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Harvard for Homeschoolers

By Dr. Kuni Beasley
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #105, 2012.

A Harvard education is within the reach of your homeschooler. Here's how.
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Dr. Kuni Beasley

Disclaimer: At the time of writing this article (2012) it was possible for homeschoolers to apply to Harvard Extension School as presented in this article. This opportunity was available at least until 2018, when NBC news reported a Kansas teen completing high school and Harvard at the same time.
We have been notified by Harvard Extension School that their policies have changed, and specifically, “students must have received a high school degree five years prior to registering in any Harvard Extension School courses.” They also no longer offer an associate’s degree.
For their latest admissions policies, go here.
Harvard! 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 “Transferred here.”
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 Grants.
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.
For more information: www.extension.harvard.edu.
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