if you have yet to hear of Minerva Schools at KGI, then listen, and listen well.

Minerva is reinventing learning in a revolutionary way, giving the elite, established universities of the world a run for their money.

Forget the dated ads of yesteryear promising a “global” education overseas for your children – Minerva promises a literally ‘global’ learning experience where their students start at homebase San Francisco for their first year of University and travel to a different cosmopolitan city around the world every semester.

The institution’s apt namesake, Minerva, is the Roman Goddess of Wisdom, War, Arts and Commerce – and it isn’t a name to be taken lightly.

Speaking to one of only two Malaysian first-year students, Arvvin Maniam from Petaling Jaya, Vox.Mk learnt that at Minerva’s inception in early 2014, it received over 2,400 applications, but only accepted 69, making its 2.8% acceptance rate the lowest in the world.

Celebrating brilliance

To call its entrance method rigorous is an understatement.

Aside from submitting their SPM, STPM or A Level results, the applicant is required to undergo a battery of cognitive and aptitude tests in addition to a video evaluation and a timed and monitored [E] writing test.

Yet, this is not a barrier – in fact, quite the opposite. In lieu of typical entrance tests that students can cram for, such as the SATs, Minerva selects the cream of the crop by using proprietary cognitive, aptitude and personality tests that cannot be prepared for.

“The Princeton Review… can help you prepare for your SATs.”, cites Arvvin.

“They will even write the [E]s for you and submit it to the universities in the US for you.

“Thus Minerva doesn’t accept any SATs, ACTs, etc.”, he affirms.


Grades aren’t everything

Minerva wants to get to know you – and know you well, thus they do not just consider your academics and co-curricular activities and instead, seek to test your learning aptitude, knowledge, and even your personality.

This is where the most hardworking, passionate and brilliant individuals come together in a gathering of intellect and innovation, and the team at Minerva have a spectacular plan to bring their vision of world-ready leaders and innovators to fruition by meritoriously selecting only the best in the world to undergo their radical, experimental but accredited learning process.

In fact, Founding Students are treated more as partners in this endeavour instead of mere students – breaching the church and state divide that persists in much of academia. Aside from their studently responsibilities, they also provide feedback, mould the Minerva culture, create processes and continually evolve the Minerva curriculi.

The low acceptance rate reflects Minerva’s commitment to accepting applicants based purely on merit. Such highly-selective admissions rates are balanced by low tuition costs. The negation of admissions through affirmative action, favouritism or preferential admissions such as legacy preferences or athlete recruitment also ensures the quality of students attending.

Still relatively unheard of

While applying for Harvard in the middle of his A Levels in 2014, a friend informed Arvvin about an article he had read about an ex-Harvard Dean who went to Stanford and ended up starting his own university.

Intrigued, Arvvin read up extensively on Minerva and decided to apply.

His parents, however, were not too pleased with his decision, citing concerns about the institution’s lack of reputation. Minerva was, simply, bereft of the prestige associated with Oxbridge or Ivy League universities, which was a great appeal for discerning parents around the world.

For Arvvin, the decision to apply was relatively easy. The entire learning concept was, in his words, light years ahead of many institutions – if he got accepted, he would take it without hesitation. If not, he would continue applying to Harvard anyway.

Comparatively, Harvard’s acceptance rate is 5.9% (as of 2014).

Arvvin shared that he would be the first to attend an American university; his older sister read Economics and Philosophy at the London School of Economics, whilst the rest of his family traditionally went to universities in the UK, making his desire to attend far less appealing to his parents.

Affordable Global education

The upside of this, though, is that tuition fees at Minerva are relatively low.

While premier institutions such as Harvard or Princeton would see tuition costs of over USD 40 – 50K per annum, Minerva’s comes in at a relatively affordable USD 10K.

In addition, Minerva is needs-blind and tuition grants are available for those who really need it.

Literally a global campus, Minerva’s students enjoy access to shared/leased facilities such as gyms or libraries in the cities they are in.

“The best way to live life is to live in it.” – Minerva Schools

Typical varsity life at other universities is relegated to sheltered campuses and immediate experiences, with token overseas experiences thrown in every year or so for ‘selected’ students who have shown their academic (and often, financial) ‘mettle’ to qualify for exchange programmes.

Minerva is strictly not an exchange programme – students have to change city campuses every semester. This challenges them to engage and interact with a diversity of individuals, customs, views, communities and societies. From San Francisco and London to Buenos Aires and Seoul, Minerva takes students to many of the world’s most prominent technological, economic, political, and cultural centers.

Learn more about Student Life at Minerva.

Life in the cloud

Classes at Minerva are not normal; at least, not in the traditional sense.

Minerva believes in imparting to students, the skills and knowledge essential to become leaders, innovators, broad thinkers and global citizens. The entire academic ecosystem revolves around strong intellectual and social development instead of typical rote-learning.

There are therefore no lectures, and students are graded in a continuous manner via active-participation in online ‘classrooms’, with all assignments within the cloud.

Additionally, they are given real-world problems which they are expected to navigate and solve.

Take for example, in San Francisco lies the famous Silicon Valley, yet students are not tasked to intern or work with SV companies.

Instead, they are given real-world issues to deal with, such as the growing homelessness of individuals in San Francisco, where they have to conduct research and speak to the homeless, for example, in order to gain a better understanding of the problem to come up with applicable, creative solutions.


The Application Process

All you need is an internet connection to apply.

After filling up a short application form, you will be required to take their assessment tests online, which should take around 45 minutes, at most.

Some time later, you will be asked to share your accomplishments, both in school and outside, together with the relevant supporting documents.

You then upload your academic transcripts and undergo a video assessment and then take a 10-minute written [E] test.

Learn more about applying to Minerva

Malaysian Founding Student Haziq shares his thoughts about Minerva:

Jamilah Lim

Jamilah Lim


Jamilah cares deeply about the human condition. A humanist, skeptic and feminist, she is a proponent of both human and animal rights. An avid gamer, she lives somewhere in PJ with her two cats and plays Dota 2 in her free time.