For the vast majority, this single word immediately brings up a mental
association of “the best college in the United States.” And even for those who
would prefer to make a case for that distinction belonging to Yale, Stanford, or
MIT, a Harvard degree . . . is a Harvard degree.
But there is no way you or your children can possibly go to Harvard, right?
Believe it or not, Harvard’s Extension School has one of the most accessible
and affordable degree programs in America.
My journey began when my wife finished her Associates Degree. My wife was a
high school dropout. With some encouragement, she completed high school,
attended community college, earned two full scholarships, and graduated with a
4.0 GPA and Phi Theta Kappa honors. When we looked at transfer options, she had
several full scholarship offers from colleges in Texas and Oklahoma. However, my
wife said, “You’re the great Dr. Beasley. You should be able to find me an Ivy
League.” I didn’t think she was serious, but I thought, “Game ON!”
I knew Harvard had an Extension program, but the last time I looked, it was
limited to local students. The Internet changed all that. The Extension program
is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. As I dug deeper, I found
out my wife could do almost all her courses online, with only four courses taken
on campus. These could be taken during the summer, during a regular term, or
during their three-week January semester.
We flew up to Boston for the interview. As the interviewer looked through my
wife’s file, she stopped at her Phi Theta Kappa certificate, paused, closed the
file and said, “You qualify for the PTK scholarship.” She reached into her
drawer. “Here’s the application and I’m sure you’ll get it.” This scholarship
covers tuition for the first three courses. If you maintain your GPA, you can
qualify for continuing scholarships.
My college-prep-advisor wheels were spinning. I thought, “Homeschoolers could
enroll at Harvard online!” So, I did some investigating.
Harvard offers Associate and Bachelor degrees through their Extension School.
There are specific degree requirements, but the student has a lot of latitude.
Classes are the same as those offered to resident students. Each class is
recorded and available online within 48 hours. The Extension program is not a
correspondence course or a self-paced class. Extension students have the same
schedule and requirements as resident students taking the same class, so there
is no drop in quality and, more importantly, no drop in standards or rigor. It
is, after all, Harvard.
SAT or ACT scores are not required for admission! You have to prove you have
the capacity to tackle Harvard by completing three pre-admission courses.
Demonstrate you have the mettle for Harvard in these three courses and you apply
for admission. This is the purest form of admissions standards—by actual
performance in the curriculum. No artificial College Board testing, no elaborate
application process, just prove you have what it takes!
I continued to investigate and found there was no minimum age to apply (wheels
spinning again), making their program open to accelerated students. There is an
entry-level Associates program, but I do not recommend a homeschooler launching
straight into their program right after high school. It is, after all, Harvard,
and the course standards are just as high as they are for that student from
private school who had straight A’s and 800’s on the SAT. I think a homeschooler
needs some real college experience before making a run at Harvard.
My recommendation for homeschoolers is to complete an Associate degree at a
local college, make at least a 3.5 to qualify for Phi Theta Kappa, and apply as
a transfer student with the PTK scholarship. That’s how my wife did it and
that’s how you can save the most money. When she gets her degree next year, it
will be a real Harvard degree. There will be no asterisk at the bottom that says
Harvard Extension provides courses at a fraction of the regular tuition cost,
so it is still affordable even if you have to pay retail. In addition, Extension
students can access the full array of federal student aid, including Pell
In my mind, I kept playing with the thought of forming a cohort of
homeschoolers, connected via the Internet, to tackle a Harvard degree. What a
testimony to homeschooling and an example for others. Would there be any takers?
One last thing. The degree is in Liberal Arts. Some think that it is important
to get a degree in some specified field. My Bachelors is in Criminal Justice. I
have never busted anyone or written a parking ticket, yet it hangs proudly on my
wall with my Masters and two Doctorates. (The second doctorate is in Urban and
Public Administration. No one has asked me to be their mayor, so go figure).
Your major is not as important as having a Harvard Degree, because, after all, a
Harvard Degree . . . is a Harvard Degree.
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