Wednesday, May 17, 2023 by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. Students are wandering into your office, asking about summer programs that could fill what someone (like Mom or Dad) sees as way too empty of a summer schedule. My heart always went out to these kids, since they didn’t know most summer programs have February deadlines. On the other hand, most of those early registration programs cost way too much, and do way less for a student’s college application than most people believe. Searching now creates an opportunity for summer learning that can be a little more personalized, a lot less expensive, and significantly more life changing. If you’re strapped for making recommendations, try these free options that require no application essays. A free online course on mental health from Yale. College professors noticed a significant uptick in student disengagement—basically, they saw students who showed up to class, took notes, asked no questions, and went home. COVID only made matters worse, since many colleges abandoned in-person meetings for a while. Enter a psychology instructor from Yale, who saw the current mental health epidemic in the making. She responded by producing a course called The Science of Well-Being, a course which quickly became the most popular class offered at Yale. Ever. The course has been reconfigured for high school students, and is called The Science of Well-Being for Teens. It’s being offered online this summer for free, and is a perfect resource for students who need a chance to look at the big picture in their lives. Any teen can take the course, and the materials are designed for students from all walks of life—you don’t have to be an Ivy League candidate to take the course and get your life back. Free use of Planet Fitness The franchise that’s made a living promoting fitness for all is at it again, giving all teens ages 14-19 a free summer pass to use the facilities at the local Planet Fitness of their choice. Teens need to register online, and the free pass is only good for one Planet Fitness location—but being able to do something cool like going to the gym that’s air conditioned-cool is a real plus. Registered students also have a shot at earning money for their school, and making a video to be considered for a scholarship. Parent permission is needed for students under 18. Free course in financial literacy Interest has never been higher in making sure students know how to handle money— so much so that about half the states have a high school graduation requirement for a financial literacy course. Ironically, that means nearly all online financial literacy courses for high school students comes with—you guessed it—a fee. This article provides a wide array of free financial planning courses, many that address topics for adults. This page from Bank of America isn’t so much a class as a potpourri of videos and articles on financial basics, including paying for college—and again, all free. These offer a great way for students to customize their financial education. Others For students who want to do something more with their summers in addition to improving their mental health, getting physically fit, and making sure they don’t go broke, Teen Life has a comprehensive list of summer programs, including about three dozen free online courses for high school students in a wide array of topics. Add in any local or state free courses you know of, and your last-minute students are clearly in the driver’s seat for a laid-back summer of personal growth, all at no charge.