Harvard Extension

Has anyone done their postbac studies (or thinking of doing their postbac studies/knows someone who is or has) at Harvard Extension School? Is it really Harvard? Would it carry the same weight as Harvard proper?

I think it depends on what you mean by “really Harvard.” It’s a Harvard school and many classes and syllabi are what traditional Harvard undergrads will get. But there is a hard line between the extension school and college.

Maybe someone who goes/went there can say better, but I also heard that classes are huge. If that’s a factor for you, you should consider whether you do better in a smaller setting.

(And in any case, you shouldn’t assume a Harvard name will get you a leg up vs. doing well at any school for post-bac studies and getting adequate preparation for the MCAT.)

My point was: does it carry prestige like Harvard college. Also, obviously there’s no silver bullet to medical school; i.e., whether you do a diy or structured post-bac program, the only way to secure a seat is through hard work. Again, however, I realize that name goes a long way and I only want to align myself with a well-respected program.

  • Tallulah Philange Said:
.... but I also heard that classes are huge. If that's a factor for you, you should consider whether you do better in a smaller setting.

And in any case, you shouldn't assume a Harvard name will get you a leg up vs. doing well at any school for post-bac studies and getting adequate preparation for the MCAT.)

And the reason the classes are so large is because most of students think having the Harvard name through an extension school is going to significantly help them.

I heard it straight from the mouth of an acdom AT Harvard, taking classes through the extension program doesn’t give you a leg up on anything in the admissions process.

If it was me, I’d look at the track record of students getting accepted into medical school instead. There are a couple of well-known post-bac super stars (Bryn Mawr, Goucher, Scripps, etc.) but probably a lot of programs who have a great track record.

I’d ask first how many people finish the program (high drop out rate is a red flag) and how many of those remaining are accepted. That, to me, demonstrates a solid program with good preparation for the MCAT.

Well, I kinda disagree, since dropout and retention rates are important for institutions but not so much for me, as I know my work ethic and whether someone else decides to follow-through or not is not my concern. Similarly, how many students get accepted to medical school each year from a certain post-bac program doesn’t say much either, since I would really have no idea why a particular student or set of students received acceptance. Additionally, not all medical schools are made alike. Again, however, while where a certain number of students go post their post-bac is not a good predictor for me personally, I’d rather attend a pos-tbac connected to Ivies than a post-bac known for simply sending students to just any medical school.

I just asked about Harvard Extension, because it’s no secret that the Harvard names carries an unrivaled preeminence. I was just wondering if the same held true for its Health Careers program.

Well, everyone has their opinions. One individual won’t deter me if I find sufficient evidence that doing a post-bac at a certain institution will benefit me and my ultimate goals. If nothing else, it’ll carry an intrinsic value and it’s no secret that thoughts become things. Again, though, there are many variables that go into being accepted to the medical school of one’s choice, but attending a “big name” post-bac couldn’t hurt. I’m still just wondering if the Extension school lives up to its name.

The Harvard Extension School name does not carry “unrivaled preeminence.” I agree with Tallulah, who named several “bigger name” programs that carry more weight with med school admissions committees, and have better track records – not just for sending students to any medical school, but for sending them to top medical schools. These programs have such good relations with some med schools that the schools waive the MCAT requirement (or accept much lower MCAT scores than their mean) for their graduates under some circumstances.

I think it’s fairly well known (at least in academia) that Harvard Extension is not the same as Harvard. For example, unlike Harvard, the Extension School will accept just about anybody, and even if they do reject someone, that person could just enroll as an independent student. This may be why the drop-out rate is so high – the screening process essentially takes place in the classroom rather than by an admissions committee.

If you feel strongly about the Ivy League stamp, I’d say that Columbia would be the bigger name brand for postbac premed programs. Maybe even UPenn as well. But that being said, I personally think that Harvard Extension is a better deal – although not the “best,” Harvard Extension is a very good program, and MUCH more reasonably priced (I believe it’s the cheapest non-community college option in the Boston area). I had friends that went there, and actually almost went there myself. If you’re able to successfully jump through all the postbac hoops and get a committee letter, you will have gotten a lot of bang for your buck. It will get you where you need to go (but so would many other postbacs!)

Just a minor correction, I never said Harvard Extension carried preeminence. I actually said the Harvard name carries preeminence. I’m still not sure where you’re getting the distinction between Harvard Extension and Harvard College. This, however, is really the whole point of my post; i.e., getting to the root of whether Harvard Extension is well respected by association.

I know there’s some elitism floating around the distinction being made between the extension and the college proper, but the same could be said for Columbia University’s college and its school of general studies. People have denigrated it as the “easy” way to being aligned with the Columbia name, but I don’t pay much attention to people who need to feel validated because they think their exclusivity is being threatened.

Obviously these Ivy institutions aren’t stupid. They know they’ll get money from those who can buy their way in,sorry but it’s true that most of the lore surrounding Harvard is due in large part to their endowment, which is padded by legacy–not necessarily exceptional students, but such institutions are, I think, more interested in non-trads and have started competing for their attention accordingly. With all that being said, I would still like to be aligned with a “big name.” I ask again, then, does anyone have solid information regarding Harvard Extension’s Health Careers program?

Poster ttraub was a Harvard Extension alum, but unfortunately was dismissed from medical school.


“Dismissed from medical school”? I don’t see anything stating that in the post. Anyhow, thanks for all the posts everyone.

ttraub posted at least 200 times. He chronicles his dismissal on his online diary:



Late reply, but I just saw this topic. I am taking biochem at extension school now and I can say that probably taking courses here or elesewhere would not make a huge difference - both in terms of the ‘weight’ or substance. I took most courses in George Mason before I came here, and I honestly think some of the courses at Mason are taught either at the same level or better (for me at least). The teacher at Harvard is wonderful, but the problem is the class size. It’s huge, and you will not have easy access to the teacher.

But you may get other kinds of benefits being in Boston. I came to Boston, not because I wanted to take courses at Harvard but because there are more opportunities for clinical experience, research, etc. I am working closely with great primary care doctors (which I want to be) as a volunteer in one of the Harvard teaching hospitals. I relocated to Boston against many people’s advice not to, but I am happy here now.

You can contact Harvard extension school health career program adviser (phone number is listed on web)- I called the adviser many times asking about the course selection, etc before I decided to take a course here. They are helpful.

Good luck.