Educational podcasts have conquered the niche of edutainment, perfectly combining our urges to learn and spend time meaningfully. Podcasts are now your best partner for commuting or doing household chores, but why not use them to upgrade your knowledge of college subjects or learn something completely different? To save your time, we have made a list of the best lifestyle and educational podcasts that can spur your curiosity and boost your academic performance—in humanities and in STEM subjects.
There are more than 30 million podcast episodes out there, and the trend is still rising! Further podcasting statistics can be found here. You won’t be surprised that a big chunk of those episodes has been recorded in the past two years. Why have podcasts become so popular? One can just shrug their shoulders in ignorance, but let’s get updated on this crucial trend! There is a vast Quora thread with enlightening thoughts about this “renaissance of radio storytelling,” the role of iPods, and the attention economy. However, the most important factor is probably the most obvious—podcasts are an ideal fit for our schedules and interests. You can be literally anywhere, do almost anything, and pause at any moment. Podcasts in English cover nearly every topic that can exist. If you can think of a subject that is not covered, maybe it’s an excellent chance to start your own podcast! The same Quora thread discusses that excellent podcasts can be produced with little investments, the biggest being your time and passion.
Below you find a list of 18 hand-picked podcasts that you can enjoy this summer and beyond, covering various desires: for science-enthusiasts (even as a professional, you can find impressive materials), for history geeks, for cosmos programs fans, or just for those who want to get top-notch lifestyle advice. We’ve tried to offer you something beyond TED Talks Daily, In Our Time, or Radiolab (those are fantastic shows, don’t get it wrong). The podcasts listed are especially popular among students: they enhance your living quality and help you prepare for the coming academic year. These encouraging thoughts stimulate your engagement with major subjects (be it medieval history or ornithology) or trigger you to pursue completely non-conventional topics!
Have you ever wondered if those self-help books work in the everyday life of an average person? Is it possible to live «by the book» and the hacks and values it promotes? We end up with these thoughts, especially after reading another book on harmonizing sleep or enhancing morning routines. Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer do the job for you—they choose a self-help book and try to live «by it» for a week, sharing their experiences in this podcast. They select recent bestsellers like Miracle Morning or “classics” like How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. First, in a 40-min episode, the hosts discuss their thoughts about a chosen book and summarise it for all the listeners. In a follow-up episode, Jolenta and Kristen relate to how these self-help tips work in real life, with all its ups and downs (and hilarious moments, of course). Following their stories, you might change your opinion of many popular tips of self-help gurus. And most important—you get first-hand proof that there is no one size to fit all.
Tim Ferris is an acknowledged guru of self-effectiveness and a successful entrepreneur—we’ve covered his life and the most important books in another post. His show consists of interviews with well-known businessmen or celebrities. However, Tim doesn’t try to discover an ultimate secret or a one-time hack behind these stories of success (because there is no such thing). He brings to the surface the routines and everyday decisions that these happy and well-established people have made. Tim Ferriss often includes follow-ups on his favorite books. This podcast is encouraging and, at the same time, down to earth, full of thoughts and actions you should implement early in your professional life. You can binge-listen to all those episodes or look for a person or a sphere you’re interested in. Seeing Hugh Jackman invited for the recent episode made my day!
Gretchen Rubin, the author of best-selling The Happiness Project and Better than Before has her own podcast! No wonder it’s also devoted to simple things and practices that can make your life happier and fuller. She co-hosts the show with her younger sister Elizabeth Craft, though sometimes they invite special guests. Longer episodes devoted to specific life strategies alternate with 3-minute tips for making you feel better and, yes, live happier.
As undergrads, you might think that we are not “old enough” to deal with money and related issues. However, the student debt, the rising educational costs, and the recent crisis—all these tendencies suggest that we should be wiser and more strategic with our finances, the earlier the better. The hosts Joel and Matt are no business gurus or investment professionals but down-to-earth guys who offer you manageable and practical advice. How to Money is a very accessible podcast about the ways to navigate your budget and be smarter about finances.
Society and History Podcasts
In this podcast, David Runciman revisits great thinkers’ ideas and evaluates their importance for modern culture and politics. If now Aristotle and Fukuyama are just names in your textbooks—listen to this podcast. You realize how these ideas, expressed decades or thousands of years ago, are still shaping our society and the way we think about recent political events. History of Ideas is a side-project of another popular show—Talking Politics—which is also worth being on your list!
It is one of the most shrewd and acute podcasts of the year. Together with invited specialists, the host records amusing talks on a variety of topics, from health care systems and digital thinking to UFOs. The show has more than 400 episodes, and the quality often varies: some questions are clearly better researched than others, while some guests are not extremely attractive as personalities. This show still gives credit to the broad intellectual horizon of the host and his editing team.
This podcast rectifies the situation of an average person not knowing much about women’s history. Each episode is only 5-minute long, but in so little time, it does what many history classes failed to do—tells us about a woman and her input in our societies. Its scope is not bound to any period, which is an excellent start for your personal exploration! If you want to dig deeper and get a bit more scholarly perceptions, get Natalie Zemon Davis’ Women on the Margins. It is a brilliant guide to women’s lives in the early modern world.
What was in the minds of the world’s cruelest people? It’s a frightening but very addictive way to look at history. This show doesn’t invite any expert historians; it is the host who does his homework—collects fascinating facts about the world’s most evil people and groups and compresses them in a very comprehensive narrative. As the story unravels, the host discusses some of its elements with a guest—mostly by joking (which can be a bit annoying, honestly). Although the episodes mainly discuss personalities that can be characterized only as bastards, some special sections uncover real heroes, like Raul Wallenberg.
This podcast presents yet another narrative that you won’t learn at school. Dan Carlin doesn’t merely retell the facts but dissects them in an incredibly thoughtful and innovative way. Some of his approaches will make the “academic” historians’ hair stand on end (like comparing the Holocaust and Julius Caesar’s subjugation of the native Celtic peoples). But the host is not a professional scholar either—he is a journalist, giving us a very fresh and memorable perspective of histories. The reviews are telling—4.8 stars, saying that this is “the most addictive, riveting, and thought-provoking history podcast. Ever.”
In 20-30 minutes, Stephe West explains the most significant philosophers’ contributions, spiced up with the right amount of humor. If you are new to the world of philosophy, you should listen to this show in chronological order—that will equate to an average college history of philosophy class! Even if you don’t have finals in philosophy in your nearest future, Philosophize This! helps to boost any of your essays or presentations and just to enhance your understanding of life.
The memory palace, produced by Nate DiMeo, is one of the most glorified history podcasts out there. It sounds more like chunks of thoughtful investigative prose, and nothing like a boring history textbook. The show does not rely on any chronological order or geographic borders—you can start wherever you like and enjoy this piece of historical storytelling.
Every week Malcolm Gladwell—a celebrated journalist and author—chooses a new historical moment, captivatingly dissects and explains it to his audience. Sometimes you’ll listen about world-changing events, and other episodes are devoted to something overlooked or seemingly unimportant. This is an insightful and educating entrance to the world of history podcasts and a real delight for all history enthusiasts.
Science Educational Podcasts
This podcast is a universal soldier — it covers almost anything, from biology and PR to psychology and recent digital trends. It is actually quite useful to start exploring “what’s out there”, which might help choose your major or prepare for college. The show is co-hosted by Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark, who are not professionals themselves; the two friends relate their own stories of exploring specific topics they find meaningful. If you really want to upgrade yourself on a particular topic (like space engineering), you should turn to podcasts co-hosted by professional scientists or practitioners. Nevertheless, SYSK will give you many laughs and a never-ending feeling of discovering something new!
Well, it won’t. But the topics that are discussed might be quite frightening! Just kidding, this medical podcast is enlightening and life-saving. In each episode, an ecologist and an epidemiologist Erin Welsh and Erin Allmann Updyke discuss a single disease, its history, and modern treatment. The question “will it kill you” is also covered (yes, they do have a special series on Covid-19). The show is suitable for medicine geeks or people who just want to get more educated in this field. Above all, this podcast will be a great helping hand for those students starting in biology or epidemiology this year!
In this show, invited scientists are talking about their narrow fields in an extremely entertaining way. As this podcast unfolds, you learn about so many “ologies” out there you wouldn’t even think about! Philematology (the science of kissing, omg), or pelicanology (yes, about pelicans)… maybe you’ll find a niche for your own scientific fever too? Here is a useful list of all the sub-fields covered, so start exploring right now! It is especially suitable for freshmen: where else would you learn about all these scientific fields? Not from the school biology textbook for sure.
This long-running show was first launched on the radio in 2001 and is also available as a podcast! It covers the latest scientific discoveries and launches interviews with practicing scientists. These one-hour episodes are suitable for teenagers and adults alike — you’ll discover that science is fun, after all! In a way, The Naked Scientists is somewhat similar to Nature podcast, run by the most prestigious scientific journal.
It is an official NASA podcast from Johnson Space Center! You will hear scientists, astronauts, engineers, photographers, and many other employees chatting about their jobs related to the space program. For anyone intrigued by the discovery of space, it is a great way to learn more and listen to first-hand experiences of people who bound their lives with the space project.
This podcast consists of stories from the National Geographic head office (in its idea, the show is very similar to the NASA podcast). It is hosted by Peter Gwin and Amy Briggs, who talk with real explorers, scientists, photographers, and other people involved at National Geographic about their jobs, worldview, and daily lives. The show is incredibly entertaining and will make you great company during those 20 minutes a week. You can listen to it alone or with your family and friends — then the conversation will be continued in real life! It’s also extra handy that each episode’s transcripts are available on their website.
And last but not least: don’t forget that if you’re learning a foreign language, podcasts are a huge help. You can find slow news in a target language, entertaining audio sitcoms, and much more!
We hope you find this list of educational podcasts inspiring. You will enjoy some of these themes in your spare time, whether as an entertaining time-filler or as a way to boost your studies and proficiency in subjects you have at college. And lifestyle podcasts can definitely help you make your life more efficient and wondrous!