Written by: Brittany Bir, COO, 42USA
42, a non-profit, tuition-free, computer programming school is not only disrupting the traditional education model, but also the traditional admissions process. By ignoring their academic or financial standing and thus allowing them to distinguish themselves by their talent and motivation, each candidate is placed on a level playing field. This allows these individuals to transform their destiny and start anew, like a blank page.
When applying to universities, students can be certain that their GPA, SAT/ACT scores, written essays and perhaps even their extracurricular activities will help determine their eligibility to be admitted into a university. What is viewed as a way to ensure that admitted students will be capable of following the traditional academic curriculum, also ensures that those who do not fit into the mold will not be able to enter. While this is an effective way to ensure that those who are applying for a specific institution will be able to succeed there, new alternative institutions and procedures of recruitment need to be presented to ensure a greater variety of talent.
Brilliant minds are everywhere, and our inability as a society, to be able to engage these individuals in higher education through a limited amount of opportunities is squandering our potential. The greater need for more educational opportunities has become more evident since the 1980’s, as there has been an accelerating trend towards a higher demand for skilled rather than production related labor.1 As a result, more individuals are in the need of those skills which will allow them to integrate into the rapidly evolving workforce. Continual reliance on what an individual has or has not accomplished in their academic past, or current financial standing, risks blinding institutions to their potential.
At 42, we have put into place an alternative admissions process, which involves two steps. The first, is a fairly simple challenge, consisting of two online tests which assesses an individual’s logic and reasoning skills, while simultaneously testing their tenacity and determination to continue to resolve enigmas that they may not fully comprehend. Should a candidate succeed these two tests, they will be invited to begin the second step, which is called the “Piscine”.
The word “Piscine”, taken from French, means swimming pool. This is the final step to the admissions process at 42 and consists of a 4 week trial of a student’s motivation and talent. Candidates are physically present on the campus, seven days a week, typically anywhere from 10-15 hours per day. It is a grueling exercise which plunges a candidate directly into the realm of code and confronts them with new information and challenges on a daily basis. Those that successfully learn to “swim” throughout this trial will be offered the possibility to attend the school for the 3-5 year computer coding program.
While this ordeal may seem frightful to some and nearly impossible to others, the “Piscine” is a crucial time for candidates to gain the skills necessary to succeed in the program, but also to begin developing leadership competencies which are currently in high demand with the ever-evolving work market.
With an increase in skilled job positions which are available to individuals, there has also been a substantial increase in administrative and freelance positions.2 So, while the material that students are learning during our admissions process is incredibly important, what is more important is that it is also teaching them to rewire their brains, by relearning how to learn. The “Piscine” is a challenge which cultivates their ability to concentrate, manage their time, collaborate on group projects, demonstrate resilience, and maintain a healthy work-life balance, which are also crucial skills for their lifelong success. In this way, the “Piscine” is not only helping to prepare candidates for their time as a student at 42, but also for their future jobs where being able to quickly adapt to an evolving marketplace by continuing their learning experience beyond the classroom will determine the course of their professional lives.
Humans are not all inherently the same, be it when we look at their personality or their appearance. As a result, at 42 we believe that alternatives exist to determine their ability to participate in higher education. This is a strategic choice, by ignoring traditional guidelines, we allow for a wider range of individuals to contribute to the educational community, and the workforce.
- http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/06/key-findings-about-the-american-workforce-and-the-changing-job- market/
- http://www.businessinsider.com/39-ways-the-american-workforce-is-changing-2015-6/#e-worker-shortage-is-only-in- one-area-highly-skilled-workers-skilled-jobs-grew-2-times-faster-than-unskilled-jobs-3