Online College Courses for High School Students: Course Overviews

Oct 20, 2021

Online College Courses for High School Students - Essential Information

Some colleges and universities offer online college courses for high school students, providing them with the opportunity to get a feel for postsecondary academic coursework. Although free online courses for 16 year olds can be a challenge to find, courses with connected tuition and fees are quite extensive. Students can find classes in a wide range of subjects, such as English, math, history, chemistry, engineering, art, health, business administration and science. These courses are usually open to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. Enrollment requirements can vary from one school to another.

Online university courses for high school students can put you on track for an early graduation.

Online University Courses for High School Students

Brown University

Brown University offers a competitive pre-college program that gives high schoolers the opportunity to experience college-level coursework and find out what subjects interest them. These in-person and online college programs for high school students are available primarily in the summer.

Pre-college courses offered through Brown University online include the following areas of study:

  • Biology and the natural sciences
  • Economics and legal studies
  • Literature, writing, and communications
  • Medical and health studies
  • Physical sciences, engineering, and math
  • Political science, philosophy, and history
  • Psychology and social sciences
  • Visual, creative, and performance arts

Oregon State University

Oregon State offers college credits for high school students online through its Ecampus. High school students taking college courses online at OSU must have a 3.0 GPA and can expect to have college-aged classmates, as all courses offered are regular college classes. Standard tuition and fees do apply.

More than 40 courses are available to high school students through OSU online, including:

  • Environmental sciences
  • Economics
  • French
  • Business administration
  • Psychology
  • Political science
  • Anthropology

University of California

When it comes to online college courses for high school students, California has a few options.

UC San Diego's FUTURES Programs offers online pre-college courses in various areas of study, including several IT courses for high school students. The courses do not award college credit, but do offer an official Award of Completion to include in admissions applications or resumes. UCSD FUTURES Programs cover these areas:

  • Business management
  • Front end web development
  • iOS programing
  • Life sciences research
  • AutoCAD

If you are looking for credit-bearing courses, UC Santa Cruz's summer session offers extra online courses for high school students through its High School Summer Online program. Summer tuition fees are discounted by 50% for high school students participating in this program, and you can choose from the full list of remote courses in the university's summer catalog. Past courses include:

  • Applied linguistics
  • Biomolecular engineering
  • Chinese
  • Feminist studies
  • Literature
  • Sociology
  • Theater arts

Syracuse University

Summer College Online through Syracuse University offers three to six weeks of online college classes for sophomores in high school up through recent graduates. Both credit and non-credit courses are available in numerous fields including:

  • Art
  • Business
  • Communications
  • Engineering
  • Health
  • Law
  • Political science
  • Writing

University of Missouri School of Medicine

Although it includes a one-day in-person component, the University of Missouri's School of Medicine does offer a program of online pre-med courses for high school students. Medical Explorations is a two-week workshop hosted primarily online and aimed at rising high school juniors and seniors interested in exploring a future career in medicine. The 2020 workshop charged a fee of $60, with scholarships available, and had two options for its on-site portion, one in Springfield and one in Columbia, Missouri.

Other Methods for Getting College Credit while in High School

Advanced Placement (AP) Courses

Many high schools offer AP courses as a part of their regular class offerings. Available subjects differ by school, and courses accepted differ by college. For most institutions, students must receive at least a 3 or 4 out of 5 on a class's corresponding AP Exam in order to receive college credit.

Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment is a little like an online college for high school students who are still taking regular classes at their high school, though some courses may only be offered on campus. College courses undertaken during the school year will typically take the place of a corresponding high school class in the student's schedule.

Depending on available programs in their local areas, students might complete dual enrollment credits at a university or a community college. Community college online courses for high school students are common and tend to be cheaper than university courses, unless you are able to obtain a scholarship or the university offers special rates for pre-college enrollees. Check with your local community college to find out what online college classes for high school students they offer. Or, check out the list below for a few of the best online college courses for high school students offered by universities.

With AP and dual enrollment classes, it is possible for freshmen to enter college with semesters of credit already under their belt, putting them on track for an early graduation or even an online associate's degree. For high school students looking to avoid hefty loans, earning these credits early may be the most economic option.

Online Certificate Programs for High School Students

Certificate programs are highly specialized and focus on practical skills needed for a specific profession. They tend to be much shorter than a degree program, and sometimes can be earned while pursuing a degree, by choosing classes required by the certificate program that also match your degree requirements. These types of certificate programs can typically only be pursued while enrolled in a degree program at the university which offers them.

Professional certificate programs vary in their prerequisites. Some may require a diploma or bachelor's degree; other's ask for a certain amount of experience in the field. Because these programs are available from a variety of institutions in a variety of fields, it will take some research to find one that matches your needs and qualifications. Be sure to check before enrolling that the program is accredited by a third party - accrediting institutions vary by field.

For high schoolers looking to get a head start on their postsecondary education, a number of higher learning institutions offer some type of online college for 16 year olds up through recent high school graduates. Free online college courses for high school students may be difficult to find, especially for students seeking credit, but many colleges offer discounts and scholarships for their programs. AP courses and dual enrollment courses are also options for high school students.

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