including grant writing and writing for general audiences.

  • Level: Beginner
  • Instructor: Kristin Sainini, Associate Professor of Health Research & Policy
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Business

Advertising and Society – Duke University

This course examines advertising from a sociological perspective. Explore the history of advertising and its role in the economy and in culture.

  • Level: Beginner
  • Instructor: Aric Rindfleisch, John M. Jones Professor of Writing + 3 more
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Organizational Analysis – Stanford University

In Stanford’s “Organizational Analysis” course, students learn about various theories of organizational management, behavior, and change. A must-take for students interested in careers in management.

  • Level: Beginner
  • Instructor: Daniel A. MacFarland, Professor of Education, Sociology & Organizational Behavior
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Digital Marketing Specialization – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

21st century marketing lives on the internet, such that digital marketing and social media marketing have grown into multibillion dollar industries. In this digital media specialization, you’ll learn important strategies, practices, and trends in digital marketing and internet advertising.

  • Level: Beginner
  • Instructor: Aric Rindfleisch, John M. Jones Professor of Marketing + 3 more
  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES

Business Strategy from Wharton: Competitive Advantage – University of Pennsylvania

In this course, learn how to build a long-term business strategy that gives a company a sustainable advantage over its competitors. Learn crucial tools and frameworks used to develop organizational strategy and efficient business models.

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Instructor: Nikolai Siggelkow, David M. Knott Professor of Management
  • College credits: NO — Verified Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a $199 fee to earn and buy a Verified Certificate 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES