Top 10 Summer Courses for Students

Updated June 7, 2024 | Originally Published July 8, 2022

School’s out for summer! In addition to your summer reading, spend this summer learning how to turn equations into strings of code or how to practice rhetoric and persuasive speech. With online education at your fingertips, the opportunities to boost your knowledge are endless.

There’s more to school than just reading, writing, and arithmetic and now is the perfect time to expand upon your core subjects and open up a world of possibilities.

Whether you’re trying to enhance your college application, want to get a head start on your fall semester courses, or are looking to develop further skills for your entry into the job market, here are our top 10 Harvard Online courses students should take this summer:


10. Data Science Principles

An understanding of data is essential in today’s world. Perfect for those with no data background, Data Science Principles prepares you to speak the language of data science and contribute to data-oriented discussions within your classes, career, and daily life. Data Science Principles makes the fundamental topics in data science approachable and relevant by using real-world examples and prompts you to think critically about applying these new understandings to your workplace. Get an overview of data science with a nearly code- and math-free introduction to prediction, causality, visualization, data wrangling, privacy, and ethics.

Cost: $950 for a 4-week cohort-based certification course

Apply with a .edu email address and get 30% off this course!

Note: You must be 18 years or older to register for this course.

9. Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking

This self-paced course is an introduction to the theory and practice of rhetoric, the art of persuasive writing and speech. In it, learners will learn to construct and defend compelling arguments, an essential skill in many settings. This course will help you analyze and apply rhetorical structure and style, appreciate the relevance of persuasive communication in your own life, and understand how to persuade and recognize when someone is trying to persuade you

Cost: $209 for Verified Certificate or free to audit the self-paced course


8. Outsmarting Implicit Bias

With Professor Mahzarin Banaji as your guide, you will hear from industry leaders on how unintended bias seeps into the daily work of organizations and how they developed practices to detect and challenge this bias in the workplace. You will practice proven strategies to avoid common pitfalls and gain valuable resources that will help you outsmart implicit bias at work. Engaging exercises will often surprise you and reveal how your perception doesn’t align with objective reality. With reflective questions, you will begin to draw your own conclusions about the unintended impact of implicit bias and why it may impede your effectiveness as a member of your organization.

Cost: $550 for a 3-week cohort-based certification course

Apply with a .edu email address and get 30% off this course!

7. Shakespeare’s Life and Work

Learn how to read William Shakespeare's plays through his biography, Elizabethan and Jacobean history, and modern performance. Moving between the world in which Shakespeare lived and the present day, this self-paced course will introduce different kinds of literary analysis that you can use when reading Shakespeare. With short videos filmed on location in England and readings covering topics like Shakespeare's contemporaries and the politics of modern performance, you will learn a range of critical tools that you can use to unlock the meaning and relevance of Shakespeare’s plays.

Cost: $149 for Verified Certificate or free to audit the self-paced course

6. Data Privacy and Technology

 Through real-life examples with industry experts, policy makers, and privacy researchers you’ll gain privacy and data protection training, examine legal and ethical implications of collecting personal data, understand who’s responsible for protecting personal data, and comprehend why antitrust and privacy laws are unable to keep pace with the rapid change in technology. 

Cost: $950 for a 5-week cohort-based certification course

Apply with a .edu email address and get 30% off this course!


Note: You must be 18 years or older to register for this course.

5. Managing Happiness

Led by Harvard professor, author, social scientist, and former classical musician Arthur Brooks, this self-paced course will introduce cutting-edge survey tools, the best research, and trends in social science, positive psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy to help learners unlock the strategies to create a more purposeful life, full of long-lasting enjoyment and satisfaction. Managing Happiness uses philosophical and technical insights to challenge your assumptions about happiness — helping you break bad habits that hold you back and build good ones you can use for the rest of your life.

Cost: $219 for Verified Certificate or free to audit the self-paced course

4. Justice

This introduction to moral and political philosophy is one of the most popular courses taught at Harvard College. Taught by lauded Harvard professor Michael Sandel, Justice explores critical analysis of classical and contemporary theories of justice, including discussion of present-day applications. Topics include affirmative action, income distribution, same-sex marriage, the role of markets, debates about rights (human rights and property rights), arguments for and against equality, and dilemmas of loyalty in public and private life.

Cost: $209 for Verified Certificate or free to audit the self-paced course

3. We the People: Civic Engagement in a Constitutional Democracy

In this self-paced course, you will gain a foundational knowledge of American constitutional democracy and understand how to encourage others to explore their own civic paths, while in parallel crafting your own civic voice and identity. You'll learn about rights and responsibilities, constitutionalism, the philosophical foundations of democracy, and the levers of change. This course is built on more than ten years of academic research through the Democratic Knowledge Project, an initiative of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.

Cost: $149 for Verified Certificate (edX Scholarships available!) or free to audit the self-paced course

2. Exercising Leadership: Foundational Principles

The crises of our time generate enormous adaptive challenges for our families, organizations, communities, and societies. In this introductory self-paced course, you will explore strategies for leading in a changing world where adaptive pressures will continue to challenge all of us. You will discover new ways to approach complex organizational systems and take thoughtful action on the work we all face ahead. Most importantly, you will reflect on how to move forward on the leadership challenges you care about most.

Cost: $209 for Verified Certificate or free to audit the self-paced course

1. CS50: Introduction to Computer Science

This is Harvard’s world-famous CS50 course. An entry-level, self-paced course taught by David J. Malan, CS50x teaches students an introduction to computer science and how to think algorithmically and solve problems efficiently. Topics include abstraction, algorithms, data structures, encapsulation, resource management, security, software engineering, and web development. Languages include C, Python, SQL, and JavaScript plus CSS and HTML. Problem sets inspired by real-world domains of biology, cryptography, finance, forensics, and gaming. No prior programming experience needed.

Cost: $219 for Verified Certificate or free to audit the self-paced course


Ready for a bigger challenge this summer?

Our MicroBachelors in University Chemistry is a more robust program that provides college credit while maintaining the same easily accessible, online, and self-paced format as our other courses!



Our various courses and enrollment options provide flexibility so you can learn for pure enjoyment (by auditing our edX courses for free) or learn to strengthen skills that can help you in your career (with our edX Verified Certificate options and Data Science Principles course). edX courses also offer financial assistance and scholarships for students who qualify.

So, which courses are you taking this summer?

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