It was the middle of the fall 2018 semester. Hailey Furman was sitting in her car on South Georgia State College’s (SGSC) Waycross Campus checking email to make sure she hadn’t overlooked anything in her classes for the week. That’s when she noticed an email from Harvard University.
It was an acceptance letter into Harvard’s Extension School, the university’s online campus. Furman was shocked.
“I saw that email and didn’t know what to do,” she said while smiling. “Receiving that message was completely out of routine for me. I called my dad first to give him the news.”
Furman graduated from Ware County High School in 2017 having focused on the high school’s teaching pathway. Her goal is to earn her doctorate in English and become an educator. Her interests include post World War I literature and author C.S. Lewis.
Furman completed dual enrollment courses while in high school, and that’s where her passion for English really ignited.
“I remember sitting in my dual enrollment English class, and my teacher told us to think of our lives like a circle. Everything inside of the circle is what you know, and everything without is what you must learn,” she said. “That was my ‘aha moment.’ It inspired me to want to help people.”
Furman began taking classes at SGSC’s Waycross Campus last fall and was surprised to find how much of a commitment to learning exists on campus. She mentioned specifically courses she has taken with Elaine Stephens, associate professor of English.
“Everyone here fosters a sense of learning and wants to help you learn,” said Furman.
Stephens said she was overwhelmed to learn of Furman’s acceptance into Harvard.
“I sat down in my chair and took some deep breaths, thinking that South Georgia State College can prepare a student for Harvard,” said Stephens. “Of course, English literature is in Hailey’s DNA, and there’s nothing she likes better than to have a deep discussion about it. I have no doubt that Hailey will take on Harvard with determination and capability.”
Furman’s plans are to earn her associate’s degree in English from SGSC next summer and then begin her tenure with Harvard next fall. She admitted she never had plans to apply to an Ivy League school until she realized she could earn her degree from home.
“The Extension School allows you to earn your degree online,” she said. “I won’t have to travel to Harvard’s physical campus until my graduation.”
Furman said the admissions process into Harvard’s Extension School is very competitive, which includes an English competency test.
“You have to go through all of the regular admissions steps, and I passed the competency test. The test measures whether you have what it takes to make it in the program,” she said.
To add to the competitive process, Furman said she has to maintain a certain GPA while at SGSC in order to keep her admission status active.
“The program is going to be very rigorous and demanding,” she said. “They (Harvard) really make their students think.”
After completing her goal of earning a doctorate degree, Furman wishes to teach at a college where students have overcome adversity and want to learn.
“I’m willing to go wherever I’m needed, but my dream location is Tampa, Fla.,” she said.
Furman is the daughter of Doug and CG Furman of Waycross.