Do You Need A College Degree To Study At Harvard?

Although many people believe that it is a requirement to have a bachelor's degree in order to be accepted into a Harvard University postgraduate program, it is apparently not. Alejandra Sota, a spokesperson for former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, is currently enrolled at the Harvard Kennedy School's Mid-Career Master in Public Administration Edward S. Mason Program despite not having earned her college degree. The HKS Director of Media Relations, Doug Gavel, wouldn't address her case specifically because there were "student privacy concerns." However, he explained that "while it is extremely rare for someone to attend Harvard Kennedy School prior to completing a bachelor's degree, the Admissions Committee reserves the right to grant an exception in instances warranted by that holistic review."

Until this point, it was fairly unknown that Harvard would accept students that lack a college degree into any of the graduate programs. The MC/MPA Mason Fellow Program states that a bachelor's degree is one of the eligibility requirements. Gavel went on to further explain the basis for granting the exception. He said that HKS considers numerous factors, such as "an applicant's academic qualifications, commitment to public service , leadership experience and potential, and contribution to a richly diverse learning environment."

According to the Mexican daily publication, El Economista, Sota is missing 10 of the 48 credits that are necessary to complete a bachelor's degree in political science at ITAM, one of the the private universities in Mexico City. News that Sota was part of the HKS flagship international program was greatly received with disbelief by Mexico's media, where she is known for her partiality and tactics for censorship. Sota's enrollment as a Mason Fellow comes only months after her political mentor, Calderon, began a one year fellowship there as a lecturer and researcher.

Still, Harvard defended its choice to take Calderon and Sota. The Mason Program has also enrolled three other members of Calderon's party. They include Benajamin Hill, Sota's husband; Carlos Orvananos, former PAN delegate, and Juan Carlos Mondragon, former PAN leader. Gavel mentioned that there are 218 international students in this year's MC/MPA class and that five of them are from Mexico. Four of them are members of the PAN. In the meantime, Calderon did not respond to any emails asking if he had influenced Harvard's decision to enroll these individuals -- or more specifically, Sota, who does not yet have her bachelor's degree. With news that it is possible to get into Harvard without having earned the correct degree, some people have questioned if student applications for admission will grow in the upcoming months and what their approval rate may be like. Ultimately, it seems that the admission decision depends upon a number of factors, though some of them may be easier influenced depending on the circumstances.