(See note at the bottom of this post regarding 2014 change in official guidelines) If you are a graduate of the Harvard Extension School, how should you list this accomplishment on your résumé, or on LinkedIn?
That’s easy. You type “Harvard Extension School” in the place where the university name is supposed to go. For the degree name, write out “Bachelor of Liberal Arts” or “Master of Liberal Arts”, or type the official designation, ALB or ALM. Then add “Museum Studies”, “History”, “Biology”, “Information Technology”, “Management”, or other concentration in the place where the field of study is listed.
Simple, right? It clearly identifies the school you attended, the degree you received, and your area of concentration.
However, for some Harvard Extension School graduates, it is not so simple. For evidence of this, take a look at this comment on a recent Atlantic essay about the Extension School:
I have a master’s degree from Harvard obtained through the HES. My diploma says Harvard University (in latin no less). I have had headhunters and recruiters question me on it and state that it was misleading for me to list Harvard University as my school. My diploma says Harvard University, my classes were all taken on campus at Harvard (before online classes were popular), so many had to be taught by Harvard professors and not instructors, I completed all the degree requirements. I don’t see anything misleading and I don’t know how else to list it on my resume.
The headhunters are right. It is misleading. Every student and alumnus at Harvard identifies with the school he or she is affiliated with. And, like it or not, “Harvard University” is synonymous with “Harvard College” in the eyes of the public, and many people in the corporate world. At the graduate level, “Harvard University” is associated with the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences programs that lead to MAs and PhDs. The Extension School is very, very different than the College or the advanced programs in GSAS.
As for the comment that she doesn’t know how to list the name of her school on her resume, why not list “Harvard Extension School”?
This question gets to the heart of the identity issue. Some graduates don’t want to admit they attended the Harvard Extension School, because of the stigma associated with the part-time program. Other Extension School graduates deliberately take advantage of the “Harvard University” label to mislead people into thinking they attended the highly selective College or GSAS programs. Indeed, every few years in The Crimson there are reports of Extension School students (matriculated or not) insinuated or outright claiming to be College students to other people at Harvard. It happens all the time.
But there’s another possibility: The Extension School tells its graduates that it’s actually OK to use “Harvard University” as long as graduates also include the bogus “in Extension Studies” designation when spelling out the name of the degree (NOTE: The guidelines changed in 2014; please see the update at the bottom of this post):
No one at the Harvard Extension School majors in “Extension Studies”, so why do we have to state this on our résumés? The only reason I can think of is to compensate for the misleading use of “Harvard University”. But if you are clearly stating the name of the school (e.g., Harvard Extension School) instead of “Harvard University” there is no need to add this inaccurate qualifier to the name of the degree.
Of the Extension School graduates who do state “Harvard University” on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles, most leave out the required “In Extension Studies” label that the Extension School demands. Their argument: “Harvard Extension School is one of the 13 degree-granting schools, therefore I have the right to use ‘Harvard University’.” It’s a convenient excuse that lets them sidestep the stigma and questions from colleagues and recruiters. The comment above as well as many of the responses to this blog post reflect this attitude.
There is an exception to the official Harvard Extension School résumé guidelines: People who have completed the ALM in Management (ALMM) program are supposed to use “Harvard University” and “Extension School”, but not “In Extension Studies”. Here’s the screen shot from the current Extension School website:
Why this exception? My guess is the Harvard Business School got tired of fakers running around suggesting that they had completed the MBA program …. or the Extension School wanted to avoid friction with the B-School.
The Old Guidelines Were Bogus, Too
It should be noted that the guidelines have changed several times since I started the original Harvard Extension blog. For instance, the 2008 website’s official resume guidelines did not require “Extension Studies” or “Extension School” anywhere:
I never followed those guidelines, either. I felt “Harvard University, Master of Liberal Arts, Concentration In History” was misleading and not representative of the degree that I earned through the Extension School. I have always used “Harvard Extension School” on my LinkedIn profile and paper versions of my resume, and clearly state this fact on this blog and elsewhere.
- Be proud of your school. As anyone who has completed the ALB or ALM programs know, it requires years of dedicated study and some extremely challenging academic requirements, from the Harvard Extension School admissions requirements to the ALM graduate thesis. People who take online classes have it even harder, as there are no nearby students to turn to for support and it’s often impossible to ask questions during class or interact with faculty.
The Extension School’s official guidelines obfuscate the degree and serve no one except for those graduates who want to claim “Harvard” on their resumes while avoiding the actual name of the school (no longer true since the Extension School updated its guidelines to allow “Harvard University Extension School” while dropping “in Extension Studies”).
- If you insist on using “Harvard University” on your resume while knowing that most people reading it will assume it refers to Harvard College or GSAS, you’re either fooling yourself or are deliberately misleading people. When people find out, it not only makes you look bad, it reflects badly on all of us.
- Be clear about where you attended school at Harvard, and be clear about what you studied. People expect it, and it’s the right thing to do.
Update: A comment on this post in October 2014 alerted me to the change in the official guidelines. The school now allows two methods of listing your Extension School degree on your resume:
Bachelor [or Master] of Liberal Arts, Harvard University Extension School. Include concentration or field of study, minor, and degree honors when applicable.
Bachelor [or Master] of Liberal Arts, Extension Studies, Harvard University
Clearly the school wants alumni to include “Extension” somewhere in the listing.