As Verto Education grows, I increasingly receive emails and questions from parents about how and why we started this bold new educational model. At its core, Verto Education was created to provide a better freshman year for students, and make international travel a core part of the college experience. As the President of Verto Education, I wanted to answer some of your most common questions while also sharing some of my opinions on Higher Education.
What’s the most important thing you believe students will learn on a Verto Semester?
Our coursework is excellent, but classroom learning isn’t the most important part of the experience. The most important qualities our students develop during their semester abroad with Verto is a combination of resiliency, grit, compassion, and gratitude.
Let’s start with resiliency and grit. Resiliency can be defined as the ability to bounce back, a toughness that comes from the practice of falling down and getting back up again. Coupled with grit, or the strength of character, a student is able to overcome whatever obstacles life throws at them to become successful. A semester with Verto allows students to flex that resiliency muscle as they navigate foreign places, new languages, and a college-level curriculum. It’s an environment that will challenge and empower students, preparing them to reach their full potential when they arrive on a college campus.
Verto students learn both in and out of the classroom, and there is no substitute for learning through hands-on experience. This experience super-charges growth in a safe and stable environment. For more, I’d highly recommend watching Angela Duckworth’s TED talk on grit.
If resiliency and grit are the engine that powers students through their semester, compassion and gratitude are the fuel that keeps them going. Compassion, and gratitude, at their core embody the idea that it’s all going to be OK. Taking part in another culture and getting a peek into a different way of life breeds a level of compassion and gratitude that’s impossible to hone from a typical college classroom. Students work on local irrigation projects, stay in home stays, and visit local hospitals. They get a sense of the world, and other people, as they have never experienced it. It lights a spark that stays with you for life.
What are the faculty and group leaders like?
I’m incredibly proud of Verto’s faculty. Our classes are capped at 20 students, which means that our faculty have an individual relationship with every student, unlike the 300+ student lecture halls that frequent most college campuses. We hire faculty who are excited about teaching for the sake of teaching, and don’t see it as merely a break from their research. Our teachers travel with students for the entire 12 week semester, so they need to love being around students.
I feel confident in saying that Verto students have more contact hours with teachers than 99% of universities. Why? Our faculty teach a course in the morning and then are with students participating in their hands-on classroom experience in the evenings. Teachers are often traveling with the students so they are available during mealtime, weekends, and participate in group activities. Our goal is for our faculty to develop a meaningful connection with each and every student.
We also have high standards for our faculty. Each teacher has weekly check-ins with our team to receive feedback and ideate on how to improve the student experience even further. We give teachers the flexibility to bring fun back to the classroom, while still ensuring that students are completing assignments that will prepare them for the rest of college. Teachers are able to use the world as their classroom, giving infinite opportunities for creativity and hands on learning, something that can’t be attained in a lecture hall.
Our goal is for Verto students to get as much as possible from every moment of their experience. Many people tell us that our standards are exceptional. I believe our standards should be the norm for every student. That is what motivates and drives our work at Verto.
Why do Universities Partner with Verto?
Colleges accept students for three primary reasons: 1) Academic performance 2) Contribution to the campus community 3) Likelihood of becoming successful alumni. Verto students check all 3 boxes in impressive ways. Our partner colleges value Verto students and how innovative and impactful our model is for student outcomes. In short, they know Verto students are more likely to be successful! Here’s why:
- Academic Performance: Spending your 1st semester/ year abroad is brave. When a student spends a semester abroad their Freshman year earning academic credit, with experiential education and service learning it says a lot about their character and what they can handle. Box checked!
- Campus Community: Colleges care deeply about creating a well-balanced student population. They want creative, independent thinkers who inspire their fellow students. Who can contribute to that campus environment better than a student who just returned from a semester abroad in Costa Rica, China, Australia, etc? This is one of the reasons applying through Verto can help a student’s chance of being admitted into one of our partner colleges. Applying through Verto can help you gain admission to your reach school.
- Successful Alumni: There is a lot of research that shows people who are resilient, determined, and have a diversity of experience do well in life. Colleges want successful, engaged, passionate alumni who want to help change the world. What better proof point than spending a semester with Verto? It’s a much more substantive reflection of character and determination than a high school resume, for example.
What Is the Academic Coursework Like?
Consider two scenarios and tell me which you prefer:
- A 100+ person Freshman year English 101 lecture. Students rarely have any 1-on-1 interaction with their professor, if at all. Students write standard essays.
- A 20 student (maximum) Verto English 101 course where the student is around their professor constantly. Faculty are consistently available for support and encouragement. Students are in the classroom in the morning, and in the afternoon they are working on an irrigation project, visiting a local hospital and going on weekend rafting trips. Not only do they write essays on their reading assignments, they also write reflections on their own personal growth, feelings about their travels, the locals they meet and the food they eat along the way.
Which of those two academic experiences would you choose to have? Not only is Verto coursework serious in an academic sense, it’s also engaging, fun and part of an overall maturing and growth experience that stays with our students for the rest of their lives.
Is it Safe?
In short, yes, absolutely. First of all, Verto semesters are not your typical study abroad program. We have a maximum of 20 students in each cohort, along with four teachers and program leaders. That’s a 5-1 ratio. Our students stay in safe and secure locations. Perhaps most importantly, we partner with Rustic Pathways, who handles our on the ground operations. They have top of the line safety precautions, across the board. One of our alumni parents put it best when he said that he would much rather have his daughter in Costa Rica, learning, growing and thriving, than at a college Frat party.
How Can Verto Make Their Semesters So Affordable?
I’d answer that question with a question: How has education become so expensive?
The answer is that less than half of tuition revenue actually goes to pay for instruction and student services. Our current system of Higher Education forces our 18-22 year olds to bear the brunt of administrative costs, research, sports teams and lazy rivers, among other things. At Verto, we take the exact opposite approach. At Verto, nearly ALL tuition revenue goes directly to student instruction and support. It’s part of our mission to make Higher Education more affordable.
At Verto we care about one thing: creating the best possible educational experience for your son or daughter. We want to create engaged global citizens, with critical thinking skills, compassion and who want to make a difference in the world. Shouldn’t every college focus on the same outcomes?
I love hearing from our students and parents. You inspire me to keep growing the Verto movement! Feel free to email me directly at Mitch@VertoEducation.org.