Coding school 42 plans to educate 10,000 students in Silicon Valley for free

Xavier Niel’s new project is an ambitious coding university in Silicon Valley called 42. But the trick is that it’s nothing like other universities out there. 42 is free, doesn’t care about your SAT and wants to educate 10,000 students within the next 5 years.

This isn’t Niel’s first try at building a coding school. 42 has been doing well in France. The French businessman started 42 in 2013, and there are already 2,500 students learning to code right now in Paris. But what makes 42 different?

First, it’s free. Niel is investing $100 million in the U.S. to create a new school. And it starts with a brand new 200,000 square foot building in Fremont opened 24/7 with thousands of iMacs.

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Second, 42 welcomes all students between 18 and 30. After filling out your online application, the real challenge starts. The 42 team has created a computer science version of the Hunger Games. They call it the swimming pool because they want to see if you can swim by throwing you into the figurative pool. You and 1,000 others students face the same coding and logic challenges.

You only have 4 weeks, and you can code from Monday to Sunday, day and night. After these insanely intensive 4 weeks, the best students get to study at 42.

Third, 42 is nothing like your average university. There’s no teacher and no classroom. Students are expected to learn a set of skills in 3 to 5 years. The school relies on peer reviews, coding projects, internships and gamification. If you stay motivated for 3 to 5 years, you’ll become a good software engineer.

But you’ll have to spend a lot of time in front of a computer. Applications start now and the first students will start studying in November.

All of this sounds a bit crazy. But it actually is. When French President François Hollande visited 42 in Paris with Xavier Niel, there were students sleeping on the floor in the hallway:

Also worth noting, 42 released an introduction video on YouTube. It features many tech leaders praising the school, such as Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel, Facebook’s David Marcus, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, etc. As usual, Xavier Niel stays in the shadow and is nowhere to be seen in this video.