When we think of startups, we almost never think of universities; we almost always think of some nerdy guys in nerdy glasses walking around with some overpriced laptops/software hoping to build the next ‘tech behemoth’. But I guess that rhetoric has begun changing with the rise of startup universities such as Ashesi University, Minerva Schools at KGI, the African Leadership University, etc. The phrase ‘startup university’ might initially seem like an oxymoron judging by how ‘startup’ hints at an absence of structure, while ‘university’ basically embodies the quintessence of structure.
Well, now you know that such things exist. Not only do startup universities exist, I happen to attend one. Yes, the rumors are true. I have gathered information from my experience as well as those of a few friends on what it really means to be a student at a startup university. It’s not all roses.
You must be crazy — to some degree
Yes, you have to be. Who in their right minds will trade a ‘safe’ education at an established university with stable accreditation? Only crazy people. But again, isn’t being sane a bit boring? But hollup! While you’re being crazy enough to enroll at a startup university, you must be ready to pay the price.
You’re basically an entrepreneur
Let’s face it. Startup universities function like planes that are built in the air while passengers are already on board. To not crash, you need to become less of a passive passenger, and more of a co-builder; a co-engineer. Cos if the plane crashes and burns, you’re going down with it. You want that?
You’re never too comfortable
People say change is the only constant thing. But in startup universities, change is like a cyclone; a hurricane; a tornado, that sweeps you off your feet just as soon as you begin to make plans and get all comfy. Policies, rules, annexations, etc. just pop out of nowhere and you’re left shook.
You develop trust issues
Nobody likes being lied to…honestly. At most startup universities, you learn the hard way that the only way to avoid being disappointed is to have zero expectations. Why? Well, the picture that’s sold to you to lure you in almost always differs from the reality on ground. Sucks right? I know.
You’re either patient or you’re prepared to die
So a lot of times, things fall apart and the centre cannot hold. So many managerial decisions, actions, inactions, will drive you nuts! The only way to avoid dying of frustration is to build your patience muscles. You’d have to trust that they are making those decisions for your benefit. Else…
Self-motivation becomes a lifestyle
So the gist is that most of the time, at these startup universities you’re left to “drive your own experience.” Isn’t that too much for someone who’s also chasing a degree to handle? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, you’d need to find ways to keep your spirits up to avoid burnout and, again, frustration.
You almost always have to explain where you’re studying
Well, this is relative to the brand of your university, startup or not. Still, people are more likely to question whether you go to school at all if you’re studying at a startup university than at a fully established one. But if you’re at a startup university with a strong brand, it’s less daunting.
You’re X% more likely to drop out
So I used the variable of X because there currently isn’t any legit data on this…yet. But from personal observations, students who are studying at startup universities are much more likely to drop out or transfer than their peers. So many days you’d be like “I’m done with this s**t, I just can’t deal.” It’s true.
You’re a 21st century version of Christopher Columbus
We all know how ol’ man Chris went on an adventure and and discovered what we know today as America, right? Well, you’d pretty much feel the same at a startup university. There isn’t a map to follow, no alumni network to support/advise, nothing. You learn and build everything from scratch.
You’re also probably having much more fun learning
Because most startup universities have a very non-traditional way of learning, you’d be learning in the most unconventional ways possible. Be prepared to have the time of your life with all the ups, downs and in-betweens. It’s part of what makes the experience unforgettable. Buckle up!
As you may have noticed, studying at a startup university isn’t all thorns, or all rose petals. It’s a fine blend of both which is neither good nor bad. The quality of your experience simply depends on who you are, and what you’re passionate about. Do you like the thrill of an adventure, of building stuff, of trying, failing, improving, and trying again? If yes, then you’d have the time of your life at a startup university. Know thyself! If you go in simply because it seems cool, you’re more likely to regret it. If you’re averse to uncertainty, and the absence of structure, then you should probably wait until the university is more established. Either way, startup universities are here.
If you’re very interested in this topic of startup universities, watch this movie.