First of all, this is me:
Now onto my review of TKS. A real, honest **and truthful/unbiased** review.
I’ll be honest, I was skeptical going into it at first. But then I got insight, joined, and my life changed.
The Knowledge Society (TKS) is a program for young ambitious people to go out and solve the worlds biggest problems.
It’s an apply-only program (applications are open now!) for those who are looking to make an impact and learn something. The point of TKS is to provide you with the mindsets and skills to apply exponential learning to emerging technologies.
For example: You’ve probably heard of blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRISPR. You’ve might’ve worked with these technologies before.
But what about deep brain optogenetic stimulation, metabolomics, and connectomics?
Then there’s philosophy and understanding.
Maybe you’ve heard of general philosophies like minimalism, but what about stoicism and solipsism?
But these are just a small fraction of the things we learn in TKS. Wait till you see us in January.
There’s a lot more to TKS than buzzwords and cool ads, and you may see the modicum of negative reviews on the forefront of the internet, but today, I’m here to tell you why you should take the step and apply.
So let’s break down common questions:
1. Is TKS a scam?
2. What do I get out of TKS?
To be honest, these are all really valid questions, and since you’re going to be invest time and money into this program if you choose to do it, then it makes sense to ask. But you need a quality answer. Not a negative Reddit rant or a positive review on Glassdoor.
You need a real-world, cited, and properly stated answer that lays down everything you need to know.
And that’s why I made this. Now, start reading 👇🏾
When you first enter the TKS website, you’ll probably like it. It’s nice, well-designed, animated, cool, etc. etc. One of the first things that I noticed was the overall organization and design theme of the website.
But don’t just take notice of the look, and form opinions. Look at the content. On the very first page, there's this:
Real TKS students speaking at places like C2 Montréal, IKEA DGTL, TedX, Fortune, Collision, WebSummit, and more.
Just to highlight the legitimacy 👉🏾 WebSummit is the largest technology conference in the world, and it’s in Portugal w/over 70,000 people in attendance, and IKEA DGTL takes place at the original IKEA headquarters Sweden.
So yes, these are real, big conferences.
And no, it's not that these crazy super people are the only ones who get to attend.
Take me, a first year (called innovate) at the program. I’ve spoken at the largest tech/developer conferences in Canada and Switzerland 👇🏾.
And I’m not some crazy super genius.
I’m just ambitious and in TKS.
Then, when you scroll, you see this logo banner:
You look and see Google, SpaceX, Microsoft, IBM, TedX. Airbnb, Walmart, Nestle, and on and on. TKS fosters partnerships, getting internships, speaking opportunities, sessions and more.
These are only some of the companies they’ve worked with. See the results they’ve given me already:
The conference I spoke at was sponsored by IBM, and I’ve consulted for a multi-million dollar COVID Tracing Foundation.
TKS students from previous years have even consulted with Microsoft, Walmart, and Google as well.
This isn’t to say that we’re better, but TKS distills opportunities and vital information for you, and removes the trial and error that accompanies getting in contact with a lab, trying to speak at a large conferences, or getting in contact with a CEO. Yes, you still have to hustle to get what you want/need, but that’s an important part of life.
They don’t hand things to you per se, but they do help you a lot.
Another vital point of the website is this:
Click on some of these kids.
Last year, they were just 1st years in the program.
It’s important that you’re proactive. And once you’ve looked, click this button
Because it might just do wonders for you.
The application process isn’t long.
And it doesn’t cost money.
So it’s not really one of those things where there’s a reason not to apply.
It’s literally information about you, a 2 minute video/quick q’s, and then write a paragraph about a company and then a quick relaxed and not-overly-formal interview (and I hear it’s shorter this year… find out for yourself here 😉).
Just be yourself.
That’s literally the topmost advice you’re given.
You’re not going to get asked about your previous accomplishments, or things that you’re doing. That’s not the point of the interview.
The point of the interview is to get to know you. By the time you have an interview, they’ve already seen how you think and present yourself based off of your writing and responses.
Now it's just to get to know you 😀.
For example: in my interview, we talked about myself, academic stuff, and how I’m like an owl.
So that should give you a hint as to what they want to know about you.
This isn’t school or an academy or a random extracurricular.
It’s a community.
What’s the point of not applying? It’s free, low risk, and you’re not obligated to do anything after you apply.
If you get accepted, the tuition is ~$4k USD a year [a lot of financial aid is offered, get to it in a second].
This isn’t a marketing tactic, if that’s what you’re thinking 🤦🏾♂️.
TKS is a company. With employees. These employees (directors and awesome people, rather) are instructors from Harvard, McKinsey Consultants, and 4.0 GPA scorers in Neuroscience. And people who have worked at Fortune 500 companies and helped to ideate Disney+.
If you’ve going to be receiving mentorship from these type of people working full time at being your directors, then they’ll need to be recompensated.
Makes sense to me.
And if that’s not within your budget. That makes sense.
TKS understands that everyone’s not going to have $4k a year as a compounded expense.
So, they partner with companies, and give financial aid. And they’re not overly sparing about it. Trust me. Just ask whoever interviewed or the founders, Navid and Nadeem. I’m sure they’ll help you figure something out.
And if not, you can always stay in contact or talk.
You’re not ostracized because under any circumstance.
Besides, TKS holds TKS Talks with executives and CEOs from SpaceX, Tecton and Microsoft to come and speak, so you can still have awesome experiences with the community guaranteed. This year, Directors and Research Scientists from Google, Netflix, and Apple are speaking.
Bottom line: Look at and read the site well. Apply. Pay or work out financial aid. Be happy that you applied and stay in contact, whether or not you end up doing the program. Try again when applications open up!
Why Attend? Why Pay?
There are actually multiple reasons. In a minute I’ll share my story and another first years’ and then some alumni.
Things TKS offers:
- World Class Speaking opportunities
- Massive Networking
- Learning on Technology
- Learning on Mindsets
- Outcomes, not Problems
It’s not every day that you get to intern at Deloitte, consult with a company, or speak at SXSW, or learn about senolytic treatments for human longevity, or find out why climate change isn’t actually a problem, or talk to CEOs of Forbes’ 30 Under 30, or even learn about happiness from Naval Ravikant…
But these are all things that TKS does for you.
TKS teaches you value.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that TKS is a marketing ploy. That’s it’s basically like going to private school all over again and for no reason, and that it’s just filled with “rich kids”.
As someone who goes to private school and TKS, I can say this isn’t true.
For starters, a bunch of TKStudents don’t attend private school.
For second-ers, TKS students (especially in the Virtual program) are from different economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds, ranging from places like Dubai to Las Vegas to Germany to Pennsylvania to Toronto (where it all started).
Private schools set you up for college.
TKS sets you up for life.
And not just an ordinary life. It sets up to be the next CEO, innovator, disruptor, activator, thought leader, or 🦄 Person. For life. And that’s important.
And those are pretty great titles/positions if I’m being honest!
I think I’ve said all I need to say regarding this point.
If you don’t understand what I mean by that, I recommend for you to try out the program by just applying! If you apply, you’ll really understand what the program can do for you.
Then, if you now understand and it suits your fancy, join up.
Just think of it as a return on investment.
If someone offers you gold and tells them that you need to work hard and pay them for the bar of gold, would you take it?
What if they told you that depending on how much work and desire you have in you, they would drop the standing fee?
I would take it.
I have taken it.
And I’m not regretting doing so.
Will I have to do TKS more than school to reap benefits?
No. One of the things almost every director tells you is that school should be the #1 priority.
Now this doesn’t mean that you should just do no TKS stuff if you have an exam, but it does mean that when comparing it to other academic/fun things you’re doing — excluding family and religious obligations, etc. of course — , school should take precedence, and TKS should also be a top priority.
You pump out new projects and research articles after you do an explore module, which is basically an introductory short-course that TKS curates specifically for you and anyone else interest in the topic. You can try one out here after you make a free account.
Then, with less guidance you work on your focus. It basically allows you to express your own freedoms and go deep into a topic.
For investors, hirers, etc., TKS also makes a custom platform, https://tks.life, where you can customize and hold your portfolio, and keep your personal website, which TKS shows you how to make at a low cost and awesome-ly.
Along the way, you have a bunch of different playbooks and pro-tips to refer to, and all the directors are only a phone call or Slack message away!
If you’re putting in the work and you #trusttheprocess, you’ll reap the benefits. Liam Hinzman, an alumni at TKS, shares his trust the process story:
I recently had a recruiting opportunity as well, and I was reached out by a company to be an advisor for them. More updates will be on my website, so if you want to know more, check that out for updates!
TKS recognizes that some people want extra sessions, smaller communities, and more rigorous requirements.
That’s where the velocity program comes in.
I doesn’t cost anything extra, and you can get the full benefits of TKS w/o it. It’s just for people who want to put in that extra extra time for TKS. In velocity, we have more requirements, like daily updates and squad synch’s, and we have a short little extra session every week. Each of the requirements are tracked by your city’s director.
So there you have it. The commitment is up to you. The results are also up to you, with the help of TKS.
TKS puts you in contact with/teaches you how to reach out to CEOs, and more. If you don’t believe me, Isabella Grandic, a second year at TKS, got to speak at Microsoft Ready, and met:
And no. You’re not guaranteed world class results. But if you hustle and try your best, something will happen. Whether that’s an internship, working in a lab, or speaking at a huge conference, you’ll get a desirable outcome, and most importantly, you’ll learn a lot.
That’s what TKS is, they give playbooks, professional guidance, and a platform.
From there it’s your job to work hard.
If you want to learn about how to work hard at TKS, check out Izzy’s article she wrote on it.
The point is, TKS is nothing like school. There are no grades, no competition against your peers, no comparison.
It’s about you and your community’s success.
For me personally, I haven’t sacrifice school. I’m currently a President’s list student and I’ve finished with high honors and a near-perfect GPA in 9th. I’m also taking double-Advanced Placement math and science courses as a sophomore, and preparing for standardized testing.
All while researching cell biology, artificial intelligence, and more.
This doesn’t make me better, or special, or anything. It makes me hard working. And to be honest, that’s just what you need for TKS. Hard work, willingness to fail, and enjoyment in whatever you choose to do.
The only way you’ll have a negative experience is if you don’t cultivate any of these behaviors. Which is really hard.
So is it a scam?
Despite whatever negative/positive rave Reddit post or any random review from one of those sites with a 🤩 response or a 😡 response, TKS is no scam.
In fact, TKS is one of the few initiatives that I’ve ever joined that make me want to work there. And that doesn’t happen very often for me.
The main statement is no. TKS is no scam. As someone in TKS (here’s proof), it’s not.
Do they just market off of “already smart people”?
This is one of the biggest concerns out there.
🚫 TKS just takes kids who are already smart and then say that their success was from TKS.
Though I was an abitious kid before TKS, coding and working on science fairs, I definitely didn’t have the mental models or in-depth educational frameworks, or even network that I do now from just a couple months of TKS.
It’s more transformative than just joining a program as a so-called “genius-kid” and then you get a bunch of opportunities.
TKS grows you, whether you’ve already started a startup, done research, worked in a lab, etc. or not.
Izzy started out a good school student. She says that her daily schedule before TKS was to (paraphrasing quote) “school, eat, study, Netflix, sleep”. And she got good grades. She also says that “school was boring, art wasn’t really my thing, and I was more likely to join a circus than be on a sports team. And I definitely wasn’t joining the circus”. She didn’t have any specific interest (except IKEA/internal design — which you can see in her talk) that translated to a streamlined career path.
Now, she’s still in school, working on ending maternal mortality at EMM, and has done 10+ months of biotechnology research that has gotten her on stages surrounded by over 20,000 people.
Pretty great right?
And she’s not the only example:
- Riya Karumanchi has been featured in a bajillion places thanks to her work on SmartCane, a high-tech assistive white cane for the blind, which has now gotten a massive $80,000 in investments, and its an incorporated company. She’s also done work in combining special education for disabled children with virtual reality at ArticulateVR
- I’m researching alternative protein, and have received over $10,000 in prizes for my work in AI. I never knew about these fields (excluding AI) prior to TKS, and I definitely wasn’t making developments in them (again, excluding AI). I’m also developing cyber-infrastructures at Fidutam
- Luke Piette has worked at Mann Labs, building brain computer interfaces that can literally recreate sight, and hacked wearables like the Muse headset, and reconfigured them to diagnose depression off of EEG brain data
- Nazra Noushad (worked at TKS after attending the program) and Cassia Attard consulted in the TKS Challenge, and have since been consulting around the world, working with legendary CEOs/company founders like the late Tony Hsieh
- Michael Trinh and Mikey Taylor have both/still are doing awesome bio/neuro stuff at Harvard Medical School
- Sofia Sanchez is focusing her efforts in Synthetic Biology, doing an international genetic engineered machine competition and leading a team from home
- Me, Aditya Mittal, Karthik Mittal, and Allison Dana built a website, drafted a 90-page slide deck, and worked on workbooks as apart of consulting for a company, and we’re still pursuing our own personal projects
- Did I mention that Ananya Chadha (now in Stanford) worked directly with IBM on coding automation, Sick Kids Hospital on Gene Editing research, got sponsorship from Microsoft to develop BCI technology, and developed a blockchain application to hold and exchange genetic information securely and anonymously which was moved into the company Consensys?!?! 🤯
And all of us are still wondering about a show, a store, a trend… we’re not worried about those things, but we’re still normal teenagers living sometimes not normal lives.
We’re kids who went through or are going through TKS, and have been changed by it, whether or not we were “smart” (what does this even mean?!?!?! — a very abstract construct if you ask me 😒) beforehand.
That’s what TKS does for you. Turns teens into tech superheroes.
Those names are listed are just a fraction of the hundreds of TKStudents working on awesome stuff, and just hanging out with their TKS Friends.
Also, TKStudents have been representing in CES’ Young Innovators to Watch Award for two years in a row.
We’re community. Directors are accessible, TKStudents become your friends, we are like minded, but very different individuals.
For the ladies, you even get your own #bossladies community as an add on to promote fem-gender centered success ♀
We celebrate parts of Christmas together.
We know each other well.
We network and share.
We hold each other accountable.
We become founders of a company together.
We work on projects.
We fail together.
We succeed together.
We support each other.
We learn from one another.
We have a fun time!
We’re awesome, and you should join us too!
We’re all together to be the best versions of ourselves.
Next time you see a post like this:
or even a headline like this:
Refer back to this article. Unfiltered content from a real TKStudent.
And don’t just take my word for it. In the comments 💬, more opinions from real TKStudents and even mentors will be written. So read, and read well 👉🏾
If you don’t want to read, contact people in TKS. I myself was almost discouraged by the confusing negative and even positive comments. Then I spoke to people actually in or through the program, and I realized that I wanted to do it.
And my parents agreed (so that should also tell you something — parents are typically suspicious of programs and like to get the details. It’s not the fact that they put me in it, its the fact that they were on board).
The bottom bottom line?
Apply, try, do your best, join if you can, you’ll love it. I think you’ll love the community, the learning, the excitement.
Just try it out. Just click:
TKS | World Economic Forum School of the Future | The Knowledge Society
We engage with organizations in a variety of ways, including providing real-world challenges for students to solve…
It’s your turn to create the future, and do it with support and style!
Before you go…
My name is Okezue Bell, and I’m a 14 y/o innovator/entrepreneur in a variety of spaces. I’m investing my time in researching and developing myself (in the super interesting biotech and bioeng space)! Make sure to contact me more:
🔗 LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/okezue-a-...
💻 Personal Website: https://www.okezuebell.com
🦜 Twitter: https://twitter.com/okezuebell
There’s going to be more…😉
Thanks for reading!