I applied to Minerva class of 2021 and chose the early action (deadline November 1st) “binding option”. The advantage you will receive from this is an expedited response within 3 weeks of submission and exclusive online sessions with the Head of Admissions, Neagheen Homaifar. It’s a good option if Minerva is your first choice because you can avoid spending time and pay application fees if you are applying to other colleges. If admitted binding, you must pay a $500 deposit within 10 days to secure your enrollment. 



Good to know:


Minerva consists of 2 entities:

  • Minerva at KGI – actual college that’s a non-profit accredited by the Keck Graduate Institute, member of the Claremont Consortium in California
  • Minerva Project – for-profit part of Minerva that licenses out its Active Learning Forum and curriculums
  • For a longer explanation of this, click here (credits to Minerva’s Outreach Lead Michael Lai)


Minerva’s application process is highly selective (acceptance rate ~ 2%), but not at all competitive. That’s because as long as a student passed a certain “bar”, they will be accepted regardless of any other factors, such as race, gender, family income. No quotas, no limited space resulted in only 20% Americans in the class. There is also no waiting list; you either pass the bar and get accepted, or you don’t. Though vs other elite universities that sometimes getting accepted into depends on luck, Minerva holistically evaluates the 3 parts of your application so it’s not a crapshoot. You can’t apply twice in one year. However if denied this year, you can try next year.

Things Minerva look for in a candidate:

  • intellectual capacity and curiosity
  • someone with a high impact who has achieved extraordinary things (even in an unconventional sense)
  • someone open-minded and independent who can readily adapt to the different cultures of the world


Regardless of the education you’ve been through, you will always start with the first year’s cornerstone courses. That’s because Minerva teaches a completely different system than traditional education, which means they don’t accept AP scores or any college course replacements. However, students are expected to come in having the knowledge of basic college classes and skills, such as Calculus, advanced English, and Python through MOOCs. One of the key skill you should have before attending is knowing how to manage your time – simply put, there will be no time to “mess around”. 

Minerva raised its tuition from $10,000 to $12,500 per year. The total cost of attendance is a little below $30,000 per year, which is still much affordable than many private, prestigious institutions. Minerva encourages its students to do work-study, internships, low-interest loans, and if there are still gaps in between, Minerva will provide financial aid.


Update: Minerva is offering a $10,000 need-based scholarship to those who are ZeeMee participants, see details below. This is the link.

zeemee1 zeemee2

Minerva has its own Professional Development Agency that supports its students for a lifetime. Anne Kauth, the Manager of Employer Network & Partnership, helped developed Minerva’s PDA, which is basically a database consists of international networks of professionals and experts Minervans can connect with. Furthermore, Minerva also proactively work with individual students to figure out what they want/should do, where to place them, and promote their accomplishments, for their ENTIRE career. Seems like a sweet deal. Though I raised a question about whether Minerva will scale up its PDA resources in the future, since supporting for a lifetime of hundreds of students is quite different than say, thousands of students. Minerva’s response was that they are already hiring more for career coaching. Besides, knowing from data and experience, the older the Minervans, the less likely they’ll need career support, as they’ve already developed the expertise and connections to thrive on their own. In addition, giving the type of students Minervans are – eager to contribute to a better cause – most will come back as alumni and help the current students in their career, inevitably creating a positive cycle.

Minerva’s 2nd-year retention rate is around 90%. 10% of the students drop out due to various reasons. So if you get accepted but are quite unsure whether you should attend, I encourage you to go. Because it may be very challenging, it may be too stressful, and it may just not be right for you. But you always have the option to withdraw, take it as a special gap year with an awesome experience with other like-minded, high-achieving students in a globalized and revolutionary type of education experience, and save it in your profile. Bottomline is, Minerva’s education is about internship opportunities and personal growth, as oppose to the traditional academic-based and research-focused higher education system, so it may or may not be for you depending on your objectives. 


Now onto the process of the application:

Disclaimer: the information below are merely my personal experiences, please evaluate base on your own standings.




First I had to complete Part One of the Application, filling out my basic information (including uploading a transcript) and one of my achievements (later will count as one of the six achievements). Don’t worry; you can change any information you filled out later. Completing this allowed me to gain access to the Admission Center so I can fill out Part Two and Three of the application.



Part Two had to do with completing 6 challenges that are set out to test your IQ and EQ, with the goal to see if you have the potential to grasp the material of Minerva’s curriculums.

How to approach the 6 challenges:

Note: I didn’t enclose too much detail to ensure fairness.

  1. Creativity – a question asking about the number of uses for an item, such as a paper clip – use it as a needle, SIM card popper, etc – you have 7 min.
    • Key to this: be creative, be wild! 
  2. Math – around 16 very straightforward questions about basic arithmetics and logic, no calculator, only pen & pencil – 7 min.
    • Key: be quick as there were no “trick” questions, don’t over check your answers, and watch out for time – I ran out of time and left 2 questions unanswered because I was being a perfectionist and forgot about the time, so don’t be me.
  3. Understanding – read a short passage and answer 6 questions regarding the nature of the passage – 7 min.
    • Key: use process of elimination.Understanding how Minerva works thoroughly will help a lot – I finished this challenge in 4 min and had 3 min to check my answers
  4. Reasoning – around 13 questions about picking the right shape to fit alongside other eight shapes, much like a standard IQ test – around 30 min.
    • Key: perhaps search up on how to solve the same type of IQ puzzle? The questions went from easy to hard. Last three questions or so were pretty abstract, and I wasn’t sure about my answer
  5. Writing  – a question asking you to write something about it – 7 min.
    • Key: reading my other blog posts will probably help you a lot with this, content-wise 🙂
  6. Expression – 4 questions – 10 min.
    • Key: try this challenge on your very energetic day, and have hyperfocus when you actually do it. Understand yourself inside-out, your positives, your negatives, what made you the person the way you are, and the big decisions you make (why) – I was a bit caught off guard on two of the curveball questions but had a rather thorough thought on the other two


Bonus Tips:

  • Do them at separate sessions to avoid brain drain because the challenges are mostly very fast past and can be intense because it’s timed
  • Do them when you have high energy, especially for the challenges of Creativity, Writing, and Expression
  • Read up on Minerva’s ideologies and practice the challenges before doing the real one
  • Read my blog


Somewhere along the way, I received this email. As you can see, Minerva really wants its applicants to finish their applications.




Part Three examines the achievements of you outside of school. This is an opportunity to present the type of person you are (talents, passion) and how you are likely going to contribute to Minerva’s community.  

I crafted my 6 achievements by laying out the significant happenings in my life and determined my major inspirations. I then picked out those people/events inspired 6 accomplishments I am most proud of. Update: I later found out that it’s best to use your accomplishments within the past 3-4 years. 

Act like the admissions officers have no clue of where you are coming from, give as much context and as many details as possible. Articulate strongly of the significance of your accomplishments, quantify it: how many people attended, how much money you raised/earned, how many people you’ve managed, etc. Don’t be shy to “brag,” however, do be honest with the statistics.

Remember to gather and organize evidence for what you’ve done, including links to media coverage, videos,  pictures, and people who can verify your accomplishments (contact them, so they’ll know what’s going on).

Samples of Minervans’ achievements:


This section also asks for your counselor to submit some basic information about you (your GPA, rank, transcript, rigor of the classes you take/school you attend, criminal history, etc) through a personalized link, send it to your counselor early so he/she can have time to fill it out. Ask them EARLY and keep them accountable until they submit it. The sooner you can present this information on their table, the earlier you can have this section done; you can check whether they’ve submitted it to the Admission Center.

Alongside the 3 parts, you have to fill out information about your Parent/Guardian contact info, disciplinary record, and an option for binding enrollment; all can be filled out within 10 mins.


After completing all the above, I submitted my application.

If you submit your Minerva app by October 10th, 2016, Minerva will expedite your review process and make the admission decision by October 24. If you are admitted and enrolled, they will invite you to their San Francisco Civitas on November 19th.

The Civitas is an annual event where you can engage with current Minervans and leaders of major organizations and experience the academics, residential life, and student community of the school. Minerva will also provide the majority of the cost including housing, most meals, select activities, and up to 80% of the cost of the air ticket to and from San Francisco.


I received a rejection letter from Minerva.


Minerva did not mention any specific feedback, I really wish they did, though. One thing I hope I had done better was to check with the person who was going to verify my six achievements since I haven’t contacted some of them in a while. Looking back, I made the mistake of just wanting to apply as quick as possible but failed to prepare sufficient sources to back me up. I forgot to confirm my sources’ phone numbers at the time of submission. Later when I tried to call them, some of them appear to be out of the country and not replying back.

In addition, I could’ve done a better job at mentioning the impact of my achievements like I do now on my LinkedIn profile. Another thing to keep in mind is I do not have the strongest academic backgrounds, although I try to take as many AP classes possible in my school, I generally have majority A’s and some B’s with them (therefore my rank is not good as well – being the 83rd percentile). It’d be a really good leg-up if you could earn at least A’s for all your classes.

Granted, if I were to do this again, I’d wait until I am truly ready and prepared to submit my applications.

As for the challenges, my best advice to you is to really understand Minerva’s process and philosophy before doing the Reading section, to not over-check your answers for the Math section as it is very straightforward (if you have the tendency of a perfectionist like I did), and to probably do an outline of your strengths, weaknesses, philosophies, and the reason why you want to go to Minerva before doing the Expression section.

Currently, I am still following the school by reading their updates and student blogs, in the hope to reapply next year as I really believe in Minerva’s philosophy, and am greatly excited about its vision for the future of the higher education. Furthermore, I know that I am nothing more and nothing less despite other’s judgments. I am more engaged with the real-world through the internships, projects with clients, and businesses I run; I am more fulfilled than ever before. So regardless of the outcome, I encourage you to embrace the experience in applying, learn from it and know that whether getting accepted isn’t the end goal, it is merely a tool, a bridge if you will, helping you get to your end goal.

P.S. Applying to Minerva made me an extremely productive person. If I could do this all over again, I would start applying when I was a sophomore in high school (when I first knew about this school) just for the heck of it 🙂


Additional information that’ll give you more insight:


Should you have any questions, I would be happy to answer you.

Or if you would like to speak directly to a Minerva ambassador, email Jake Schaeffer: jake@minerva.kgi.edu or Michael Lai: michael@minerva.kgi.edu

I wish you the best of luck and hope you learned something from my process.