It seems that as of lately a lot of students and individuals are being intrigued by the so-called extension school programs, and a lot of the information on the Internet is not explanatory enough. That is why many people tend to brush over such an exceptional educational opportunity.

Probably, the most famous and most inquired about extension school must the Harvard Extension School. In the following paragraphs we will try to explain the concept of this Harvard Extension school, but before that, let’s get an idea of what extension school program really means. An extension school or program stands for the department within the college that offers classes to students who are interested in learning more about subjects that are not available in the regular college program. The reason students apply to extension schools lies solely in their will to extend their knowledge and skills, as they don’t gain any credit. Usually, there are no enrollment requirements for extension schools, and anyone can join, from students to locals, to even the elderly. So, now that you have a basic idea of what an extension school is, let’s take a closer look at the Harvard Extension School.

History of the Harvard Extension School

According to the official Harvard Extension School site, John Lowell Jr. is responsible for its existence. In 1835, John Lowell Jr. founded the Lowell Institute, and in his will, he has expressed that he is funding an organization that will provide Boston with free lecturers on a variety of different subjects. This idea has soon become incredibly influential among institutes and known lecturers. So, in 1906, Lawrence Lowell, a Harvard professor of government, has made it public that in collaboration with Harvard University, he will offer free courses. Later, in 1909, this vision became a reality when Lawrence Lowell became the president of Harvard.

A year later, Lowell founded the Commission on Extension Courses. This was a precedent in the education system. The goal of the extension courses was to serve those who wanted to attend college but were hindered or unable because of other obligations. So, those who were not able to attend the traditional school were now able to receive an education because of these extension courses.

Harvard Extension School Today

  • Number of attendees

After more than a century, Lowell’s idea and vision is alive and better than ever. Nowadays, Harvard Extension School enrolls more than 14,000 students, who have so far received more than 800 degrees and over 1000 certificates each year. The school now offers more than 900 on-campus and online courses that are presented and directed by the Harvard affiliates or instructors, as well as business professionals and community leaders in various fields.

  • Day and night courses

The Harvard Extension Schools offers courses during day and night. Day courses are often recorded and uploaded online so that the online students can also access the lectures and what has been generally covered. Night courses often tackle almost the same subjects that are available at Harvard College; the only difference is that these are night courses, and the standard college lectures take place during the day. The format of the courses is virtually the same as the standard Harvard courses, as Harvard focuses on providing high-quality education even when it comes to open enrollment.

  • Enrollment concept

Students and individuals can enroll full-time or part-time and can apply for the online courses as a part of the distance-learning concept. To earn a degree, the students must complete a minimum number of on-campus-only credits at Harvard. On the other hand, non-degree students have access to the Harvard Library, computer facilities, and electronic resources.

  • Enrollment requirements

Harvard Extension School offers open enrollment programs, available to all students. The only thing you have to do is create an account and sign up for the classes you want to attend. You can apply for the school during the fall, spring or summer semesters. You can also apply for the graduate program, but you have to apply to at least two classes and you need to have certain grades received at the previous classes and programs.

  • Accreditation

Because Harvard Extension School is a branch of the Harvard College, it has the same accreditation as the university does. The accreditation comes from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and applies to all the classes and programs offered at the extension school. The accreditation is especially beneficial for the students who can use it for easier credits transfer when it comes to bachelor’s programs at the Harvard campus.

  • Enrollment cost

To earn a degree from the Harvard Extension School, it will cost you less than $35,000. Considering that Harvard college costs around $78,000, the Extension school seems like a better financial choice. So, to put it in perspective, you will have to pay $2,700 per course, and if you’re late with the payment you will have to pay an additional $50. You can pay for the classes via money order, credit or debit card as well as with a check.

  • Financial aid

If you choose to apply to the Harvard Extension School, the school can award you with financial aid. You may qualify for scholarships, student loans, and grants, as well as alternative loans. In order to get financial aid, you need to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the FAFSA; if you don’t do that, your financial aid will be delayed.


  1. Harvard Extension School is the first school in the country to offer distance education programs.
  1. It offers open enrollment to all students, as well as easy application and financial aid.
  1. The school offers numerous different classes and programs you can choose from, and with the completion of the classes, you will be awarded a certificate or a type of degree.
  1. There are also non-degree open enrollment classes in the school, which are also available for everyone.
  1. The classes take place during day or night and are similar to the classes at the Harvard campus.