Behind the Scenes: Akilah’s Admissions Process

This September, 550 young women will start a new academic year at the Akilah Institute for Women, forming our largest incoming class yet. Identifying candidates, recruiting applicants, and selecting the most promising women to join the Akilah family is no small task. Throughout the year, our Recruitment and Admissions teams in both Rwanda and Burundi work tirelessly to streamline the process and grow the Akilah family.

Akilah’s recruitment strategy begins months before the application cycle opens. And it all begins with spreading the word. Flyers, placards, and banners are distributed and posted on buses, at schools, and in shops. Radio announcements on the four most popular stations advertise where, when, and how to apply. The recruitment staff works with institutional partners, local provincial and district leaders, and secondary schools around the country to contact potential applicants and conduct information sessions. This year, the Rwanda team hosted an Open House, introducing young women and their families to the Akilah model and building brand awareness. One of the most critical outreach strategies is Akilah’s student recruitment committee, made up of 20 student ambassadors who speak on behalf of Akilah at their community meetings, churches, and on TV and Radio Talk shows.

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On the Kigali campus this year, the official application cycle began in early January and closed on June 5th. Over 850 women applied for 120 spots and our local team, with three staff and three part time interns, individually met with each one. Akilah’s four-step application process looks closely for students with English proficiency, confidence, determination and potential. Candidates complete an application and a Self-Assessment which guides candidates in the process of choosing their major at Akilah. It also allows the Admissions team to get to know applicants’ English level, passions, and interests, right from the start. This initial assessment allows the Admissions team to identify strong applicants who will then be invited to the written exam, which will establish if their English competency offers a strong enough base for success on our English-only campus.

The interview is perhaps the most important — and most difficult — part of the process, both for applicants and staff. It is the applicant’s opportunity to demonstrate her desire to succeed in our collaborative and educational environment and make positive impacts for herself, her family, and her country. It is her chance to express who she is and what she values. It’s therefore a moment of deep reflection for young women from diverse and often difficult circumstances, and can be very emotional for both interviewee and interviewers.

After getting to know each applicant and hearing their stories, it can be extremely hard to have to select candidates. But with so many candidates, the Admissions team can only offer a seat at Akilah to those who are the best fit. And being able to say yes and knowing the incredible contributions these young women will make to Akilah and their communities, is infinitely rewarding.

Admissions is clearly a pivotal stage for the success of any academic institution as well as the success of its students, and one that impacts lives for years to come. With this in mind, this year’s Admissions process was truly a collaborative one with input from Akilah’s Leadership, staff and faculty in our three Diploma Programs who contributed to defining our assessment tools and the criteria to be assessed during the Admissions process. Having the input and buy-in of Akilah staff and faculty helped to create an ongoing assessment process that helped select some of the strongest applicants we’ve seen so far, with impressive stories of determination, drive and passion to make their future a success.