A Great University You Have Probably Never Heard Of

Image Source: https://www.minerva.edu/

Image Source: https://www.minerva.edu/

Why do we go to university?

This was the question I asked myself last year. 

When I asked my friends this question, their answers were all the same: “To get a great job” or “To be successful in the future.” These are undoubtedly logical answers, but somehow I was still unsatisfied with them. Getting a good job or succeeding in the future can be done without going to university.

Many people say that going to a “great university” will give you more opportunities in the future and will make it easier to get a good job. But these “great universities” are often considered significant due to their prestige, or how famous their names are. 

It does not necessarily mean that the school itself is exceptional. Just as a nice book cover does not guarantee  an amazing book, or well-decorated food is not always delectable, a famous university may appear appealing but is not always “great”. It is not that a university is good or bad in the first place, because we cannot directly compare it to other universities. The ranking system does not take your preferences as an individual into account, as everyone is different in personality and interest, so there is no one perfect university for everyone.

The best university will be best for you because it fits you the best, not because it is famous. I am the type of person who doesn’t care about the names of universities, only what a university offers me (other than a bachelor’s degree). Thus the answers to the previous question did not make sense to me. 

Nowadays, we can cheaply learn most things online, gain skills or proactively reach out to CEOs or world leaders to get to know them. We have countless opportunities to succeed even if we don’t attend a university.

I understand that graduating from a “great university” can be a great asset in obtaining a job in big companies, but I don’t agree with that idea. If you choose a university largely due to its name value, it might seem like you are decorated outside only and not inside, as you may not have had the opportunity to grow as much as you would have if you went to a university that fits you the best. Moreover, while graduating from a “great university” might land you a job, if you did not grow as a person, it could be harder to succeed in the work place. 

There is often outcome bias when it comes to universities, as it is generally believed that people who graduated from “great universities” are always successful. This happens because we only focus on people who are already successful. There are many successful people who did not have as great a path as we might expect. I believe that just because society pressures you to go to a “great university,” if you know of another university that is perhaps not as famous, but is a great fit for you, that it would be the best university to attend instead. We should not live for anyone else’s expectations, so why don’t we decide what is best for us?

So here is my answer to that question: I go to university to gain a solid academic foundation, develop communication skills with diverse people, get to know the world better, and finally to be in a community where I feel I belong and thrive. 

When I chose a university, I asked myself, “Would I go to this university even if it does not have a name?” With that question in mind, the only university I want to attend is Minerva University. 

I will briefly introduce Minerva University. Please remember that my motives are not to convince you to apply, but to let you know that this kind of unique university exists, so you might find it a fit for your values and apply.


What is Minerva University?

Minerva is an accredited university in the U.S. founded in 2014 by Ben Nelson with help from Professor Stephen Kosslyn, former dean of social science at Harvard. Both individuals believed that higher education must change, as top universities have increased their demand and attendance cost, but the education quality has mostly stayed the same. The leading university market is somewhat of a monopoly, meaning that there is not much competition and thus fewer incentives for them to improve. 

Minerva was founded to be a guiding star for other top universities, creating a new educational style that fits the 21st century and pressuring “great universities” to change to become even greater universities.

Despite being a new university, Minerva received over 25,000 applications with a 2% acceptance rate. One of the main reasons they attract so many students is, of course, because of what Minerva offers, but also because admission is free and does not require TOEFL or SAT scores (which do not show much of who you are in the first place) at all. Minerva has its own test within two hours, but there is really nothing you can do to prepare. It is a place to show who you are now and how you think.

As there is so much I can talk about for Minerva, I will discuss only the three main unique aspects of this university: its campus, academics, and people.

Where is Minerva University located?


That is my only answer because we do not have any one campus. During four years of undergraduate studies, we live in seven different cities: San Francisco, Seoul, Hyderabad, Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, and Taipei. 

We do not have a campus, only a dorm. With 150 classmates, we rotate the location every six months. Why do we do that? Minerva values the concept of “global citizens.” It is like thinking you are from Earth instead of Japan. There are no borders inside you. For example, when natural disasters happen in another country, global citizens can take it as their own responsibility to offer their help. Yet it does not mean forgetting all the culture in your home country; it just means not thinking of another country as “different.”

At Minerva, there is also a Civic project that students can do in every city. Students gather in groups and work towards existing problems in the area in partnership with local companies, NGOs, and the government. With global rotation, we can learn more about the world by interacting with its people and culture; this experience creates a mindset of global citizenship and the skill to collaborate with diverse people in the future.

How is global rotation even possible? It is because all of our classes are based online. But it is different from Zoom or any online classes you take. It is far better. It is even better than offline lectures. Minerva uses an online platform called Forum, designed explicitly for learning based on neuroscience. For example, the teacher can immediately know which student is talking for how long to ensure everyone speaks for an equal amount (all classes are fewer than 20).

Minerva also never offers a lecture (I mean, what is the point of paying money or attending class for lectures if you can find similar ones online?). It has a so-called flipped classroom, which means students attend class after they learn the material and complete their homework. This way, the classroom becomes a place to output. Thus, professors do not talk much in class; instead, they act as facilitators so students can engage in production through discussion, questions, and group work. I will not write in detail about what they teach, but it is interdisciplinary and applicable. 

Finally, Minerva’s international student ratio is more than 85%, with people from 80+ countries. Since its cohort size is around 150 students, you can imagine how diverse the environment is. 1 in 2 people is probably from a different country. Just living with these various people excites me so much. Additionally, after being admitted and knowing my classmates, I found that most students have high emotional intelligence and soft skills. Thus, I always love interacting with them and feeling connected.

Oh, and you might think it is crazy expensive. But the cost to attend is half the price of attending a private university in the U.S. Moreover, Minerva has need-blind financial aid.

There are so many aspects of Minerva I can talk about, like its mental health support, career support, and other opportunities, but then this article will be too long. So, if you are interested, please find it yourself:)

I hope that I have offered you a little help on finding a university that fits you and how to choose one. Feel free to Slack me if you have any questions.