Why I Chose Minerva

Why I Chose Minerva

- 8 mins

My freshman year came to an end.

I’m still receiving the same question. One that probably won’t go away for a long time. It comes from family, friends, even acquaintances, and often sounds something like “so, why on Earth did you choose Minerva?”

To be fair, it is a good question. Why did I decide to go to an Edtech startup university with minimal credibility over the Ivy League and its counterparts?

The Decision

I am sure I speak for many aspiring college students when I say we have a particular mental image of what college is meant to look like. From the stereotypical frat parties embedded in our minds by the media to the buzzing culture of long hours studying, researching, and interacting in the environment that many graduates label to be the ‘best time of their lives.’

College is a curious phenomenon. Throw a bunch of independence-seeking teenagers who are ready to leave home, but are not quite competent enough to join the workforce, into a 4-year bubble that supposedly prepares them for the real world. By the time students leave, they’re meant to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives and how they should start doing it.

When I started my college-seeking process, I realised the endless opportunities for places to study. As a fortunate student from the UK with US roots, both countries were easily accessible for me. Yet, while I knew many of my friends would take the Oxbridge path, I always felt attracted to an adventure back across ‘The Pond’.

Numerous jumps through the hoops of modern US college admissions (which I now have a… strong opinion of), led me to apply to 10 of the top schools across the country. Despite my differences with the application process, I was ecstatic at the thought that I may just have good enough grades and extracurriculars to attend one of these institutions.

Then, came an 11th. Sitting down one evening with my parents and brother, a random occurrence took place that changed my life forever. My brother, who had previously been interested in education, received a Minerva advertisement on his Facebook wall. He had previously met, through my high school teacher’s wife, an inaugural class member from the UK.

“What about this school - Minerva? It’s pretty funky but I think I remember it being impressive and hard to get into.”

Well, why not? I had already pumped out numerous essays and applications — just one more wouldn’t hurt. So, I took a day or two towards the beginning of January to complete an assortment of IQ tests, online interviews, and personal questions. In some ways, it was almost refreshing — something new, a taste of the unknown. It was unlike any application I had gone through before; it was more personal. It felt as though my application wouldn’t just be thrown into a pile of papers and be read for a minute before a hand-raise determined my future.

Nevertheless, I didn’t pay the prospect of going to such an institution much attention at the time. It was a curveball — a deviation from the straight path that I felt laid before me. Also, the acceptance rate was so low that it seemed unlikely that I would get in anyways. I hoped for an Ivy League or something of the sort.

Months passed. High school flew by.

An email appeared in my inbox: Minerva Application Decision. I tapped the link and a video of seven cities and the opposite of a traditional educational experience flashed before my eyes. It really did throw my world upside-down. A 1.2% acceptance rate? Surely not.

I could hardly decide between the schools that I had already been accepted into, let alone one that I had completely forgotten about. As with any decision-making process, I needed information about my options. There was no way I could simply disregard Minerva now that I had been accepted. After weeks of deliberation, I narrowed it down to an Ivy League, a school of equivalent calibre, and Minerva. I couldn’t have been more happy with the results — while the decision in front of me was hard, I was more than privileged to be in those shoes.

As indecisive as I am, it eventually came down to a cost-benefit analysis.

Minerva offered me the opportunity to travel around the world, experiencing different cultures and studying along the way. I could be wherever I wanted when I took a class. I could interact with students of diverse backgrounds. I could learn not just content, but the critical wisdom to approach the norm of education with curiosity and a critical mind. I wouldn’t just sit in a 100-person lecture hall surrounded by boredom. These aspects, as well as the unique professional development opportunities and tightly-knit community, were definitely factors that attracted me to this edtech university.

Yet, there were some concerns I had as well. Namely, Minerva’s reputation. While a low acceptance rate may sound enticing, I knew this was not the best indication of an actually good education. It is a new school, and with new comes risk and uncertainty. People even think Minerva to be a scam, a for-profit university, or even a glorified Skype platform — all of which are false. Though, Minerva had a minimal track record — despite its CLA+ test scores, the first class hadn’t even graduated when I joined.

Also, there is no stereotypical college campus life at Minerva. No gothic architecture, no club sports teams to join, and no research opportunities are handed to you on a platter. All of that would have to be found in the several different cities I would be living in over the four years. Although the pros and cons of both the traditional and unconventional became evident after some reflection, they came close to balancing each other out. I had attended the open weekends for both schools and understood the vast junction of life before me. Decisions like this don’t come easily.

Yet, something at the back of my head kept gnawing away. A tipping point. A factor that I chose to ignore but I knew was always there: if I didn’t go to Minerva and try it for a year, I would forever question my decision to not go there. This feeling of what ‘could have been’ would inevitably consume me, even if I did end up enjoying the traditional route.

It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I had to go to Minerva. Some opportunities are worth the risk. And this was definitely one of them.

The Aftermath

Minerva has changed my perception of what the world is, how to navigate it, and how I can make a difference in it.

I’ve experienced an extremely diverse student body that opened my eyes to new cultures. I’ve made friends that I can’t wait to travel with. I’ve learned a wide range of life skills and habitual concepts that seem to keep popping into my head, shaping the way I think. I’ve become passionate about working and more driven to find long-term accomplishment versus short-term dopamine rushes. I’ve taken up extreme sports like open water swimming, showing me a whole new side to worthwhile experiences. These were just a few things that continue to positively impact my life.

I’ll be the first to admit — Minerva is not perfect. When I first started, it seemed disorganised and perhaps immature relative to the boarding school environment I was used to. It still does to a certain extent. Yet, I’ve grown to appreciate it; because the school is so new, I really can make a difference within the institution. Also, it has given me time to reflect on what exactly I want out of my education, what drives me to achieve things, and how I can make the most of every day I live. My levels of independence and self-motivation have reached leaps and bounds ahead of what they were.

I’ll be honest: Minerva isn’t for everyone. People leave because they genuinely dislike it. I also see friends at other institutions around the world having the time of their lives, and sometimes even wonder what my life would be like at such places. Yet, I couldn’t see myself at any other institution now. Especially considering what higher education has become today. I’m truly grateful that I have the chance to fully support what I believe to be the future of learning.

Experiences are everything in life — you just need to make sure you have them, whether they be good or bad. It may sound cheesy, but it really is true. It’s far too easy to never leave the beaten trail. I’d rather live with risk and uncertainty that consistently test me as a person than be a sheep and stick to the norm. That’s why I chose Minerva.

Alexander Bricken

Alexander Bricken

Travelling the world.

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