Yale offers popular ‘Good Life’ lessons to high school students

Illustration, laptop with a yellow happy face and happy students.
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In 2018, Yale Professor Laurie Santos introduced a new course, “Psychology and the Good Life,” to address the growing mental health needs of students on campus. It was an immediate success, attracting more than 1,200 undergraduate enrollees that first semester before it was transformed into the most popular online course in Yale’s history.

Beginning Feb. 2, the course will be offered for free to more than 550 low-income high school students across the United States. The students will receive free college credits upon completion. 

Our goal is to equip students with scientifically validated strategies for living a more satisfying life, while also creating opportunities for high-striving low-income students and students of color to demonstrate college-readiness,” explained Santos, professor of psychology and head of Silliman College at Yale. 

This new program — which was developed in partnership with the University of Connecticut and the National Education Equity Lab with support from the Arthur M. Blank Foundation — will be offered in more than 40 Title I schools from 17 cities, including Atlanta, New York City, Los Angeles, and New Haven. In addition to receiving access to Santos’ lectures, students will be supported by both a local teacher at their high school and a Yale Teaching Fellow.

It is an honor to be involved in this widespread effort to broaden educational opportunities for the diverse student population enrolled in this course,” said Zach Silver, a graduate student in psychology at Yale who is one of the teaching fellows for the new course. “I am thrilled to share my passion for this material with students across the country.”

The class, which will be slightly modified from the original, will present students with scientifically validated strategies for living a more satisfying life and examine what psychological science shows about how to be happier, how to feel less stressed, and how to flourish more. Students will also have a chance to put these scientific findings into practice.

Yale is proud to be a key partner in this exciting new project,” said Tamar Gendler, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Yale. “Part of Yale’s core mission is to improve the world today and for future generations through research and education. The program will provide high school students from underserved backgrounds with the opportunity to learn about both cutting-edge scientific research and some of the world wisdom traditions from one of Yale’s greatest teachers — at no cost to them. It will encourage them to think of themselves as strong and engaged students, ready to take on the challenges of post-secondary learning and living.”

The original “Psychology and the Good Life” course attracted such a large enrollment of students that it was moved to Woolsey Hall, the largest concert hall on campus. The class has since spawned both a massively successful online course, “The Science of Well-Being,” available for free on Coursera with over 3 million enrollments to date, and the hit podcast “The Happiness Lab,” a top 5 Apple podcast with over 30 million downloads.

This is a really challenging time, and that means that students need to learn new strategies to protect their mental health,” said Santos. “Our goal is to give students the tools they need to flourish and feel better. But in addition, we can give students a rigorous Yale educational experience and an opportunity to see that they have what it takes to succeed in college and beyond.”

Educators, students, or parents who would like to bring “Psychology and the Good Life” to their schools can express interest on Santos’ website.

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Media Contact

Bess Connolly : elizabeth.connolly@yale.edu,