Extension Schools at Major Universities
Anyone can go to Harvard. Yes, we mean that institution in in Cambridge, Massachusetts that is arguably the most prestigious university in the world. The quality of instruction there is very good. It is in the middle of the greater Boston area; a beautiful and stimulating place to study.
But doesn’t Harvard receive tens of thousands of applicants each year for just a few spots? Don’t those applicants have stellar grades and SAT scores, as well as fantastic extra-curricular accomplishments? Do I, an ordinary pretty good student, stand any chance of being admitted? (Yes, yes, and no.) And doesn’t Harvard cost about $70,000 per year to attend? You shouldn’t worry about the cost because Harvard has lots of money. It offers very generous financial aid to students from low-income, middle class, and even upper-middle class families. Only the very rich pay full-fare. This is true of all elite private colleges. It’s the getting admitted part that’s difficult. However, you can study at Harvard and earn your bachelor’s degree there without getting admitted. You can move to Cambridge, start taking classes at Harvard, and graduate with a Harvard degree without sending them an application first. Your grades and SAT scores can be perfectly ordinary, and the cost is nowhere near $70K per year.
Here’s how: Harvard University has an extension school that offers the B.A. degree. Traditionally, extension school consists of evening and weekend classes offered to working adults in Boston at a modest cost. The classes are taught on campus by regular Harvard instructors. There are no admission requirements to take extension courses, and the cost is much less than the cost of daytime courses at Harvard College. If you take at least three of these extension courses and get a B- or better in them, you will be admitted into the extension school bachelor’s degree program. That’s all there is to it. Essentially, you are treating Harvard University like it’s a community college. It’s for adults, but there’s no age requirement.
There are a few potential downsides. Your classes will mostly be in the evenings and weekends. This means you can get a daytime job. Your classmates will not be regular Harvard College undergraduates, but a more diverse group of working adults, retirees, and young people. Their academic skills may be less polished, but they will bring their real-world experience to the classroom. You will not get as much faculty advising or support as a student enrolled at a regular daytime college. You will live off-campus and not eat at Harvard’s dining halls, so your social life will be completely up to you to create. In some ways, you might not feel like a full-fledged citizen of Harvard. Even many Harvard students and staff don’t really understand what the extension school is. Your degree will say “Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Extension from Harvard University” instead of “Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College.” Outside of Boston, few people would understand this distinction. But if you are a mature and motivated person who knows how to spot opportunities and take them (as opposed to just waiting to be told what to do) and want an accredited world-class education at a modest cost, then this might be an option to consider.
All major universities offer evening and weekend courses for adults but most will not allow you to earn a bachelor’s degree this way. There are a few that do. Admission requirements and tuition costs vary and we think Harvard’s is among the most generous and accessible but here are some others:
Boston University’s Metropolitan College http://www.bu.edu/met/
Columbia University’s School of General Studies https://gs.columbia.edu/
Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies http://scs.georgetown.edu/
Harvard University’s Extension School https://www.extension.harvard.edu/
New York University’s School of Professional Studies http://www.scps.nyu.edu/
Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies http://sps.northwestern.edu/
The University of Pennsylvania’s College of Liberal & Professional Studies http://www.sas.upenn.edu/lps/welcome
The University of Virginia’s Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Program http://www.scps.virginia.edu/programs/program-detail/bachelor-of-interdisciplinary-studies