Preparing for College

Going to college is more than a decision — it's a process. Here are helpful resources to guide students and parents as they prepare for college applications, acceptance and success.

Advanced Placement

A program developed by the College Board to provide rigorous academic courses at high schools, Advanced Placement courses are offered at 40 Hawaii high schools in subjects ranging from Calculus to English Language and Composition, Biology, U.S. History, Studio Art and 20 other subjects. Students can also enroll in AP courses through the Department's HVLN Hawaii Online Courses Program (formerly known as E-School).

Students may receive college credit if they receive a score of 3 or higher on the AP exam. Students may take an AP exam without enrolling in an AP course.

Test preparation

Students who plan to take the SAT college entrance exam can benefit from building test-taking and knowledge skills for free on the Khan Academy platform. Radford High student Eryn Lum, below, increased her score from the PSAT to the SAT by a total of 190 points. With her grades and her improved SAT score she qualified for the Western Undergraduate Exchange to help reduce tuition costs at Colorado State University.


​Student Aid — FAFSA

All students are strongly encouraged to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The office of Federal Student Aid provides more than $120 billion each year in grants, loans, and work-study funds for college or career school. Hawai‘i's completion rate:

  • 2017-18: 6,056 applications
  • 2018-19: 5,466 applications
  • 2019-20: 5,517 applications

The Federal Student Aid website has an exceptional Preparing for College site with valuable tips, checklists, calendars, connection to scholarships and aid programs, and the College Scorecard for students and parents.

Follow Hawaii's FAFSA Data Dashboard to see progress statewide and by schools over time.

Click here to learn more about the FAFSA application process.

GEAR UP Hawaii

Our partners at Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education help to manage the State of Hawaii's GEAR UP grant. GEAR UP Hawaii is a $39 million, seven-year matching grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education (2018-25) with the mission to significantly increase the number of low-income middle and high school students who are prepared to enter and succeed in college. The program is made up of a consortium of partners including the Department, the University of Hawaii System and community partners.

  • The first GEAR UP Hawaiʻi state grant (2000–2005) recruited about 6,000 8th grade students from low-income public middle schools to become GEAR UP Scholars. It established college preparation clubs, provided information about higher education and awarded college scholarships to qualified participants.
  • The second and third state grants (2005–2011, 2011—2018) expanded GEAR UP Scholars statewide to become Step Up Scholars, which included more than 13,000 mostly low-income students, and encouraged participants to take rigorous high school classes, apply for college and financial aid and develop college and career transition skills.
  • In addition, the third state grant, in a partnership with Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, piloted the successful Early College program, bringing college courses to thousands of high school students statewide.


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