The Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree is designed for adult students age 21 or older who do not already have an undergraduate degree. The total required credits are 128 (about 32 courses). You may transfer up to 64 credits from other schools.
The degree is highly customizable. You fulfill one specific course requirement (EXPO 25), and all other degree requirements have multiple choices. Simply select the courses that meet your learning goals.
Concentrations and Fields of Study
To focus your studies, you have two choices.
For maximum flexibility, choose a broad area of concentration. You can take degree courses from any of the subject areas within a concentration.
The concentrations are:
- Humanities (including creative writing, English, philosophy, religion, visual arts)
- Science (including biology, computer science, environmental studies, mathematics)
- Social sciences (including anthropology, business administration, economics, international relations, psychology)
Fields of Study
Your second choice is to declare a specific field of study (similar to a major). You complete courses in one subject area. Top fields of study are business administration and management, computer science, economics, government, international relations, and psychology.
32 credits in your concentration or field of study taken at Harvard*
24-credit distribution requirement:
8 expository writing credits
- EXPO 25 is required
- EXPO 15 is an option
8 foreign language credits
4 quantitative reasoning (math) credits, taken at Harvard*
4 moral reasoning (ethics) credits, taken at Harvard*
12 writing-intensive credits, taken at Harvard*
52 credits taken with Harvard instructors
60 credits of upper-level coursework
* Credits taken either on campus or online.
“Earn Your Way In” Admissions
To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application required—for the following three degree courses:
- EXPO 25 Academic Writing and Critical Reading
- Before registering, you'll need to first pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills or complete EXPO 15 Fundamentals of Academic Writing with a B grade.
- You have two registration attempts to earn the required grade of B or higher in EXPO 25.
- Any two courses from the program (must be 4-credit each)
Complete the three degree courses with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.
Tip: We recommend that you take EXPO 15, EXPO 25, and MATH E-3 to gain admission to the program. These courses count toward the degree regardless of prior transfer credit and will ensure you have the writing and basic math skills to succeed at Harvard. To encourage this straightforward path to admission, these courses are offered at the low tuition price of $1,000 a course.
Applying to the Degree Program
Apply during the semester of your third degree course. We have fall, spring, and summer admission cycles.
If you submit a complete application—which includes required Harvard courses, grades, and cumulative GPA—you will be admitted.
Degree courses completed before admission count toward the degree and are included as part of the 128 credits needed for graduation.
You need to be 21 years or older at the time of application.
The Harvard On-Campus Experience
Many courses can be taken online, but the degree requires a Harvard campus experience. You come to Cambridge for at least 16 credits, which gives you access to faculty; campus libraries, labs, and museums; and the academic community.
On-campus requirements can be completed through:
- 15-week fall or spring semester courses that meet only on campus (courses with an online option do not fulfill this requirement).
- Online courses with a required weekend on campus.
- Active learning weekend courses (two credits each).
- Three-week January courses that meet only on campus.
- Three- or seven-week Summer School courses that meet only on campus.
Accelerated On-Campus Pathways
If you have limited flexibility, you can fulfill the requirement in just four weekends on campus.
You'll have more diverse course options, however, if you take:
- Two three-week courses (8 credits)
- Two active learning weekend courses (4 credits)
- One online course with a required weekend on campus (4 credits)
International Students Who Need a Student Visa
To meet the on-campus requirement, you should plan to study with us in the summer.
- Two seven-week summers taking 8 credits each summer
- Or four three-week summers taking 4 credits each summer
You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa through Harvard Summer School. For more information, see the important visa information on the International Student Study Options page.
To complete your degree
All core degree requirements must be completed with C- grades or higher. This includes courses that fulfill area of concentration, distribution, foreign language, quantitative reasoning, moral reasoning, and writing intensive requirements. As noted above, EXPO 25 needs to be completed with a grade of B or higher.
Field of study courses must be completed with a B- or higher without letting your overall field of study dip below 3.0. The same is required for minor courses.
Once admitted with a 3.0 or higher GPA, you must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher. You can receive five withdrawals without them affecting your GPA. The sixth and any subsequent withdrawals count as zeroes (failing grade) in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.
Foreign Language Credit Options
- 8 credits in one lower-level language (e.g., French I and II)
- or 4 credits in the second semester of one language (e.g., French II)
- or 4 credits in one upper-level language (e.g., Intermediate French I)
Graduate with Your Harvard Degree
When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your degree: Bachelor of Liberal Arts in extension studies. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May. You participate in the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.
Degree Guidelines and Policies
For information about special academic opportunities, student privileges, and policies, see Completing Your Degree.