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KWLI (Kelley Women’s Leadership Institute) - 7 Reasons Why You Should Apply

As colleges and universities increase DEI efforts, many have developed programs to recruit high-performing, underrepresented students to contribute to diversity within academic departments. If you’re interested in learning more about an academic subject alongside students who share an identity or community with you, these programs offer a wide array of advantages.

You’ll build connections with other students passionate about your academic pursuits, interact with program faculty, get exposure to the college environment, and often even earn an admissions advantage when you apply.

In this post, we’ll focus on one in particular — Kelley Women’s Leadership Institute — a program designed for young women hoping to pursue business studies in college.

We’ll provide a general overview of KWLI, discuss key facts such as the application process, dates, and eligibility requirements, and lay out the most exciting features of the Institute.

What is Kelley Women’s Leadership Institute (KWLI)?

Kelley Women’s Leadership Institute is hosted by Indiana University-Bloomington’s Kelley School of Business. The program offers young women in high school who are passionate about business and economics to network with business school professors, meet other young women hoping to pursue a career in business, and attend educational events. Offered both in-person and online, attendees will either spend one day on campus or join virtual programming over the course of three days.

There is limited information available about the exact programming at the Institute, but the general curriculum ranges from exploring the academic field of business, to social events and networking, to discussion of gender dynamics in the field. You’ll join faculty-led academic workshops, collaborate on a case study project, meet professors and graduates of Kelley, and interact with other young women who share your academic and professional goals.

Considering applying? Let’s review the general application components.

How do I apply to KWLI?

Unfortunately, Kelley School of Business does not post KWLI application requirements directly on their website, so the specifics of current requirements are not fully clear. However, looking back at information from past sessions, the program has traditionally requested a copy of your high school transcript, a resume or activities list, and two short essays that ask you to explain your motivation for attending the Institute and a discussion of your academic, social, and/or extracurricular passions.

The application portal typically opens about two-and-a-half months in advance of the program, with applications due approximately two weeks before the Institute date.

The time at which admissions decisions are released is not posted on the Institute website. However, due to the timeline, you can expect a fairly fast turnaround time so that you’ll be able to arrange travel plans in time to attend.


Though selective, KWLI has minimal pre-application eligibility criteria; the most weight will be placed on your application essays and resume. The only academic requirement is a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5.

Students in their Sophomore, Junior, or Senior year are eligible to apply, though eligibility varies by program date.

To break down the grade eligibility for each Institute:

November: Open to current Juniors and Seniors

April: Open to current Sophomores and Juniors

May, June, & July: Open to rising Juniors and Seniors

As one might expect from the program name, the Young Women’s Leadership Institute is only open to women.


If you’re worried that KWLI might not fit into your schedule, there’s no need to worry —

The Kelley Women’s Leadership Institute is held at several points throughout the year, and is a short-term commitment.

Wondering when you can attend? Though exact dates vary, the sessions typically fall in November, April, May, June, & July. Dates are typically confirmed shortly before the application opens.

In terms of time commitment, the in-person program length is one day, while virtual sessions are held over the course of a few days. Online events will be paced out across the program length, so you can expect to only spend a portion of each day in programming.


The cost of attending YWI is tricky to calculate — it will vary substantially depending on which program you choose, where you live, and/or where you choose to stay.

The first thing to note is that KWLI itself does not have a cost — the programming you attend and meals for in-person sessions are fully-covered.

Unfortunately, in-person attendees typically have costs associated with attendance. For in-person sessions, KWLI does not provide funding for transportation or lodging. So, if you’re traveling to attend, you’ll have to independently pay for your flight or other transportation arrangements, as well as at least one night at a hotel. However, if you’re able to easily commute to campus, you’ll only need to worry about paying for gas.

Now that we’ve clarified the main features of the program, let’s dive into the most compelling features of the program.

7 Reasons to Apply to the Kelley Women’s Leadership Institute

1. You’ll learn about the gender dynamics of business: Even as diversity increases in business and economics, women are still underrepresented and underpaid. Though there are many pre-college programs centered around business, few are geared towards young women entering the field. In the learning community at YWI, you’ll learn more than just pure academics — you’ll learn how to thrive as a woman in a male-dominated field.

2. You’ll network with business school professors: Kelley emphasizes that connecting with faculty is a core component of the Institute. The interactive programming and workshops will put you in conversation with IU’s Kelley School of Business professors, so YWI attendance will expose you to the world of business academia while providing a chance to demonstrate your passion and skill in business.

3. You may gain an admissions boost at Kelley: Though not explicitly stated by the Institute website, it is strongly implied that attendance at KWLI can give you an edge as an applicant to the school. Noting the relevance of the Institute for prospective students in particular, it is likely that Kelley perceives Institute attendance as demonstrated interest — a factor which can often make you a more compelling candidate. As a competitive program, acceptance to YWI is a good sign that Kelley professors and administrators are impressed with your background. Finally, as the Institute is tuition-free, this indicates that Kelley is invested in your ability to explore the school’s offerings — funded programs are often intended to entice competitive prospective students to apply to the school!

4. You can see your potential for future success: Beyond just Kelley professors, KWLI also brings Kelley alumni to each session, who will share their experiences moving from undergraduate to business school to successful industry careers.

5. You can get teacher endorsement before applying: Though the KWLI application does not require letters of recommendation, the Institute recruitment process can demonstrate your standout abilities at your school. Students can get a head-start on admissions consideration if nominated by a teacher or counselor, showing that she is a top candidate within her high school, and passionate about pursuing business in college.

6. You’ll get insider information on the Kelley student experience: During your time on campus, you’ll get an unmatched chance to hear about the Kelley School of Business from current students. A 2022 student testimonial described these conversations as one of the most valuable parts of her experience. Finding students more approachable than administrators or faculty, she felt comfortable with “ask[ing] them more random questions than I would ask an admissions representative.”

7. You’ll meet potential classmates and/or other future businesswomen: As many attendees intend to apply to the Kelley School of Business, the other young women you’ll meet during your time at the Institute may end up being your future classmates! Beyond making friends and connections early, you’ll also get a picture of what the dynamic of your classroom discussions and course projects might look like as a student at Kelley.

Our Review - Is It a Worthwhile Experience?

Overall, if you’re a young woman in high school working to plan your future in business, the Kelley Women’s Leadership Institute can be a great opportunity to explore the inner-workings of business school alongside a peer group that shares your goals. However, KWLI is definitely more advantageous for some students than others. Due to the potential admissions advantage that attendance can provide, the program is a highly strategic choice for students hoping to attend the Kelley School of Business.

Beyond academic considerations, it is also worth noting that KWLI is most accessible to students close to campus. Despite being tuition-free, KWLI may not be an ideal financial investment if you don’t live nearby. If you’ll be flying across the country (or internationally!), the flight cost will be hefty for a one-day trip. Adding in extra costs for a hotel room to spend the night and personal expenses, attendance won’t be cheap. So, if you’re not truly passionate about attending Kelley School of Business, this program may not be the ideal choice for you.

If you’re looking for an incubator program that helps you establish a developed startup in high school, consider the Young Founders Lab! 

The Young Founder’s Lab is a real-world start-up bootcamp founded and run by Harvard entrepreneurs. In this program, you will work towards building a revenue-generating start-up that addresses a real-world problem. You will also have the opportunity to be mentored by established entrepreneurs and professionals from Google, Microsoft, and X. 

You can access the application link here!

One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in doing university-level research in business, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.

Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a Ph.D. student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.

Image Source: Kelley School of Business logo


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