Summer Steps: Teach Yourself Something

Summer is an excellent time to explore a new interest, pick up a new skill, or become more comfortable with a complicated software program. Here are some resources for doing so.

Stanford has a site license to, a comprehensive and well-respected provider of online courses and tutorials. All courses are free for active students and benefits-eligible employees, and you can take them on your own time, at your own pace. advertises topics such as:

  • Business: Leadership, Marketing, Project Management
  • Creative: Audio, Music, Video, CAD, Design, Photo-manipulation
  • Technology: Big Data, Developer, IT, Web, computer-aided design

In addition to, other online platforms offer more academically oriented learning opportunities. Many are free, some are self-paced, and quite a few feature content from Stanford professors. To learn more about Stanford’s online offerings, go to the Stanford Online website. 

If online learning isn’t your style, you may also find short courses in such topics at your local community college or city/county adult education center, although they are unlikely to be free.

Or you might teach yourself how to learn, and build your defenses against procrastination; students have recommended this Coursera course.

What’s Your Goal?

Prepare for next year at Stanford

Use an online course to understand the common vocabulary and foundational ideas for classes you might take in the future. Consider a basic intro to MatLab or R in advance of taking classes that use those tools. Or learn some Python for future projects. If you'd like to brush up on a language, consider this advice offered by the Economist.

Acquire skills for the job search

Check out classes or online tutorials in applications that may show up as preferred in job descriptions, such as Microsoft Excel, Adobe InDesign, Drupal/Wordpress, AutoCad (and if you are thinking about the job search, reading job descriptions is a great first step to learn more--that’s also a good use of summer!)

Express your creative side

Get tips on taking better photographs and post-processing them. Interested in making films? Shoot some footage and learn how to edit this summer.

Explore a new academic interest

Whether you are interested in music theory, computer science, chemical engineering, or organizational behavior, the summer may be a good time to explore those interests in a low-commitment setting. Who knows, maybe this will be the start of a new direction you will pursue on campus next year?

more suggestions for making use of summer