Saturday, April 05, 2008

Legacy admissions and the "Z List" at Harvard College

The New York Times takes a satirical look at legacy admissions at Harvard College:
Here at Harvard’s Office of Admissions, we have some very exciting news for you. While your SAT scores and grade point average fall below the threshold for acceptance to Harvard’s class of 2012, your Harvard parents’ dogged participation in our annual fund-raising appeals — including their generous contributions to Harvard’s recombinant DNA lab and IMAX theater — have gained you admission to a unique new program called LegacyPlus™.

With LegacyPlus™, you, the Harvard double legacy, will enjoy all of the perks of students who actually got into Harvard — except for the education part.

The Harvard Z-list is real!

There's more than a grain of truth here. Earlier in the decade, The Crimson's Dan Rosenheck documented Harvard College's "Z List," which the admissions office strenuously denied was a legacy list. Rosenheck did some digging, and found otherwise:
... If you talk to enough of these students whom the admissions office makes a special effort to bring to Cambridge, you’ll find they do have something in common: Their parents went to Harvard.

The Crimson obtained information about the legacy status of 36 of the approximately 80 Z-list students at Harvard in 2001-02. Though McGrath Lewis insists the Z-list is “not a legacy list,” 26—or 72 percent of the 36-student sample—were legacies, compared with 12 to 14 percent of the class as a whole.

Even if none of the remaining 44 or so Z-list students were legacies, 33 percent of the 80 students would be legacies—still well above the proportion of legacies in the class as a whole.

College counselors at Harvard’s feeder schools—high schools that routinely send large numbers of students to the College—are nearly unanimous in characterizing the Z-list as Harvard’s preferred conduit for qualified legacy candidates who don’t make the first cut.
Daniel Golden was even more critical in his special feature in the inaugural issue of 02138:
Harvard actually has different levels of legacy preference, systematically and in some ways elaborately distorting its standards on behalf of a certain group. While children of middle-class alumni enjoy a modest edge, which may be heightened somewhat if the parents volunteer to interview applicants or organize reunions, the offspring of major donors receive in effect double preference - both as legacies and "development cases," whose admission is considered vital to fundraising. They fly first-class through Harvard admissions, often enjoying personal interviews with Fitzsimmons and slots on the exclusive "Z" list, which ushers in, via a one-year deferment, well-connected but often academically borderline applicants.
(Golden also wrote a book on this topic, see Harvard College and the children of America's elite).

This is one area where the Harvard Extension School's undergraduate ALB program holds a definite edge over the College. Family alumni status and wealth have no impact on admissions, and neither do standardized tests. The only thing that will get you into the program are several semesters of dedicated study and good grades. In other words, it's a meritocracy.


Anonymous said...

Your last paragraph was hilarious. I am a recent grad of the College (non-legacy, non-URM, non-recruit for the record) and find it kind of funny that you call a program a "meritocracy" that GUARANTEES admission to students with a 2.5 GPA. Anyone who has been to Harvard, and especially those who have taken Harvard Extension School courses (as I did while proctoring the Summer School a few years ago), realizes that all one needs is a PULSE to break 2.5 in a semester at Harvard. Mental illness, death in the family, and unrealistic academic zealousness (eg taking 6 upper level science/math courses together) are pretty much the only reasons why a person competent enough to get into ANY college would fail to clear that bar at Harvard.

You may be interested to note that a lot of the legacy students I knew were quite smart and capable. (Hmmm... perhaps their parents may have passed on high-acheiving tendencies to them, either via nature or nurture, no?)

I like the fact that Harvard offers extension studies, and have tutored some bright high school students who were in the program. I've also met some older adults who seemed to really thrive in their extension courses. Overall, HES is a great service to the Boston community at large. I just think that it is odd that the school offers actual bachelor's degrees "in extension."

I Lamont said...

You're not the first Harvard College student to sneer at Extension School degree programs. The Crimson does so on a regular basis -- but at least writers there are not hiding behind an anonymous handle.

Nevertheless, I stand by my earlier statement: The Extension School's undergraduate degree program is a meritocracy. The same is true of my own program, the master of liberal arts (ALM) degree. Students aren't admitted until they can prove they can handle the basic class requirements over several semesters, and do well in the expository writing class (ALB) and proseminar (ALM). I haven't taken EXPO, but have several friends who have, and the consensus is the class is a bear and the instructors are unforgiving. I have been through the proseminar, and I often describe it as a boot camp for the thesis project. Even for those students who make it past the admissions requirements, there are no guarantees they will ever receive a degree. If they can't handle the sustained course workloads, research and writing requirements, and intellectual challenges, they won't receive a diploma. Period.

There's an additional fact that validates the quality of the ALM program and its students: Faculty say that many Extension School students are more dedicated than their College counterparts, and sometimes they get top grades in shared classes. This has been documented by a Crimson writer and College student; you can read about it here.

I'd like to invite other Extension School and College students to add their comments here about the two admissions systems at the College and Extension School. Debate is welcome; I only ask that the tone of the discussion not descend into flames or disrespectful language.

I Lamont said...

One other thing, anonymous: You are not the only one who is puzzled by the "in extension" designation on Extension School degrees. It doesn't make sense to us either, and frankly, it's misleading and unfair.

Anonymous said...

To the first commenter:
I finished my ALB degree a little while ago and over the course of it, got to know quite a few Harvard college students, many of who are actually down-to-earth people. I for a fact know of one - a good friend of mine - who had a 2.3 average during junior year, with none of the "conditions" that you said are being the only ways for someone not to get over a 2.5. This totally undermines your point: some Harvard college students would not have been able to get into the Extension School if they tried! How did he get into the college in the first place? Not through a meristocracy!

[Posting anony. as to not identify said person - again, a good friend even if not the best student in the world - by association with me.]

This is a very insightful blog Ian, keep up the good work.

I Lamont said...

There's a typo in my first comment that I would like to correct: In the third paragraph, "quality of the ALM program" should read "quality of the ALB program."

I would also like to request that commenters check their spelling and refrain from using all caps in words that are not acronyms or commonly used designations (e.g., EXPO).



Anonymous said...

Ian, anonymous and other College students suffer from such a strange distaste of the Extension School, that they would demean their own school in the process. What anon basically said was that Harvard is an easy school where any Joe can get a B- average. The constant attacks by College students on the Extension School have become so illogical its scary. What they are basically saying is that the University is so money hungry that it would risk potting its name and prestige on a diploma mill. But if anyone questions my ALB, then they can take it up with the University itself who will completely back up my degree with as much candor as they would one from the College. Like I have said before, the problem the ES faces is not legal, but social. No matter how many times we protest our legitimacy to this institution, our cries will fall on deaf ears because the notion of a merit based education is seen as rather low in comparison to the glamour of exclusivity.

Anonymous said...

This is the same old tired argument and complaint from both sides (HES and H).

HES is nothing in comparison to the college, obviously. HES is a diploma mill with very little/weak academic standards. What does work the FAS is the fact not many people actually finish their academic work and get a degree and of course HES is a cash-cow; I'd venture to say things would change if they were awarding 1000 plus "diplomas" err, oops, I meant "degrees" at HES.

Sure, a difference between HES and BU/BC/NU/Bentley night school is in the name - it is easier and more practical to say you are a BU/NU/BC alum [locally] than H without raising all sorts of flags.

Kids who worked their arses off and got into Harvard are proud of that, and it is misleading to say you are a Harvard alum even if you hold a "Diploma in extension Studies."

Regardless of what is perceived as fair, I have to side with the Harvard College folks on this one... and I am a HES AA ALB graduate.

I Lamont said...

To the latest anonymous commenter who says he or she is an ALB graduate:

I don't mind debating people who are hiding behind an anonymous handle, but if you want people to respect what you are saying, you'll need to back up your statements with convincing evidence, observations or arguments.

I don't see any of this in what you've just posted. In fact, there is a great deal of evidence to discount your claims, such as:

1) "HES is a diploma mill"

Wrong. Check out the definition of diploma mill established in this House bill. The criteria are "(A) lacks valid accreditation by an agency recognized by a Federal agency, a State government, or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as a valid accrediting agency of institutions of higher education" and B) requires "little or no education or course work is required to obtain such a degree, diploma, or certification." The Extension School is accredited and degree programs require tremendous amounts of work, as documented by several ALB students (see this account and the ClueHQ blog) and ALM students (see my own blog entry about this and the Mission Control blog).

2) "a difference between HES and BU/BC/NU/Bentley night school is in the name"

So, you mean the programs are basically the same? EXPO, Harvard faculty, concentrations, thesis requirement, etc.? I know that's not the case at Boston College; I took classes there in the early part of this decade, and while there was some course overlap the HES offerings were far more extensive, and the degree and certificate requirements were not comparable -- for instance, certificates required five courses and the masters' program is a general degree without any thesis requirement. You mentioned BU, Northeastern and Bentley -- what do you know about the degree programs there that makes them comparable to what's offered at the Extension School?

3) "It is misleading to say you are a Harvard alum"

Technically, you are wrong -- HES graduates are Harvard alumni. However, I do agree that there is a problem with HES students and graduates attempting to obscure their HES affiliation, or outright misrepresenting themselves as coming from the College or one of the other graduate schools. It's unfortunate, but you're certainly not helping the situation by falsely calling the school a "diploma mill."

Anonymous said...

Ian, the guy is an obvious troll. No one who applied for degree candidacy would say such ignorant things. As I have stated before, the illogical ramblings of HES detractors can be frightful. So basically the same association that has given accreditation to Harvard College is bestowing that same status on a diploma mill? Diploma mills do not have a formal admissions process, HES does. We are a part of the FAS and take our orders from them since HES proposals must be adopted by their council. We are an integral part of the University itself. What diploma mill can lay claim to that? Honestly, defending the HES from such ill-informed statements is insulting. Do these trolls not do their homework before blathering their bile? They have no room to judge. They might as well just resort to ad hominem attacks and raspberries, because they have no logical basis for which to call us a diploma mill when we’re as much a part of the university as the College and GSAS.

Anonymous said...

HES is nothing in comparison to the college, obviously. HES is a diploma mill with very little/weak academic standards. What does work the FAS is the fact not many people actually finish their academic work and get a degree and of course HES is a cash-cow; I'd venture to say things would change if they were awarding 1000 plus "diplomas" err, oops, I meant "degrees" at HES.

To produce such extrapolations, you must have attended both the College and HES. If not, these comments are merit less. If you are a true representation of HES, it is of little wonder why the College puns this school. A few of your sentences do not make sense, and your grammar is need of work.

1:10 ALM candidates graduate; 3:10 ALB candidates graduate. Assuming a margin error of +-2%, the graduation numbers are very low. This is not indicative of a "diploma mill".

Kids who worked their arses off and got into Harvard are proud of that, and it is misleading to say you are a Harvard alum even if you hold a "Diploma in extension Studies."

HES is a Harvard School. HES alumni are actual alumni, not people who dropped out. The college names drop-outs as alumni. I didn't realize Harvard degree holders are not true alumni. I guess the College has the sole rights to such a honor :rolls eyes:

The College never allowed AA degree holders to apply for admissions; They have closed the transfer window. There are HES students (like myself) would have been accepted if the option was available.

Regardless of what is perceived as fair, I have to side with the Harvard College folks on this one... and I am a HES AA ALB graduate

The veracity of your affiliation is in question. Please, do yourself a favor. Stop trolling and attend a HES writing course. We might see a Harvard level argument.

**-I apologize for any grammatic errors. I've only slept two hours overnight.**

Rodney Wilson said...

Anonymous, who claims an AA and ALB, wrote: "HES is nothing in comparison to the college, obviously."

Then why'd you go there? Did you really mean to say "nothing," or is it an exaggeration of speech?

Rodney Wilson (ALM degree-candidate at HES)

I Lamont said...

The ALB author of the ClueHQ blog has some additional perspective on the Harvard College/Extension School divide. In responding to the commenter here who claims to have an AA and ALB from the Extension School, he had this to say:

I’m doubtful that this student is really a graduate of the ALB or AA programs. If he or she is, then it’s likely that they didn’t see the life-change that they expected from completing the program. I’ve often said that a degree from HES isn’t going to change your life; it’s mainly a way to acquire the tools to change it yourself.

Another comment by the ClueHQ author points to a commonality that some College students have difficulty accepting -- ALB and College students are studying under the same instructors and are often taking the same classes, with identical demands in terms of coursework and grading:

I’ve made a special effort to take classes that are Harvard-only classes. These classes are offered to HES students via distance-ed and consist of the exact same material and exact same grading standards that the College and GSAS students experience. I took GOVT E-1780 (International Political Economy) from Jeffry Frieden and asked him directly if the grading standards were different between the College and HES. His one-word reply: “No.”

One last thing I would like to remind HES detractors about: Extension School students in joint classes with Harvard College students counterparts sometimes match or beat their grades. What does that say about the Extension School and Harvard College?

Anonymous said...

"Meristocracy?" That only served to cap off one of the least logical arguments I've ever seen, poster #4.

Ian: you seem to be a very technical person, so on the point of whether HES is a meritocracy, you were technically right. In the same way that pre-school and parole are meritocracies (you have to fulfill certain minimal merit-based requirements, such as good behavior, to be allowed to enter or stay in the program), so too is HES a meritocracy.

When I wrote earlier, however, I was alluding to the vernacular usage of meritocracy. If you look around the popular press (NYT, Economist, etc) the word "meritocracy" is usually used in connection with the very highest of achievements. Having the ability to sign your own name, pay a fee, and produce C's for four years at one of the most grade-inflated universities* in the US does not seem to fit this rubric.

I did not mean to say in my first post that I was puzzled by the "degree in distinction" designation. Rather, I am of the opinion that the school should not dilute its own name by produce throngs of grads with grammar like that seen on this very thread, all eager to "forget" to include the 'L' on their resumes. Keep the courses and certificates (such as pre-med post-bacc). Drop the A(L)B / A(L)M degree-granting programs.

*I'm referring here not just to courses at HES but also to the College. Don't delude yourself; outside of certain very specific courses, it's all curved to a B+/A-. For better or worse (worse, in my opinion), the average Harvard College student graduates with a 3.45. I presume you'll probably argue in some form: "Well, HES courses must more rigorous then because the averages are lower" or "HES grades are certainly not inflated." To which I'd argue: "The difference is all in the students' a priori qualifications for being there in the first place."

And Ian, for God's sake, call it the writing course "Expos" like everyone else does. Its not an auto show.

Anonymous said...

"And Ian, for God's sake, call it the writing course "Expos" like everyone else does. Its not an auto show."

Looks like Mr. Harvard College could have benefitted from *EXPO* at the Extension School, because his "Expos" course failed him severely. Contractions have apostrophes, and "it the" is a two-word phrase that should never appear anywhere.

I Lamont said...

Anonymous College student, I appreciate that you have returned and elaborated upon some of the earlier themes brought up in this thread. However, I find it hard to take your arguments very seriously, starting with your misguided call to eliminate the ALB and ALM programs. Your reasoning -- that there are "throngs of grads" with poor grammar and a desire to obscure the nature of their degrees -- is flawed on several levels.

First, if poor spelling and grammar by Harvard graduates are reasons to cancel degree programs at Harvard, then by the same logic the University should retire the AB degree at Harvard College, based on the errors in your two comments. They include botched spelling (look up the "i before e" rule) and, ironically, your own statement about the need to preserve high grammatical standard at Harvard ("the school should not dilute its own name by produce throngs of grads with grammar like that").

Second, you have failed to present evidence that "throngs" of people who can't spell are successfully completing the ALB or ALM programs. If you attempted to bring this claim before the FAS Faculty Council or President Faust, you'd be laughed out of the room. You're pointing to a handful of anonymous Web comments made by students. If they are so careless with their coursework, they are unlikely to matriculate or complete the ALB degree requirements. They're often taught by the same Harvard instructors as College students, and are held to the same high grading standards (see this account by the ALB blogger at ClueHQ). In the Liberal Arts ALM program, it's unlikely they'd ever get past the proseminar, or make it to the thesis stage.

Third, your assertion that ALB and ALM degree recipients are "all eager" to list AB and AM degrees on their resumes is false. Nearly every Extension School graduate I know clearly states their Extension School degrees in their credentials. Moreover, if the scenario you outlined were widespread, there would be a regular stream of media reports and Web discussions as a result, and the University would probably have to act. I have only seen a handful of accounts of HES alumni claiming AB or AM degrees since the early part of this decade. A more common scenario involves Extension School graduates who list
"Harvard University" instead of the "Harvard Extension School" in their credentials. This is unfortunate, but not surprising, since school policy allows it and many people feel stigmatized, thanks in part to statements like yours.

Lastly, I have to say that your comparison of the Harvard Extension School to the processes governing parole and "pre-school" is misguided, and frankly, quite immature. I don't think you have a clear concept of the Extension School student body, or, for that matter, the way a true meritocracy works.

By your own admission, some of your College friends got into Harvard at least in part owing to their last names and perhaps even the size of their parents' bank accounts. Others probably attended elite academies and "feeder" schools that have close relationships with Harvard and the staff at Byerly Hall. Students who matriculate into the ALB program do not have these advantages. No Extension School alumnus ever has to make the parenthetical qualification about admissions that you made in your first comment ("non-legacy, non-URM, non-recruit for the record"), nor do any alumni have to make excuses about high GPAs being the result of grade inflation. Many undergraduates at the Extension School have come to Harvard after completing high school decades earlier; they were unable to attend or complete a traditional college program because they couldn't afford it or had other, more pressing obligations, including raising children or military service. They may struggle with the undergraduate assignments and the ALB admissions requirements. Others shine, as evidenced by those Extension School students who outperform their College counterparts. Regardless of their backgrounds or their abilities in the classroom, anyone who makes it into the ALB program deserves to be there, and the smaller group of students who successfully fulfill their degree requirements deserve a great deal of respect.

Rodney Wilson said...

It's very sad to step on others in order to be taller. Why can't we just be grateful for what we have and grateful for what others have? Why the need to denigrate HES or its students?

Anonymous said...

[i]And Ian, for God's sake, call it the writing course "Expos" like everyone else does. Its not an auto show.[/i]

Interesting enough. You highlighted a spelling error. Need I post all the problems with this one statement?

Do not throw rocks from a glass house! P

Anonymous said...

There is a large flaw in the detractors argument. I did not read Ian's response in full; I have an impending Stats test. HC practices admissions based on athletic ability ( and those who make large contributions and/or have a certain name. Therefore, it is impossible to qualify the College's admission process as a true merit process.

To shun a meritocracy as a penumbra and sub-par is funny.

Anonymous said...

"And Ian, for God's sake, call it the writing course "Expos" like everyone else does. Its not an auto show."

What a hypocrite!

Anonymous said...

hi i'm stephanie, i found this site when I was trying to find out about harvard extension school's reputation. this site seems to have a lot of discussion about it so maybe you guys can help me out with a decision.....

ok, i'm a high school senior from the boston area who has always thought she'd end up at umass. my guidance counselor thought i'd have a great shot but unfortunately umass didn't! which left me with just framingham state, which seemed fine when applying originally but frankly i think after visiting has an alcohol problem as a whole. fyi -i'm not into the whole drinking scene at all. i don't know what i wanna do when i graduate college but probably something like business.

i heard about harvard extension school from another girl who did it from my church a few weeks ago and then read the article about it online. seems like a great idea, so i told my mom about it and she agreed. she's actually started telling all her friends at work that i'd be going to harvard and embarrassing me, but what are moms for anyway ;)

but when i started mentioning to people at my school and stuff that i was planning to go to harvard extension for college (not like rubbing it in people's faces, but this is a time of year when everyone asks everyone else) a lot of kids didn't know what it was and i get the feeling that some of the honor society kids have been making fun of me behind my back. if so, its probably because they're a bunch of losers with nothing better to do than make fun of others who are also persuing their educations, kind of like the first poster on this list......

but that got me thinking, if i sign up for harvard extension, am i gonna have to deal with these kind of people my whole life, either ppl who never heard of it or ppl who laugh at it? hopefully, the real world is not much like high school. i mean, from what i hear your resume is mainly important for your first job and the new york times article said that outside of boston, most firms don't recognize the difference after a few years. so i figure, harvard extension will be a good way to go for me- a serious school where people aren't drunks, which i can afford and is near to home, and has a good name for a job. by the time i finish up, i'd probably be ready to find a job in a new city anyway after living in boston my whole life!

jeez, sorry this got so long. thanks in advance for your feedback everyone.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephanie,
At the risk of Ian's blog turning into a message board of sorts, let me offer you a quick "real-world" bit of advice which I'm sure the other posters here would back up: wherever there are people doing positive things with their lives, there will also be insecure haters. Period. Just ignore them and rise above, it's that simple.
If HES is right for you, then by all means go for it! With that in mind, in my experience at HES I would say that you might miss out on some of the social parts of the college experience at HES. These things are less relevant to me - a 31 year old mom of two planning on completing my master's at HES - but might be important to someone coming out of high school. Have you thought of the plan of working really hard for one year at F-State, racking up a bunch of A's, and transferring over to UMass for the next three?
Good luck in all your pursuits!
Sara Miller

Anonymous said...

I agree. HES is really not an ideal place for recent high school grads. The community vibe at HES is almost non-existent given that most students have part time jobs and families to attend to. If you are willing to sacrifice all of the traditional norms of college, then by all means go to HES. If not, then I would recommend a traditional university.

Anonymous said...

"but that got me thinking, if i sign up for Harvard extension, am i gonna have to deal with these kind of people my whole life, either ppl who never heard of it or ppl who laugh at it?"

Stephanie, there are always ignorant people you are going to have to deal with. Besides other Harvard graduates I cannot think of anyone I know who has knocked the HES degree. I would not even entertain comments about HES from anyone who had not attended Harvard University. The fact is very few people graduate from HES.

I would encourage you to search the Harvard FAS website and look at the fact book. You will notice that the ES grants a small number of degrees. The number of Extension undergrad degrees in 2005-2006 totaled 123 and graduate degrees numbered 342.

I hardly think that the numbers 123 or 342 would equate with a diploma mill. Years ago I attended two other schools and I can tell you the classes are more rigorous at HES. I am not even a degree candidate yet at the school. You cannot just waltz in and get a degree.

The problem is with a few individuals that take classes and throw out the name Harvard. If you intend to give HES a shot, then my advice is do not misrepresent yourself. Do not lead people to believe you are a degree candidate at Harvard unless you are such. Then make sure not to mislead that you are from the College.

Sure anyone can take a class at HES. Very few can actually lay claim to having a degree from HES.

As for people "making fun of or never hearing of the school" How many people do you know that would make fun of the name of Harvard University? I would argue that the number is probably 0.

If I am fortunate enough to one day be granted a degree, I will not feel the need to defend such an honor.

Anonymous said...

ok thank you very much for your thoughtful comments sara and ian. i decided to ignore the haters and go with my gut- i am going to enroll at harvard extension in the fall! (actually, i want to get ahead so i am going to start with a summer class- any recommendations for a good start??)

sara, i think what you said makes some sense except i don't even think i see myself at framingham for one year. i don't think that social scene is as important to me as a lot of other students, but maybe if i'm really not liking the lack of 'college feel' at hes i'll try to at least have good grades and transfer to umass for the next year. of course, i'd probably catch slack from my family and whatnot for going from harvard to umass, but i have to do what's best for me! hopefully i'll like it at hes and stick it through though.

the number brought up about only 123 ppl graduating was kind of intimidating but i checked the hes site and they said they have 90% retention of their 600 undergrad students..... so it all kind of fits, about 150 per class and 90% of them graduate, maybe a bit less than 90 that particular year. [ ] i know that i am hard working and persistent enough to be in that 90. even if my past grades might reflect my parents divorce junior year, i am grateful to hes for having this opportunity for me at a decent price...... thats what america should be all about :)

from steph

Anonymous said...

As an ALB graduate, let me first declare that there is no comparison between the traditional bachelor's program at Harvard College and the non-traditional bachelor's program at the Harvard Extension School. Before all of my fellow Extension-ites pass out in disbelief, allow me to explain my point. Back in 2000 I worked as a student assistant at the Office of the Governing Boards, Loeb House. I had a very candid discussion with one of the Fellows regarding the Extension School and the school's status at Harvard. For the most part, the President & Fellows of Harvard College do feel that the degree programs at the Extension School are a strong component of Harvard's philosophical mission. Unlike most other Ivy League institutions, Harvard is the ONLY university to offer a true, world-class education to academically-enabled non-traditional, adult learners. While Columbia and Penn do have programs aimed at non-traditional students, the cost and slim evening course offerings are prohibitive to many working adults. According to this Fellow, the primary goal of the Corporation, as far as the Extension School is concerned, is to keep the programs affordable to adult students that may already be over-burdened with a variety of real life expenses. The fundamental difference between Harvard College and the Harvard Extension School is NOT in the curriculum (as the ALB is heavily modeled after the traditional AB)but in the cost of attendance. If you compare the cost of attendance at Harvard College with the cost of attendance at the Harvard Extension School, you'll immediately notice a stark differnce. That difference is of phenomenal benefit to the academically-enabled non-traditional student. We will earn a bachelor's degree from Harvard University, study with a world-class faculty, have access to a variety of resources (libraries, email accounts, facilities, many clubs/organizations etc.) and we will become alumni of Harvard University, just as anyone else graduating from the University. For the non-traditional student that wants a world-class education and desires to be a part of an instituion steeped in tradition, there is no better opportunity on the planet. I think many HES students fail to understand that the "ivory tower" is still heavily geared towards the traditional student, those young men and women just graduating from high school. A 25, 30 or 35 year old that hasn't completed a bachelor's degree will have far fewer options than a 17 year old just graduating from high school. Most often, the only viable options for older studnts are community colleges, for-profit universities and technical schools. For Harvard to present such an opportunity to non-traditional learners is outstanding and should be commended. The degree programs at Harvard do require a great sacrifice from the non-traditional learner that most traditional students may NEVER appreciate. WE Extension-ites must realize this and turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the elitist views of the Harvard Crimson. To be admitted to the ALB program, one must maintain a B average in their first three courses, complete the application and submit a satisfactory essay. This may be easy for some, but quite difficult for others, especially for those being several years removed from formal education. Perhaps the greatest sacrifice, in my opinion, is the logistical and financial sacrifice required of those wishing to enter the ALB Program. The Extension School DOES NOT offer financial aid to non-admitted students. Meaning, one must pay for at least the first three courses for admission. If one doesn't meet the GPA requirement with the first three courses, that person must then pay for additional courses or completely abandon their quest for admission. With tuition, books and supplies, the first three courses, could easily top 3K (books are very expensive). Additionally, if one wants to attend Harvard in the evening, but does not live in the Boston area, one would need to find housing on their own. Since HES does not provide financial aid, most adult learners would need some sort of employment (or have a wealthy benefactor) in order to support themselves. This usually means that one would have to work, and often work more than part-time, in addition to taking the 3 courses, getting re-acquainted with formal academics and maintaining honors-level grades at Harvard. Now add to this a mortgage, a wife, children, etc. and you now have an admissions process that self-denies those that aren't financially and academically prepared to study at the Harvard level. What's more, the admissions process also eliminates those that aren't efficient multi-taskers, being able to juggle a job, a family and an Ivy League education. In short, the admissions process at HES is indeed very clever. Any person that's able to conquer all of the above challenges has earned the right to be called a Harvard man or woman. We, Extension-ites, shouldn't focus on the differences between HES and the College. They are two very different programs that have been designed to meet the academic needs of two very different audiences. I'm a member of both the Harvard Clubs of Boston and New York City and I can attest, first hand, that there is no HES stigma amongst alumni. In reality, must non-HES alumni know very little about the Extension degree and certificate programs. What's more, many non-HES alumni aren't even aware that such non-traditional programs even exist at Harvard. I find myself explaining the program to fellow alumni that have never even heard of the ALB program. Their response after the explanation is almost always one of pleasant surprise and admiration. A handful of people that I've met at the Club have asked me to speak with their non-traditional relatives about the program. I'm proud to say that I've stolen at least two would-be applicants away from Columbia's School of General Studies as they chose HES instead. What's most amazing is that alumni, especially alumni of the College, QUICKLY abandon their sense of entitlement and elitism once they enter the work force. They quickly realize that while Harvard is an incredibly well-respected institution, they are nonetheless on equal footing with their peers from a variety of different institutions and educational backgrounds. In conclusion, Extension-ites should be proud of their outstanding accomplishments. I hate to burst the bubble of those in doubt, but Extension School degree candidates are fully-recognized Harvard alumni. Unlike the College, the ALB program assumes that its degree candidates already have the career focus and maturity necessary for success. The College prepares its youngsters for the work force and provides direction, discipline and social components necessary for their success. That's what they pay 40K + a year for. That's what the parents of these youngesters expect. They expect Harvard College to provide an environment for academic and social maturation that will carry their child into the next stages of their lives. So what many believe the Extension programs are "missing" in comparison to Harvard College, I see as simply the difference in audience. At 25, 30, 35 years old, with responsibilities, the word "college" no longer has the traditional meaning. We won't be playing frisbee in the quad or participating in study groups in the dorms, attending college parties or playing intercollegiate sports. Perhaps for some, the absence of these things puts the HES experience into question. For these people, I believe they would be better suited with a traditional college experience as they obviously desire the social aspects of the traditional college experience. For most others however, being a HES degree student includes rushing out of work to make that 5:30PM class, becoming quite skilled at finding a parking spot in Harvard Square, making it home in time to put their children to sleep, spending all night in the library doing research and working on papers, buying that jumbo cup of coffee to stay alert in class, etc. It's a different experience and we should relish it as it is our own and has been very much apart of Harvard for over one hundred years.

Anonymous said...

Chris, you said it all. HES and the College are not the same. But that does not mean HES is worth less, it only means is different. I am proud to say that I'm applying to HES next year. I'm currently working very hard to complete the required courses for admission successfully while working full-time to actually pay for them. I am a 27 year old, eager to succeed academically and Harvard Extension Schools offers the best education for non traditional students like me. Please stop trashing HES. If you don't understand the nature of the school, educate yourself in the matter before saying anything. I am sure Harvard College students will change their perceptions when they actually start living in the real word and when they actually have demanding jobs and families to take care of. Then, they will see us in a different light and they will understand the sacrifices we are making to finish what they comfortably completed. Thanks for all the comments, even the negative remarks about HES have motivated me to continue this quest to better myself.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am seriously considering joining the SEM graduate program next fall but wanted to get some feedback from anyone who has been a remote student or knows of someone who is doing this program remotely. As with most HES students, I have a very demanding full-time job and have a family.

Anonymous said...

HES’ admission process is challenging. I have worked in the entertainment business for over 12 years with tons of global/intercultural experience, I have a BS BA from Stanford and attended the ALM degree program and I can say it is enriching and rewarding in every aspect. The Extension School is a great way to reach intelligent people from all corners of our society' spectrum.