How to Stay Educated as an Adult
Free apps, podcasts, and classes for keeping your mind active.
With the return of a 3:00 PM rush hour and droves of backpacked munchkins running around, you might be asking yourself, “Should I go back to school?” Well, maybe not. It’s hard to find even an hour to yourself in this cruel, corporate world, let alone the money to do anything during it. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of free educational tools you can use at home or on the go—everything from iPhone games to online classes—so you can keep your wits sharp, your wallet fat, and your free time free. As Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever.” If that doesn’t sound like popping open a 6:00 PM bottle of Sav Blanc and throwing on an educational podcast, we don’t know what does.
Whether you’re a finance bro or a freelance blogger, increasing your vocabulary is a great way to garner respect from your peers. Beyond that, learning new words is part of the experiential knowledge sphere called crystallized intelligence, which doesn’t diminish as you age. That means you can keep at it well past your retirement date.
Who says you should only learn English words, though? Brush up on a few romance languages before your next transatlantic escape. You better keep at it, though, or that little green bird will haunt you in your sleep.
Luminosity’s fun, colorful games will help train your brain as old age barges through your door uninvited. Better yet, the app introduced a mindfulness component so you can stave off anxiety and keep your thinker on its feet.
David McRaney’s You Are Not So Smart: A Celebration of Self-Delusion explores the psychology behind our species’ biggest social blunders. Why do we stay in failed relationships? Why don’t we speak out against the societal norms we despise? If you can stomach a little smartassery, this is the podcast that will tell you.
This podcast really doesn’t limit itself—learn about anything from the Iran-Contra scandal to human cannonballs in just 40-something minutes. There’s even a section about famous murders, if you’re into that kind of thing.
The title is pretty self-explanatory. If you remember little from history class beyond “In fourteen-hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” (cough cough and began a long history of exploitation and cultural demise cough cough), SYMIHC will help fill in the blanks.
If your dreams of going back to school remain a velleity (n. a wish or inclination not strong enough to lead to action), Word of the Day Twitter—your daily dose of dictionary snippets—is your new best friend. Bonus points if you try using your new vocabulary in a sentence.
The literary circle’s response to the plague that is instapoetry, the Paris Review’s Instagram page posts excerpts from noteworthy poems and short fiction. Sorry, no cutesy flower doodles here.
If you’re not much of a literary snob, but you’re into science and the environment, follow the Pop Sci Facebook page. They’ll teach you all there is to know about cats, crash diets, and ocean plastics in easily digestible posts.
With information on everything from anatomy and sex to the agricultural revolution, Crash Course’s hilarious animated videos are the perfect tool for learning everything you missed in your 101 class.
Best known for quashing popular debates such as “Which is more painful: giving birth or a kick in the balls?” (I think we know the answer, ladies), ASAP Science answers the questions your science teacher probably rolled her eyes at with hard facts and charming whiteboard animation.
Physics tricks, impossible math problems, and plasma via grapes in a microwave are among the irresistibly clickable topics of Derek Muller’s YouTube videos. Watching Veritasium makes you feel like you’re goofing off, even though you’re basically taking a crash course in astrophysics.
You, too, can go to Harvard—better yet, from the comfort of your couch! Yes, these are real Harvard courses, the ones you’d take if you attended the university in person, and you can take them no matter what your SAT score was.
Like Harvard X, Coursera brings you real university courses (over 3,000 of them!) from schools and companies across the globe. This is the best place to get certified in computer programs or take classes from accredited universities without the hefty price tag.
Ah, Khan Academy, every millennial’s favorite replacement AP teacher. With courses in everything from Preschool to Personal Finance, this online learning platform is useful at all stages of life.
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