Recent ALB graduate, and newly admitted candidate in John's Hopkins MLA program as a liberal arts major.
1. What made you choose Harvard Extension?
The first online program I tried in 2004 at another school was disappointing, but then several years later I was perusing the web and found several schools that offered online degrees. When I discovered HES, my mind was made up. I wanted to be a Harvard student! I wanted it at eighteen years old and I wanted it even more at fifty-seven years old.
2. How long did it take to complete the degree you sought?
I sought an ALB degree and it took nine years to complete. (I had to drop a course five times due to caring for a terminally ill family member). Once I was free of that obligation, I attended summer school, fall and spring semesters and J-term for the last 3 years. This is the first time I have had a free summer in years. Yes, I am very bored and miss being a student!
3. What is your favorite Extension experience?
My favorite time at HES was attending mandatory weekends in Cambridge. I think that the weekend experiences offer the opportunity to explore the incredible Harvard experience that cannot be conveyed online. I arrived for those weekends full of hope and a bad case of the nerves. I would leave with several new friends, a favorite professor, and definitely certain of my goal to graduate.
4. Were you a distance student primarily? How did you form friendships with other students you may have only met online?
I was a distance student 100% of the time, except for J-term. The friendships that I made online were/are very special. The mandatory weekends only served to cement some great friendships that I have made. There is a lot to be said for the experiences we share with others. Hence, reunions. Need I say more?
5. Did you have any professors that really stood out? Why?
I was struck at how my professors worked with me to succeed and to flourish. The opportunity to have dinner or coffee with my profs was beyond my expectations. Perhaps I was a bit naive, but experiences like sharing a meal and friendship made a huge difference in the quality of my work and the desire to excel. Imagine, the look on a friend's face when you mention you are having dinner with your Harvard professor...priceless. But, the profs are in fact generous with their time, knowledge, encouragement, and unwavering support for students who are truly engaged in their studies.
6. If you had any struggles, how did you overcome them?
I was not exempt from scholastic struggles. If I was going to fail as an ALB candidate, it was going to be Math E-3 that was the keeper of the gate. Lots of blood, sweat and tears, and all the support in the world from my wonderful professor and his very supportive TA's couldn't put Georgi together again. Harvard Accessibility and Student Services suggested that I be evaluated and I was diagnosed with a cognitive and conceptual deficiency that affects my math skills. Once we had a diagnosis, HES worked with me to achieve my my math requirement.
And, that is how I finally made it through Math E-3 with a B-, and lots and lots of hard work. There is a saying "you have got to know it cold" and that is my advice for Math E-3.
7. What do you recommend every Harvard Extension student do to make the most of their experience?
All of my experiences at HES were valuable and served a purpose. Sometimes it is a simple as checking an assignment with a fellow student. Other times, your classmate is wiping your tears (Math E-3) and making you whole again. There is laughter and tears. There is victory and defeat. I feel that we cannot have one without the other.
Most of all, the most meaningful experience for me was attending weekend courses and being a real Harvard student in Cambridge. It seems that when the best and the brightest are gathered together as a whole, we really shine. Cambridge has its own ambiance that embraces every visitor. I was no exception. I love the food, the bars, the bookstores, where it is expected that one may be studying a text and there is no glaring or rushing, just a smile and an offer to refill your coffee cup. A special place for those who wish to savor academia at its very best.