How to take Yale’s ultra-popular ‘The Science of Well-Being’ course online for zero dollars


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Yale students aren’t just studying law, medicine, and other core college courses—as it turns out, some are looking for something a bit more meaningful. For example, after only a few days into the spring 2018 semester, 1,200 Yalies—AKA a quarter of the undergrads at the university—were signed up for a twice-a-week lecture with one main focus: teaching students to be happier. However, even if you’re not enrolled in the Ivy League institution, you can now take the class for free, right on your computer.

The course, Psychology and the Good Life, is the most-popular in Yale’s 316-year existence, The New York Times reports. In fact, enrollment is so high, it had to be moved to Woolsey Hall, which usually hosts symphony performances. The demand for the course, taught by psychology professor Laurie Santos, PhD, basically proves that college students, especially at institutions known for stress-inducing academic rigor, are prioritizing wellness.

The online equivalent, “The Science of Well-Being” opens enrollment today. Once you’ve made an account online, you’ll have access to all the course materials without dropping the thousands of dollars that you would to walk the halls of the esteemed institution. If you do want to make things official though, you can opt to pay $49 for a certificate of completion to hang over your desk as a constant reminder that you’re more or less a wellness pro.

“The Science of Well-Being” opens enrollment today. Once you’ve made an account online, you’ll have access to all the course materials without dropping the thousands of dollars that you would to walk the halls of the esteemed institution.

According to the class description, “The purpose of the course is to not only learn what psychological research says about what makes us happy but also to put those strategies into practice.” According to IRL Yale students, these skills are much-needed. “In reality, a lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb,” said Alannah Maynez, a freshman enrolled in the course. “The fact that a class like this has such large interest speaks to how tired students are of numbing their emotions—both positive and negative—so they can focus on their work, the next step, the next accomplishment.”

“Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus,” Dr. Santos said. “With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.”

“Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus. With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.” —Laurie Santos, PhD

Of course, some students are simply taking the course because they consider it less work. “I wouldn’t have known about the course if not for word of mouth, but it’s low-pressure, and maybe I’ll learn a few tricks to having a less stressful life,” said Riley Richmond, a senior who is taking the class along with some friends. For the most part though, the class already seems to be making an impact on college students at Yale, and now you, too, can get in on the (digital) wisdom.

Originally published on January 31, 2018; updated on October 19, 2018 with additional reporting by Kells McPhillips.

Try these Buddhist-approved ways to boost your happiness. Also, learn why happiness doesn’t always correlate to healthiness.

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