Why did you decide to earn a degree at Harvard Extension?
A work colleague suggested that I complete my college degree at Harvard. She earned her PhD from Harvard and stated that I would be a fantastic candidate for HES (Harvard Extension School). At the time, I knew little about Harvard Extension and doubted that I would be accepted or finish a program at Harvard University. Moreover, I could not quit my full-time job and move to Cambridge, MA, as I was living in the Washington DC area.
Like many students who take decades to complete a college degree, I attended various schools, specifically online institutions, later in my academic career. I enjoy online schools more than traditional brick and mortar schools because attending classes online gives me the flexibility to study anywhere. This colleague also informed me that HES was 85 – 90% online, and the in-person classes were flexible and specifically designed for working students. For years, she pushed me to try HES but I doubted that I would be accepted into the program.
Finally, after obtaining a federal government position, I decided to complete my degree to improve my professional development. HES was always in the back of my mind, so I went to the website and researched the requirements. To my surprise, I met all the criteria, and so I applied. That was five years ago, and now I am a Harvard Extension School, and Harvard University, graduate.
What was the most challenging aspect of your time at Extension? What was the most rewarding?
The most challenging aspect of my time at Extension was balancing studying and completing my coursework with my personal and professional life. Before attending HES, I took my leisure time for granted. After taking my first class, I realized I had to plan every aspect of my life to keep up with the coursework and studying. I have postponed attending birthday parties, events with family and friends, and family vacations for the last four years. Furthermore, I work in a high-intensity environment which was also challenging in conjunction with my assignments.
Some days, I felt like quitting, but I persevered to complete my ALB and ALM with prayer, determination, and support from my family, friends, and trusted colleagues.
The most rewarding aspects of Harvard Extension are completing not just one degree but two and realizing that I will be walking across the stage as a Harvard University graduate receiving my degrees. Many who desire to obtain a college degree can only dream of walking across the stage as a Harvard graduate. As a graduate, Harvard Extension School has made my dream come true.
In which ways did you connect with the Harvard community?
I connected to the Harvard community through my Cohort III (three) brothers and sisters; Cohort III was the last joint ALB and ALM program at Harvard Extension School. This program was designed to group HES students to support one another with their four-year ALB and ALM journeys. We spent one summer together (before the pandemic) and were there for one another when studying, classes, and life got rough. As we networked with academic advisors, other students, and student council members, we shared study strategies and info about campus politics and educational policy changes. When some of us attended the same classes, we partnered together and shared our collective experiences with other students. We became close friends, but we all also became an immediate family.
Do you have any advice for new students?
The advice that I would give to new students is, don’t quit. The late nights and entire weekends dedicated to studying will all pay off. Additionally, connecting with study groups for motivation and moral support is vital. New students should also remember that on occasion, you will fail—be it a paper, exam, or an entire class, you will fail. Learn from your failures, persevere, try again, and don’t ever quit or give up!
Describe your Extension School experience in one word.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.