I'll admit it. Even as an adult, I wish Hogwarts was real and I got to go there (and later became a faculty member, says my imagination). The closest I might ever get (besides the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando) is online at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
When you arrive at the Hogwarts is Here site, you're immediately impressed by how much it looks like a technical college, beckoning you in with engaging images of savvy students.
This online version of Hogwarts features perhaps the easiest school admission on the planet. You just click a button and fill out a few fields in a form to automatically generate your official acceptance letter. It even comes "signed" by Minerva McGonagall.
After you enroll, you get to choose your own house. Apparently, there are no sorting hats in cyberspace. I went with Gryffindor. I know it's obvious, but I feel like I belong. You also get to open a Gringotts vault, which comes stocked with galleons, sickles, and knuts for buying supplies. The whole experience is free.
Now that you've suspended disbelief, enrolled in Hogwarts, and told all your friends about it, it's time to delve into what's behind the site. It has no official connections to J.K. Rowling or Warner Bros. It's the labor of love of a collection of fan volunteers who wanted to inject even more excitement into an already active fan base. It's open to both casual fans and people who are going for more of a role-playing experience.
The site comes complete with wizarding courses with actual assignments. Unlike a real learning institution, there are no deadlines for turning in your completed work.
This is no Underwater Basket-Weaving 101. Many of the assignments require short essays and you have to complete seven different courses (including Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Potions) to make it through your first year of schooling. Just getting started with Defense Against the Dark Arts requires an introductory essay touching on why defensive magic is important and which spells you most want to learn. Yes, your essays will be graded.
The site is currently getting bombarded with eager fans, so it's a little temperamental. A new server installation is underway to handle the demand. So just relax, drink your Butterbeer, and wait for it to stabilize. I'll see you in the digital halls of Hogwarts!