The question of whether any achievement from the Harvard Extension School carries the same academic weight as actually going to Harvard is an important one for prospective and current students. It’s important not to be misled by rumors and perceived reputations before investing money in your education.
To begin with, a Harvard Extension Degree is not the equivalent of a Harvard College degree. While it is associated with the Harvard “brand” the coursework is designed primarily for people who are more casual in their pursuit of a formal education. This gives a certain number of “regular” Harvard privileges to enrolled students, but you are definitely not a regular Harvard student.
Acceptance to the school is not achieved by simply having great grades and submitting an application. The general criteria for admission requires you have some real world, verifiable work experience and some recent college credits before you will be considered. After meeting these requirements there are three mandatory courses you will have to take and successfully complete to the satisfaction of the admissions committee. You then can begin your pursuit of your Bachelor’s degree.
Your SAT and ACT scores will not have a significant impact on the admission committee’s decision. One reason is that the Extension School is designed for more non-traditional students. In fact, one of the most commonly scrutinized qualifications is your current or very recent job history. Current achievement trumps what you did in high school 5 years ago.
While the Bachelor’s degree will be in Liberal Arts, there are a number of very non-Liberal Arts concentrations you can pursue. These include Biology, Computer Science, and Mathematics. On the Social Science end you can choose from Economics, Psychology, and Government. Your choice of connecting your major with the Harvard Extension School name can have a major impact on getting your next job.
Chances are that your classmates will not be high school graduates trying to get the Harvard name on their resume. Statistically, the average age of a Harvard Extension school student is 34, and has around 5 years of real world work experience. Many are using the Extension School to move on to graduate studies at the school after firming up their undergraduate coursework. That average age sometimes comes with an older, previously achieved undergraduate degree from another school.
The value of your Harvard Extension School degree is not a guarantee of a job just because you have the Harvard brand on your resume. But according to some sources it has the potential to get your resume noticed and separated from the rest of the pack. To that end, you will want to develop as many network relationships at the school as you can, since this is reported to be a major factor in being hired at a future position.
Your professors at the Extension School are not likely to be regular Harvard University teaching staff. This means that while you do get to carry the Harvard brand, the coursework is not as rigorous as the University. Keep this important point in mind as when you present your resume to a potential employer listing Harvard University as your alma mater will be easily understood by employers who have actual Harvard University graduates there. If you didn’t have Professor Smith who teaches Symbolic Logic at the university you likely will not know their teaching methods or other basic information every university student who actually did attend his classes is very familiar with.
It is not an online degree program. This is a common misperception because it contains the word “extension.” The Harvard brand is something that has significant value, a fact the university is very aware of and protects. It is not possible to complete a degree program without being physically present on the Harvard campus for some period of time. This is beyond the residency requirement, also necessary to be awarded a degree. The best way to think of Harvard Extension School coursework is it is a hybrid of online learning and on campus learning. It should be noted that it is possible to schedule your classes so you can plan to spend some time in the Cambridge area to meet the requirements.
There are a number of other misconceptions, but most fall into the general category of believing that the Harvard Extension School is the online version of the Harvard school for non-traditional students. Many people are rudely awakened when they discover that they have to take three courses even before being considered to submit the application. Then there is the reality it is not just an online course but a serious institution of higher learning in a somewhat less intensive learning environment. The website has a ton of quality information to help you know what you are up against.
Written by Garrett Parker
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