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Student Spotlight: Interview with Afua Manukure Ansah

Afua Ansah is a 2020 graduate of Achimota School, where she obtained 8As in her West African Senior School Certificate Examination and was elected as the Library Prefect. She also participated in the 2020 Ghana National Science & Maths Quiz, where her team made it to the semi - final stage before they were ‘kicked out’ of the competition. In 2016, she represented Ghana at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, and was crowned as Ghana’s first finalist in the competition. Afua is currently enrolled at Cornell University, where she is pursuing an Engineering degree. In this post, she responds to a few questions we had for her.

In your own words, who is Afua Ansah?

Afua is an 18 years old Ghanaian who loves learning and is passionate about knowing and exploring more.

Congratulations on your admission to Cornell University, your recent achievement in the National Science & Maths Quiz Ghana, your excellent WASSCE results and all the amazing things you’ve accomplished!

Thank you!

First of all, why Cornell?

It was not always Cornell (lol). Harvard was my Early Action school, but I got waitlisted. I got an offer from Cornell and decided to accept it.

Did you apply to any other schools aside Cornell and Harvard?

I applied to 3 other 'Ivy League' schools in addition to Duke and Stanford.

What was the feedback you got from some of the other schools you applied to?

I was waitlisted at Yale and Princeton also and got accepted into Cornell and Dartmouth.

Did you use any college application system?

I used the Common App.

Did you experience any constraints using the Common App?

I did not.

How about with getting your recommendation letters in and the fees for each application?

My teachers submitted my letters online with no major issues and my high school counselor had the application fees waived for me.

What was the time frame of your college application process?

I began applying in August 2019 and it was not until March/April 2020 that final decisions came out.

I presume you opted for the Regular Decision Application then?

I used that route for most schools.

I’m informed you’re pursuing Engineering. Is there anything that influenced this choice?

My interest in physics and mathematics which I thoroughly enjoyed while studying at Achimota School influenced my choice when it came to choosing a college major.

Are you currently enrolled as a student at Cornell University or you deferred your admission?

I am currently enrolled and began with virtual learning this semester.

How is Online Learning going so far?

It’s not been bad. There’s actually a lot of assistance even though it's virtual. However, there have been some slight challenges, especially with time difference. I feel it would be a different experience being in class than learning virtually, but so far, it has been manageable.

Definitely, I agree! Nothing beats the classroom experience. I know you’ve not attended university in Ghana to probably make a fair analysis, but how would you evaluate the instruction you are currently receiving at Cornell to that of what you’ve experienced in High School or what you’ve heard from students in Ghanaian universities?

From my own evaluation and interrogation from students in public universities in Ghana, it appears they are not as overwhelmed with online learning as I currently am. Based on personal inquiries from friends, I’m informed that even with the online instruction from some of the public universities in Ghana, instruction is not intense, effective, and carefully executed. From my observation at Cornell, it has been very intense, overwhelming and consistent!

Aside from virtual learning, does Cornell organize any type of virtual activities for students to ‘socially’ engage and interact?

Oh yes! There’s actually been a number of things every week to keep students engaged out of school work, but personally, I haven’t been able to participate much this semester.

How do you think your past experience contributed to your college application success?

I think it really helped that I had past extra curricular activities I could recount and showcase in my applications. I was the Library Prefect at Achimota School, I also represented Ghana in the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington DC, and I have been involved in various competitions throughout my primary and secondary education. Little did I think all these different activities would have been of immense help in my college applications!

How did you balance school duties with your college applications?

It was all about time management and mentally preparing myself for the tasks ahead.

Did you receive any external assistance with your applications?

With the exception of the Financial Aid component which I had no clear understanding of, I did most of the work on my own. Due to the fact that I was mostly in school during the application process, my mum referred to Aikins Educational Consult for assistance with the financial aid process.

Did you always want to study abroad?

To be honest, I didn't know I will be studying abroad. It's not something I had given serious thought to or intentionally planned out although I always used to playfully say in passing that “I want to study at Harvard. I want to study at ...” Initially, I used to say I would study at Ashesi, but it was not until I attended a seminar during my first year in High School that I became more informed of the college application process in the USA and considered it as an option.

What are you looking forward to experiencing at Cornell and the USA at large?

I’m actually nervous leaving home to a new environment! I honestly don’t know what to expect.

That’s perfectly fine to have no expectations at the moment! Too much of it may leave you disappointed so just go with the flow. However, you’ve had the opportunity to be in the USA for the Spelling Bee. How was that experience?

To be frank, I really enjoyed myself and it was a great experience. It gave me a good first impression of the USA.

With regards to your college application experience, what advice will you give to High School students interested in applying to schools abroad?

I’ll advise they make the most out of their time in High School. They should not be scared of going all out, but be adventurous in exploring extra - curricular activities. The academic work is important, but that should not be the sole focus of your High School experience, especially if you’re considering studying in the USA as extra curricular activities are factored in the admission process. Also, there is this perception that students tend to have about involving themselves in activities for the sake of enhancing their college application. However, it is more important for students to find themselves in spaces that they genuinely enjoy and have an interest in, because it is only then, will they truly exel.

We wish Afua the best of success in all her endeavors and look forward to hearing and sharing on her future accomplishments!

If you know of any student whose accomplishment(s) deserves to be highlighted, send us an email at and we will have them featured!


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