Buying Your Way Into Harvard

When people ask me how I got into Harvard I half jokingly tell them I bought my way in. Harvard allows “non-degree candidates” to take classes via their extension school for a nominal fee of three grand or so. Pass some extra hard “gatekeeper” courses with a B average and they’ll let you into a full on degree program. They’ll even let you try again (for another nominal tuition fee of three grand) if you fail the gatekeeper courses the first time, though you’ll have to get your GPA up with more classes if you fail. Any why shouldn’t you be able to? Perseverance is a virtue after all.

In all seriousness this program is excellent. It has a flexible schedule and allows those of us with less than stellar GPAs to earn our way in. Everyone I’ve met at the extension school has been brilliant. Most of them are already in a career. I’ve met lawyers, augmented reality designers, and Harvard researchers as fellow students in my degree program (ALM Software Engineering).

The secret right now with the COVID pandemic is that they’ve waived the residency requirement. Usually one must attend classes in person for at least part of their degree. If you want a Harvard degree without quitting your job or taking a three week vacation, now is the time. However, residency is a blast. If you’re under 30, I highly recommend the Summer School for your residency. It was an absolute never ending party and you get to live in the Harvard housing system.

Alright but is this a “real Harvard degree?” Honestly, the only people I’ve met that trashes the extension school are not part of the Harvard community. If your degree raises some eyebrows during an interview, tell them to forget Harvard and explain all the amazing things you got out of your education. It is after all, an amazing education.

My one complaint: the degree naming. The diploma itself is in latin so no one will be able to read it but your degree will be in “Extension Studies”. For example “Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies”. Though no one studies “Extension Studies” at the extension school and the liberal arts education of my program consisted of one business writing class outside of the other 10 or so computer science courses, this naming scheme somehow prevails with very real consequences for people who need to meet strict hiring qualifications. If their intent was to separate extension degrees from the other 11 Harvard schools literally watermarking EXTENSION across the diploma and transcript would have been a better approach than misrepresenting the concentration.

My Idol: Elizabeth Swaney

I’d like to tell you about someone who actually took one of these crazy ideas and did it, Elizabeth Swaney, freestyle skier at the Olympics. It has always been a dream of mine to be in the Olympics, despite only being semi-athletic. I guess Swaney had the same idea. Though not quite as talented as the other competitors in the event, Swaney is an Olympian. During the event she simply skied down the half pipe, no tricks, no nothing.

How did she even get there? She qualified by attending qualifying events and simply not falling, this way she would place ahead of those who fell on all of their runs. Secondly, she represented Hungary instead of the United States. Since countries are allocated a limited number of slots, only the top few from each country could attend. These factors combined gave her enough ranking to be invited. The last thing to consider is that she basically bankrolled this entire stunt. Attending events in far away countries and getting citizenship isn’t cheap.

I love this story, she is my favorite Olympian and a fellow Harvard alum. I’ve always dreamed that one day if I became rich enough I’d try to get in for equestrian, shooting, or karate kata. Realistically I won’t be rich for quite a bit of time so I chose events where older people could keep up. I’ll keep you all posted on these endeavors…

What’s the fastest way to get a scuba diving license?

I don’t dive, but my friends do. I thought it’d be fun to open this blog with a literal dive. Scuba divers need to be certified with the first being the open water certification. Usually one needs to spend about two weekends in the classroom and diving to get a certification. Becoming a diver has always been on my radar and as I moved from California to land locked Colorado I felt my time was running out to check that box. Why do I want to become a diver? Because everyone else that wears a dive watch may find out that I’m a fraud! So with less than a month before my move I looked up the fastest way to get a license.

Can anyone do it in one weekend? Seems like the answer is yes! South Beach Dive and Surf Center in Miami Beach, Florida knocks it out in two days. Seems they accomplish this by allowing you to study on your own before the course. Last time I was in Florida I did quite a bit of free diving at Dry Tortugas National Park but next time I’ll be taking this crash course in diving.

Also of note, I found a diving school here in Colorado, didn’t expect that.