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Harder to get into than Harvard: Minerva University

You may have heard of Minerva University as the “place that is harder to get into than Harvard.” In terms of acceptance rates, yes, Minerva is one of the hardest institutions in the US to get into. It also has a yield rate* that is above Columbia though not as high as Harvard or the University of Pennsylvania. Minerva began operations in 2012 and opened its doors to students starting in 2014.

*Yield rates are the number of acceptances versus the number of students who accept. Minerva University: 68%, Columbia University: 66.5%, Harvard: 85%, Yale: 82.5%.

In this post, we want to cover what is attractive about this college, what kinds of programs are offered and what kind of strategies are successful for applications to this institution. But first, let’s talk about why Minerva opened and what other types of colleges are starting?

Why is a new university starting now?

Minerva’s goal is to revolutionize higher education. All students at Minerva study the same core for the first year and only switch to specialized courses in the second year. All of this with the goal of creating transferable skills and analytical thinking. One of the differences is that students are taught while doing, instead of focusing on memorization or learning towards tests. They are learning towards tasks. Minerva focuses on application, to help long-term retention of concepts.

Minerva’s approach to teaching is based on recent discoveries about the science of learning and how effective “active learning” has been demonstrated to be. Professors rarely give traditional lectures and guidelines insist that they do not speak for more than a few minutes at a time. Students take a hands-on role in leading discussions and group work.

The founder, Ben Nelson, created Minerva University to shift focus to improving learning outcomes through comprehensive reform. The curriculum focuses on teaching students how to make decisions analytically, using creativity to solve problems and being an “engaged world citizen”. (From Minerva website)

Part of this process also utilizes advances in technology that were not available 2 decades ago, with a large part of the college experience centering around the use of their internal software called “Forum”.

What is attractive about Minerva University

Minerva University has a completely different structure than any other college in the US, or maybe in the world. The fees are a fraction of most other colleges in the US, all classes are taught through its internet accessible platform and students have a choice to live in one of 7 dorms across the world. Classes are capped at 19 students and the curriculum has been designed by a renowned psychologist, Stephen Kosslyn, who helped design a curriculum around his findings about the science of learning.

Minerva has 5 types of majors that are available. Together, they offer a broad spectrum and cover a substantial portion of what students are looking for. Their career development is personalized and creates specific plans for students to succeed during their degree while preparing them for success afterwards.

The tuition at Minerva is also much lower than other schools. They have eliminated costs that usually inflate tuition costs at other colleges. Tuition costs are comparable to in-state tuition at public colleges.

*Around $17,000-$20,000, changing by year, compared to national average public in-state tuition of $11,331 or out-of-state tuition of $27,028.

Another significant difference is that students live in dorms in one of 7 different cities in which Minerva has campuses. This lets students experience a different environment for all 4 years of their education.

What is important in applying to Minerva University?

Minerva has several points which make them very different from the Ivy League and other selective colleges. They are one of only about 100 colleges nationally that is needs-blind. They have no athletics program, so there is no bonus for athletics*. SATs and ACTs are not considered, so GPA becomes much more significant. The application itself is extremely important. It has 3 parts. Part 1 can be completed using the common app or through Minerva’s portal. Parts 2 is a Minerva administered test. It appears to have similar weight to what the SAT/ACTs have for regular applications, at about 20% of the total application process. Part 3 is an expanded EC/awards section, with the ability to go in-depth.

*All T10 schools reserve a significant number of seats for athletes and participating in varsity sports can make a major difference in admissions.

So who would be a good fit for Minerva?

Considering these differences, Minerva can be a great choice for high achieving students. The college might be new, but the vast majority of its graduates go on to find jobs quickly after they finish their undergraduate education. The school is also a lot more affordable than other selective colleges.

In terms of prestige, the college is still young and many people have not heard of it. Although it is harder to get into than Harvard, its graduates have not yet made a wide impact in the working world.

In terms of benefits from finding a job, there is a highly active department that helps connect students with work opportunities. There is also an opportunity to live in 7 different cities, which could help build long-term connections.

Minerva is a highly selective school which draws from an international pool, even more so than other colleges. As a result, this might be a good opportunity for international students who are looking for a highly diverse group of people from around the world.

Looking over the comments from graduates and other people who are currently attending Minerva University, it seems like a significant majority of posters enjoyed attending college with a few people dissatisfied. Let us know what you think in the comments!

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