2019 Hawai‘i College Guide

(Sponsored) Your guide to navigating the admissions process, financial aid applications, preparing for college, avoiding the Freshman 15, building a network and more. Plus, get an insider perspective on studying abroad.
College Guide

A message from

HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union



Karl YoneshigeThe decision to pursue a college education is an exciting and important time in every person’s life. As a parent of a soon-to-be college student or a student yourself, warm congratulations are in order for reaching this wonderful milestone.


In partnership with HONOLULU Magazine, HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union is proud to present the 2019 Hawai‘i College Guide. This guide is especially close to our hearts. We were founded by local educators, and continue that tradition by providing educational tools to sustain a healthy and fulfilled life.


Within the pages of this guide, you’ll find the most current and relevant information needed to simplify the college planning process. From learning how to choose the right school all the way though understanding student loan repayment plans, the 2019 Hawai‘i College Guide will help you every step of the way.


HawaiiUSA’s commitment from day one has been to improve lives by helping families reach for their dreams. Cheers to turning your dreams into reality.

  Hawaii USA Federal Credit Union

Mahalo nui loa,

Karl Yoneshige

President & CEO

HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union


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Manage Your Money in College

HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union encourages families to be financially responsible when paying for school.

By Cassidy Keola

  Manage your money

photos: courtesy of university of hawai‘i / jose magno


Parents want the best for their children, but paying for college can take a financial toll on a family. We asked experts at HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union to share some tips to help your child stay on top of things financially during the college years.


Finding the Loan That Fits You

Taking out a loan may be an option; however, not every loan is right for every family. Here’s a rundown of the most common types of loans:


  • A direct subsidized Stafford loan comes from the U.S. Department of Education. These loans are available only to undergraduates who demonstrate financial need. The department pays the interest while the student is in school, for six months after leaving/graduating from school and during any deferment periods.

  • The other type is a direct unsubsidized Stafford loan. The student is responsible for paying all the interest that accumulates over time.

  • Depending on the school, students may also be eligible for a federal Perkins loan. Perkins loans are based on need, the amount of other aid received and the availability of school funds. Because of the loan’s fixed 5 percent interest rate and first-come, first-served basis, HawaiiUSA FCU marketing associate Liane Hoole encourages students to apply early.

  •  Federal Parent PLUS loans allow parents to borrow the total cost of school attendance, minus any financial aid received. “If your credit may not allow you to get a lower rate from a bank or credit union, the PLUS loan can help you,” says Hoole.

  UH student


Building a Good Credit Score For the Future

Having a healthy credit score is crucial because it can help students get lower interest rates when borrowing money for school, a car, a home and more. Building their credit early on in college is also great because the length of their credit history accounts for 15 percent of the score. So how do students start establishing good credit?


“Payment history is a factor that affects your credit history,” Hoole says. “Making on-time, full monthly payments over the duration of your loan could help improve your credit score, and skipping payments could lower your score.”


Parents can help by adding their child as an authorized user on a credit card. Hoole says that having a mix of credit types, such as a student loan, credit card and auto loan, can show lenders that students can responsibly manage credit, as long as bills are paid on time.


“Start researching how much you might expect to earn with a certain degree to see if your future loan payments will be manageable.”


Avoiding Large Debt

According to Federal Reserve data, Americans owed $1.5 trillion in student loans as of the first quarter of 2018. So how do students know if their debt amount is realistic? According to Hoole, your total college debt should not exceed your total expected annual income after graduation. “Start researching how much you might expect to earn with a certain degree to see if your future loan payments will be manageable,” she says.


Before accepting loans, apply for multiple scholarships. The Hawai‘i Community Foundation’s common application allows Hawai‘i residents to apply for several scholarships through a single form. Federal grants, which are based on financial need and tuition cost, are another way to avoid debt because they don’t have to be repaid.


Filing the FAFSA

Grad cap

If you listen to the radio regularly, chances are you’ve heard the commercial urging students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, the FAFSA allows students to receive federal, state and college-sourced financial aid. Students who complete the FAFSA may be eligible for federal grants, scholarships, loans and work-study jobs. Hoole strongly encourages students to submit the form as early as possible, as awards are presented on a first-come, first-served basis.



A Local Kid’s Guide to Surviving College

Tips to stay on top of money, shopping and more.

by cassidy keola


Avoiding the Freshman 15

  1. Burger

    Watch the cafeteria food. Many college dining plans are buffet style, sometimes even having a dessert bar. Instead of heading straight for the burgers and fries, do a lap around the cafeteria to see what healthy options are offered that day.

  2. Many universities have an on-campus fitness center filled with weight machines, treadmills and other exercise equipment. Your school may even offer fitness classes such as yoga or kickboxing.

  3. Join intramurals. Playing a pickup game of basketball or soccer is not only a great way to burn some calories but also meet new people.

  4. Stock up on healthy snacks. Mac-and-cheese and ramen cups may be quick to prepare but are definitely high in calories and sodium. Instead, pack an extra banana from the cafeteria or buy some granola bars.

  5. JournalSet a structure. When you’re sleep deprived, your body produces more ghrelin (the hormone that signals your brain that it’s time to eat). When it comes to diet and sleep, our bodies function at an optimal level when we are consistent with our daily eating and sleep schedule.


Getting Around

  • Research public transportation in your area. Some places may offer student discounts for the bus, metro, etc.

  • Split rides with friends. Riding by yourself in an Uber or Lyft can be expensive and sometimes sketchy, so ask a friend to come with you.

  • Find the nearest Zipcar. The minimum age for most car rentals is 25, but Zipcar members can rent a car at 18 with a valid driver’s license.

  • Depending on the size of your school, you may want to invest in a bike or skateboard to shave off minutes when switching from class to class.   


Buying Books

  • Books

    Check Amazon for textbook rentals. Anyone with a school email address can start an Amazon Prime Student account for half the usual membership price, which comes with free two-day shipping and access to free movies and music. (Amazon also offers a six-month free trial.)

  • Does your school have a Facebook page where students sell old textbooks? What about a used section at the bookstore? Buying used textbooks is cheaper; plus they may contain useful notes to help you ace the test. (Think of it as a free personal tutor.)


Building a Network

photo: courtesy of university of hawai‘i / jose magno


  • Attend your college’s club fair to see what extracurriculars are available. Joining clubs will help you meet people who share the same interests/hobbies.

  • Although Greek life isn’t for everyone, it can help you find a sense of community at your school. Consider professional fraternities and sororities that are specific to a major—those can help you land an internship and build job skills as well.

  • Talk with a professor about becoming a teacher’s assistant or taking part in a student-faculty research project. The connections can lead to internships and job opportunities.


All Thing$ Money

  • Piggy bank

    Earn some cash by picking up an on-campus job such as a library or admissions office assistant. Start applying either on the school’s online portal or in person as early as possible, for they do go quickly.

  • Take part in a college experiment to make some easy money. Professors are often recruiting students to be a part of their subject pools.

  • Download apps Mint and Venmo. The Mint app is a free way for students to manage and track all their spending. Don’t have cash to pay back a friend? Venmo lets students send and request money from their bank accounts with a click of a button.


Gearing Up

College grad
photo: odeelo dayondon


  1. Check with your school about downloading software for your laptop. Some universities offer student discounts for programs such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud.

  2. If you’re heading someplace cold, it’s best to buy your winter jackets on the Mainland. Winter clothes can be expensive in Hawai‘i; plus buying them when you get to college saves space in your suitcase.

  3. Rice is a staple for many Hawai‘i kids. Check which appliances are allowed in the dorms before buying a rice cooker.

  4. Be the cool kid from Hawai‘i with all the ‘ono Hawai‘i snacks—Spam, furikake popcorn, li hing mui sour belts. Spread da aloha.

  5. Talk with your roommates about splitting the cost of cleaning supplies such as a Swiffer or vacuum. Don’t be that kid who has to be reminded to keep his/her dorm clean.


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Preparing for College in High School

A student’s involvement sets the foundation for college acceptance—and beyond. Here’s how to build that foundation with strength and purpose.

By Kathryn Drury Wagner

  Preparing for college

photo: courtesy of chaminade university


Chess club. Mock trial. The school newspaper. Chinese Club. Volleyball. Sign up for it all! Not so fast. It’s not the number of activities students do in high school that counts, experts say. Think quality over quantity. “And whatever you choose, do it consistently,” says Amy Prince, a school counselor at Southampton High School, in Southampton, New York. “It’s what you’re engaged with actively. Somebody might do 40 hours of community service, but was it 40 hours over one week during a church mission, and the other 51 weeks of the year they did nothing?” Compare that to a student who volunteers with, say, Best Buddies, helping people with developmental disabilities, once a week, all year.


“When students can demonstrate they have had consistent involvement and that they are leaders within the organizations, we get excited about their potential to contribute positively on our campus,” says Mark Cortez, former associate director of Outreach and Recruitment, Office of Enrollment Services Undergraduate Admissions at Ohio State University. “This doesn’t have to just be school activities; we want students to think broadly about experiences like community opportunities and/or work experiences. They each add something a little different and that is what we consider.”


Connect the Dots

Students should seek out areas where they can take on leadership roles. “That doesn’t always mean being the president of a club or its founder,” says Prince. “What events did you organize? If you’re just listing on your application that you were a member—what does that mean to an admissions officer? Define your role. Now, in ninth or 10th grade, there aren’t a lot of leadership roles but, if you stick with it, you rise up to captain or co-captain in an athletic setting, or treasurer or president in a group; this shows the qualities colleges are seeking within their own school’s population.”


Schools can tell from a mile away when an applicant is trying to build a résumé out of nothing, grabbing onto 15 random activities. If, on the other hand, a student is involved with Model UN and student government and Girls Learn International, the school can see a pattern and a purpose.


According to Prince, students should use ninth and 10th grade for experimentation, to find out what they are most interested in, and then hone in. Remember that “colleges and universities have seniors graduating and need to fill leadership roles or spark something new,” Prince points out. For an athletic program, they may need a new quarterback; for an orchestra, a new cellist. “It’s not like they put an ad out: ‘Hey, we need a cellist,’ but it’s part of the thought process,” she says. “I think one of the reasons I got into the college I did, York College of Pennsylvania, was that I had been a DJ for a high school radio station and they had a radio station that needed a manager.”

  College library


Choosing Coursework

Even though AP coursework is a great opportunity, again think quality over quantity. Consider your strengths and your goals. For example, someone interested in engineering might not want to take AP literature, but, instead, explore an engineering program, even without an AP label attached to it. “Schools are trying to figure out: What drives the student?” says Prince. “If you want to be pre-med, and haven’t done well in science or math, maybe that’s not a realistic goal. That’s a student who is going to change major.” Think about classes that are genuine passions, things that can extend into interests in college. Otherwise, Prince warns, “students become machines of cranking out grades and don’t find what resonates with them.”


Finishing Strong Senior Year

Students should avoid giving in to senioritis, or playing what Prince calls, “a game of academic chicken.” That’s when seniors try to find the line of how little effort they can put in. “It’s not a good game to play,” she says. “If you were a 90 student, you should stay a 90 student, even in senior year. Schools are still watching.” There is some wiggle room, of course. For example, if a student is challenging himself or herself with AP physics, he or she might not get a 90, and schools will understand that.


Also, “We encourage students to stay in a foreign language, and recommend electives. It’s free in high school!” says Prince. “Electives cost a lot of money in college. Take advantage. A lot of the AP and honors-level kids haven’t gotten to take a lot of electives,” she says.


Last, remember that being engaged doesn’t stop after college acceptance. “Once they get on campus we expect that students will be actively involved, as doing so contributes to their social and academic success,” says Cortez. “As students work to discover their passions in college, they are doing this with [other] students who are diverse in majors, experiences and backgrounds. This discovery stage leads to rich experiences where students can learn from those around them and, in most cases, benefit.”


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Tips for Nontraditional Students

You’ve got this! Don’t be intimidated. Yet, considerations for nontraditional students are different from those entering colleges or universities right out of high school. Let’s tackle some of the issues.

By Kathryn Drury Wagner

  Nontraditional students

photos: courtesy of hawai‘i pacific university, thinkstock


The definition of nontraditional students is broad, and actually varies from school to school. It might indicate ages 25 and up, or ages 30 and up, or have other factors attached, such as marital status, military service or whether someone has previously entered and left undergrad programs. And, anyway, “It’s a bit of misnomer,” says Thomas Kaplan, vice president for academic affairs at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “It’s at odds with the idea of lifelong learning. We’re looking to ways to open the doorway wider between traditional and nontraditional status.”


Overall, people are taking longer to graduate, and a rise in nontraditional students is part of this trend. After all, life happens. “People might struggle when they are 19 and come back when they are 25,” says Kaplan. Other students are working professionals who also have to juggle family responsibilities, whether elder care or child care.


Finding the Right Fit—and Balance

Some nontraditional students lack confidence, concerned, perhaps, that they struggled earlier in their academic journey. Others worry that technology has changed too much, or that they will be stigmatized due to their age. Remember that you have things to offer, too. “You have greater self-discipline, perspective and drive,” says Kaplan. “Going to school isn’t an idle decision, so know that you can do this.”


However, be realistic. “We talk a lot about tradeoffs,” says Kaplan. “Time, money and stress. Overall fulfillment.” He warns against rushing through school. After all, traditional students can cut down on extracurricular pursuits, but, for adults, life is less malleable. You can stop going to a club, but kids and a job? Not so much. “Think about what constraints you have with money and with time, ensuring that school does not become so heavy a burden that it is no longer sustainable,” he says.


When looking at programs, don’t forget to also assess the tools and resources that will be there to support your academic and career success, whether skills coaching, leadership programs or networking opportunities.

  Nontraditional students


Online Only?

There’s a stereotype that nontraditional students only use online programs, but there are a multitude of options, including in-person and online classes, and expanded programs, including hybrids of on-campus and off-campus classes. Of course, “Fully online education can provide working professionals and nontraditional students with a more flexible schedule by allowing them to drive the times in which they are online,” says Vincent Del Casino Jr., vice president for Academic Initiatives and Student Success at the University of Arizona. “We see it in so many industries, where an on-demand model has taken hold and I think higher ed is certainly trending in that direction,” he says.


Think Outside the Degree

It’s not just about getting a bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. “We’ve seen that there’s a need for things like Applied Science degrees and certificate programs,” says Del Casino. “If you’re a working professional and you’re looking to increase your marketability in the workplace, you may not need to get a full MBA,” he says, but could take advantage of other programs. He cites a University of Arizona Coding Bootcamp that teaches the essentials of web development as an example, or Adobe Creative Cloud Fast Track. “There are a lot of options.”


When it comes to the final decision, nontraditional and traditional students are exactly the same: It’s all about finding the best fit for you.



Types of Colleges

There are nearly 5,000 post-secondary schools in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But that doesn’t mean they all fall into the same category. Let’s take a look at what the differences are.

By Kathryn Drury Wagner



Nonprofits can receive funding from multiple sources, such as donors and local government. Nonprofits tend to have a wider variety of programs available.



Private college
  • Funding comes from student tuition and endowments, as well as some aid from the government in forms of student loans and tax breaks.

  • Leadership of the institution is a board of trustees.

  • Since they are relying on private support, these schools can develop their own institutional plans.

  • They have higher average costs than public nonprofit schools, but also often offer financial aid opportunities.



For profit college
  • The majority of funding comes from state or local taxes. Other funding is made up from tuition and endowments.

  • They have performance standards to meet that are set by the state.

  • They are mostly state-run and have lower tuition for in-state residents. New York, by the way, just became the first state to offer free tuition for residents. Families and people making up to $125,000 per year will qualify to attend college tuition-free at all CUNY and SUNY two- and four-year colleges, starting in fall 2017. The program will phase in over three years.


For Profit/Trade Schools 

They offer education as a service, often in specific disciplines, and are owned by a private corporation.


  • The bulk of their funding—up to 90 percent—is via federal student aid.

  • They often have flexible programs, designed for people working or taking care of a family, and have programs designed to help students finish their degrees quickly.

  • For-profit schools tend to have very specific programs on offer, so can be a good option if you know what you want to study.


What’s a Land-Grant College?

Created by the Morrill Act of 1862 signed by Abraham Lincoln, land-grant colleges were an important step in the development of America’s public colleges and universities, and gave the middle class access to higher education. The Morrill Act gave public lands to states and territories that they were to sell in order to fund new schools specializing in “agriculture and the mechanic arts” (A&M schools). A second Morrill Act in 1890 extended appropriations, and added funding for predominantly African American colleges and Native American colleges. Eventually, 106 land-grant schools were established, most of them public. A few notable examples include Cornell, the University of Delaware and MIT. Know any land-grant schools in Hawai‘i? Why, yes, you do: the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.


Good News on Tuition Costs

According to Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal, tuition is growing at the slowest pace it has in decades. In an interview with NPR in 2017, he noted that, over the past year, it had been growing at about 1.9 percent, or roughly in line with inflation. Between 1990 and 2017, the trend had been far more accelerated: a galloping 6 percent on average, per year.


Is This School Accredited?

Whether or not a school is accredited—that is, meets certain standards—becomes especially important if a student transfers and needs to move credits. There are six accreditation organizations, each of which handles different regions of the country. For example, Hawai‘i and California are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, while a school in Pennsylvania would be accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The U.S. Department of Education provides a database of accredited post-secondary institutions and programs; visit ope.ed.gov/accreditation.

  Hawaii Medical College ad



Ready, Set, College

HONOLULU Magazine’s annual guide to navigating the road to college.

  Ready, set, college

photos: courtesy of university of hawai‘i / jose magno


Time flies when you’re parenting, and it seems we go from talking about the Tooth Fairy one minute to having serious conversations about college the next. The opportunities provided by higher education—economic, social and psychological—are enormous, but the task of finding the right school can seem just as huge. Soaring tuition costs have raised the stakes, and there’s a lot more college pressure on young people than there was just a few decades ago. But, with research, patience and organization, you can definitely come up with a strategy that works for your family.


“It’s never too early to start looking, even freshman or sophomore year,” says Mō‘ili‘ili resident Pamela Funai, who has completed the college search process for her two kids. “If you go on family vacations or the kid has the opportunity to travel, take half the day to go see a school in that city just to see what it’s like. After a while they all start to look the same, but you’ll get a better sense of where the student wants to be.”


Her son, Thomas Ikeda, is a senior at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver. “The program they have—a forestry program—is perfect for him,” says Funai. “I mean, they have a farm on campus.”


Funai’s daughter, Madeline Ikeda, is beginning her sophomore year at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. “She [wanted] to play volleyball, so she became interested in seeing the school because they were interested in her,” says Funai. “Having the chance to stay there in the dorm with some of the other students helped her make her decision.”



Funai and her family have learned the importance of being proactive during a college search. Bits of advice from a veteran? Complete essays and scholarship applications the summer before senior year. Visit colleges during vacations or on trips with a team, even if you don’t want to go to school there. Visiting colleges in different areas has given her children the chance to get a feel for what environment they are looking for. “If the kid feels good about being at the school, that makes it a whole lot easier,” says Funai. “They know what to expect, they’re not going someplace completely brand new.”


According to Malia Kau, a college and career counselor at Radford High School, students are applying to an average of seven schools. “Have two ‘reach’ schools, schools they’ve always dreamt of attending. Have two ‘guaranteed I’m going to get in’ schools, and then three in that middle range,” she says. “We aren’t just talking about the academic range, but also looking at cost.”


The key is to start early with your strategy, around the freshman year of high school. “Encourage your child to do what they love, but to also give back with that talent or gift,” says Donna Finley, who has a private college counseling practice in San Diego. “Maybe your child is great at soccer and she or he can give classes to underprivileged kids. It’s not always about the résumé. It’s about being a good human being. And, hopefully, the side effect is finding a good school and something they want to study.”


Financial Aid

UH grads


The parents and education experts we talked to agree on one thing: It’s critical to involve teens in the financial conversation from early on. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and not look at the financial realities. “College is ridiculously expensive, especially for kids coming from Hawai‘i. It’s important to find out what the price tag is and what resources they have to minimize the cost,” says Kellee Hearther, a mother who last year completed a college-search process for the second time. “I’ve spent hours and hours on the internet myself looking for scholarships.”


The biggest provider of student aid in the country is the office of Federal Student Aid, which handles loans, grants and work-study programs to the tune of $150 billion each year. Other sources include state aid, aid from colleges and aid from nonprofits and private organizations, like Rotary or Lions clubs.


All students should start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which takes about half an hour to fill out online once you gather tax returns and other pertinent documents. The application will also be shared with the financial-aid offices of the colleges listed on the application, so the colleges can figure out what aid they want to offer. Colleges look at the cost of attending the school, subtract the expected family contribution, and that indicates the financial need. Applications are available each year in early January at fafsa.gov. Important note: FAFSA applications need to be filled out each year a student is in college.


Anywhere from three days to three weeks after filing, the office of Federal Student Aid sends you a Student Aid Report. Look this over closely to make sure everything is correct. From there, a college can send you an aid offer, either on paper or electronically.


Don’t discount the possibility of independent scholarships. Mid-Pacific Institute graduate Lamar Carter, for example, armed with his FAFSA application, landed one of only 10 scholarships offered annually by the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) that not only pays for his entire undergraduate tuition at UH Mānoa, but also guarantees admission to the School of Medicine when he graduates. Many students would have been happy to call it a day at that point, but Carter had also used his FAFSA results to pursue a wide range of independent scholarships. “There were organizations giving out anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $2,000,” he says. “I wouldn’t get any of the scholarships I didn’t apply to, and there’s no harm in applying, so it just made sense.”


However, it’s important to note that scholarship money is available even if you’re not at the top of your class. “Growing up, you think, oh, scholarships are for the top, smart people and you don’t think you’re worthy of them, but there are so many scholarships, you just have to look,” says Hearther’s daughter, Jamie, who attended Radford High School.


Photos: Courtesy of Chaminade University


Nationwide (but not federal)

Nearly 300 colleges, universities and scholarship programs use the College Board Scholarship Service application, called CSS/PROFILE, to determine to whom they’ll grant aid. The application is different from FAFSA and takes between 45 minutes and two hours to complete. There is a fee to file this application, so only do so if the school(s) or scholarship programs of your choice are asking for it. It’s $25 for one college or program; additional reports are $16.


State level

In 2015, the University of Hawai‘i Foundation gave nearly $40 million in student aid to help students attend the UH system. “The bulk of our students are still first-generation kids or of minority/immigrant status, so the need for scholarships is particularly great,” says Donna Vuchinich, the president and CEO of the UH Foundation. She recommends using the organization’s database, found at uhfoundation.org, to “slice and dice it” to see what financial aid might be a good fit. She has two pieces of advice. One, if a student is enrolling in a community college, ensure she or he is taking at least 15 credits. “If kids don’t take that many credits, they don’t tend to do as well.” Second, apply early: “November and December for summer scholarships; February through May for fall. Don’t wait until you graduate to start looking.”


The Hawai‘i Community Foundation administers more than 200 scholarship funds and annually awards $4.5 million in student aid for students bound for college locally or on the Mainland. “We begin the process in November, and encourage families to start early,” says Eric La‘a, the senior development officer at HCF. “The application process is quite extensive.” The good news? The platform is set up so students can be matched with more than one scholarship. But the number of applicants has increased significantly in recent years, so apply as early as you can.


Students who are of Hawaiian ancestry may be eligible for scholarships, ranging from $500 to $4,000, through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). Visit oha.org/scholarships for information on the two OHA programs, and a downloadable guide with information on additional scholarships, financial aid resources and support services for Hawaiian students.


SchoolSoup (schoolsoup.com) is an online database with information on 250,000 scholarships. Browse by state to see what is available to Hawai‘i students. Click on “Scholarships by Race/Minority” to see what is available for students who are of Native Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Asian-American or Vietnamese descent.





When it came time to find a college, Le Jardin Academy parent Jennifer Souza let her daughter, Taylor, take the reins. “Let them have ownership of it,” she says. “Don’t try to do it and apply to schools you want them to apply to.”


U.S. News and Forbes are helpful resources for comparing schools. Websites such as cappex.com can help inform you of what your chances are of getting in.


The Souza family incorporated college visits into vacations, and, when Taylor traveled for volleyball, her team would take some time to visit a college in the area.


“I wish that some of my friends took more control of their application process rather than their parents,” says Taylor Souza. “When you ask them, ‘Why are you applying to this school?’ and they say, ‘I don’t know, my parents want me to apply there,’ that won’t work. If you don’t have a reason you want to go there, you’re not going to enjoy it.”


Taylor Souza applied to 13 colleges and was accepted to 12. The only college she was not accepted to was her “reach” school. She advises other students to not be too disappointed if they receive a rejection. “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” she says. “Admissions directors know their schools, and the application process is so complex that, just reading your answers to these questions, they can tell what kind of person you are. So, if they don’t think you’re a good fit, there’s probably a reason for it.”


The Common Application

Get involved: Volunteering in places, such as Ka Papa Lo‘i O Kānewai, can improve your application.


More than 500 colleges and universities, including some schools abroad, accept the Common Application. That’s a lot of schools, and can save you time on not having to fill out what feels like 413 applications. However, check with every college to which you’re applying to ensure they accept the Common Application. Use the Common Application at commonapp.org.


The Essay

Colleges and universities are most interested in grades and scores, but essays can be a tiebreaker. It’s similar to a job application: The résumé is like the application, and the essay is more like a job interview, a human connection. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Parents should not write their children’s essays for them, but should help proofread.

  • Skip the story about volunteering abroad. It’s become a cliché.

  • Google the school of interest, plus “essays that worked.”

  • The website inlikeme.com, which focuses on college applications, has a lot of resources on essay writing.


Should you hire a college counselor?

Jamie Hearther turned to counselor Kau and Radford’s College and Career Research Center’s staff. “I don’t feel the need to leave that room,” she says. “I could probably do the entire college application process right there in that room with those amazing women.”


Kau meets at least once with every high school senior at Radford, but shares her college expertise with any student. “I wish all of our students and parents knew about it,” she says. “It’s really a service open to everybody no matter what grade they’re in, no matter what they want to do in their future.”


But some counselors are simply overwhelmed. “Nationally the average is 400 students per counselor; that’s why people turn to independent educational consultants,” says Donna Finley, who has a private college counseling practice based in San Diego. She works with students as early as freshman and sophomore year, helping with course selection, extracurricular activities and developing career interests. “Kids used to think they had to be well-rounded. Now, it’s go deeper, instead of wider.” She works with juniors on applications, essays, college selection and financial aid options.


Some consultants charge hourly, others have a package price. Visit the Independent Educational Consultants Association at iecaonline.com to find a consultant.


Western Undergraduate Exchange Program

Hey, neighbor! Can I get a kama‘āina discount? Actually, you can. The Western Undergraduate Exchange Program allows students from 15 western states, plus the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, to attend colleges and universities at 150 percent of the school’s in-state tuition, rather than at an out-of-state rate. There are more than 150 institutions participating; check the database at wiche.edu/wue/students. But there are loopholes, too. Some colleges require a certain ACT or SAT test score, others limit the number of program participants each year, and still others only feature it for certain majors. There is no separate application process; it’s part of the regular process and you check off the WUE box. Our advice? Apply early and check with the admissions office for the institution you want to attend for
more details.


Making the Most of Your College Visits

photo: courtesy of hawai‘i pacific university


Since road trips from Hawai‘i can’t happen, it can be challenging for families to tour Mainland colleges. But if you can afford a trip, there are two schools of thought: Go before the application process, to narrow down choices, or go after acceptance, to aid in the final decision-making. The costs of college tours are not tax deductible, but, if parents can piggyback a legitimate work trip onto the college visit, that may be a way to cut down the costs of airfare, hotels and a rental car.


Viewpoint: go before

“If you can physically visit, visit—if you can afford it,” says Hearther. “It can rule out spending money on applications for universities that your kid probably isn’t going to like.” She points out that all college brochures have beautiful pictures of their school, and you don’t realize how physically big or small a school is until
you visit.


“If a family takes a trip to Los Angeles for a family vacation freshman year, I would definitely tell them to take a look at a couple of campuses where they’re at,” says Radford’s Kau. “Even if it’s just to get a feel for what colleges have to offer.” After visiting family in Montana, the Hearther family decided to take a look at Montana State University. It wasn’t Jamie Hearther’s first choice, but after visiting she was impressed and put it on her college list.


Lamar Carter says doing a site visit really helped clarify the decision he had to make between two schools. He was considering the prestigious Johns Hopkins University, and took a guided tour of the Baltimore, Maryland, campus to get a better sense of the school. “I had a host student and stayed in one of the dorm rooms for two nights,” he says. “There were activities, and all the admitted students got a chance to know each other. I had been feeling a little paranoia about getting into that competitive of a university, especially in such a different environment from Hawai‘i. But, after going there, you see that people are just like you. They’re humans, they bleed blood.”


Carter ended up deciding against Johns Hopkins, in favor of UH Mānoa and the John A. Burns School of Medicine, but says he’s glad he was able to make a choice based on the full set of facts, rather than assumptions about a school he had never seen in person.


“I think it’s always good to visit colleges as early as possible to get a feel for what a college campus is like,” says Kau. If you can’t make it for a tour, take advantage of the opportunities to meet with college representatives when they visit the Islands, and contact the school to see if you can talk with current students, ideally those who came from Hawai‘i.


For visits to local colleges such as UH, Chaminade, HPU and the community colleges, work with the admissions office prior to a visit. Sometimes there are open house days, other times, you can set up a tour of campus and housing. Feel free to ask to meet with someone from the department you’re interested in to get a feel for the program and faculty.


Viewpoint: go after acceptance

“Why would I spend $1,000 going to a school that my kid might not even get into?” says Lillian Klein, a mother of three children who have gotten into college. “This is a strategic mission. You can wait and do your visit when you have choices, once you have acceptance.” In the meantime, she and her daughters researched schools online. “Look at the message boards, communicate with parents whose kids are at the school. You can get a sense of the flavor of the student body.”


Another way to get a feel for a college campus without physically visiting is by taking a virtual tour online. Marissa Lum, a 2015 Castle grad now attending UH Mānoa, was unable to visit the Mainland schools she was considering due to extracurricular activities she was taking part in this past spring. Instead of flying to California, she looked up the schools online. “It didn’t really matter the size of the school. The location mattered somewhat, if there were things to do around campus,” she says. The website campustours.com has stats on nearly 1,300 schools, with links directly to each school’s virtual tours and campus maps.


Lum also says it really helped her get to know some of the schools when she met with representatives here in Hawai‘i, since talking to a real person was more important to her than the scenery. In the end, Lum chose UH Mānoa for a number of reasons, including saving money in case she wants to attend a Mainland university for grad school. And she’d been to Mānoa on multiple occasions, including field trips and a two-week summer program during which she got to live in a dorm, which inspired her to live on campus. “It’s definitely a good experience,” she says. “You get to know all the people around you.”

  Hawaii Medical College

Photo: Courtesy of Hawai‘i Medical College


Helpful Websites

Come up with a big-picture plan at the nonprofit College Board’s website, bigfuture.collegeboard.org, or knowhow2go.org, which helps middle and high school students prep for
the college route.


College Navigator is a resource provided by the U.S. Department of Education. It has the scoop on every college in the country, with data on admissions, retention, graduation rates and financial aid. Narrow down choices, build a list of favorites for side-by-side comparisons and create your own interactive maps and spreadsheets. nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator


U.S. News & World Report has a College Compass service ($30/year) that has profiles of 1,600 schools, including data on campus life, sports and financial aid. usnews.com/usnews/store/college_compass.htm


The forums on College Confidential are renowned for providing information on what’s really happening on U.S. campuses. collegeconfidential.com


The National Association for College Admission Counseling has an extensive offering of resources for students and parents, including schedules of college fairs and downloadable guides like “Applying for Financial Aid in 7 Easy Steps.” nacacnet.org


If obstacles feel insurmountable, visit youcango.collegeboard.org, with success stories for students who overcame challenges getting into college—and resources to help others to do the same.


Use an app, like Scholly Scholarship Search, to sniff out opportunities. Scholly requires a $2.99/month account.


Additional reporting by Cassidy Keola, Ashley Mizuo



Upcoming Dates


Hawai‘i Community Foundation opens its scholarship application process. Check hawaiicommunityfoundation.org for updated deadlines.


Early January

FAFSA forms become available. The online FAFSA application must be submitted by June 30, 2019. However, many colleges will require this earlier. Complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE to find more scholarship options.



The deadline for financial aid applications at most colleges.



Many colleges send out acceptance letters during this month.


May 1

Many colleges require that you reply with your intent to enroll by this date.


Crunching the Numbers at UH Mānoa

(2017–2018 School Year)



In-state tuition (average)



Nonresident tuition (average)



Western Undergraduate Exchange rate



Pacific Island Exemption rate



Timeline to Success

Finding and getting accepted to the right college or university is actually a four-year process. That may sound daunting, but take each step one at a time and stay organized, and you’ll be fine. Here’s how to manage the road to college admission:


9th Grade

  • Enroll in challenging classes.

  • Keep grades up.

  • Get involved in extracurricular activities.

  • Explore potential career paths.

  • Set up a college savings plan.

  • Develop good time-management skills.


10th Grade

  • Try some AP classes.

  • Take a practice Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) in October (this year, it’s Oct. 10, 13 and 24). Juniors qualify to compete for the National Merit Scholarship Program, but younger students can take it for practice. collegeboard.org/psat-nmsqt

  • Consider volunteering during the summer.

  • Visit campuses while traveling, just to get a sense of what type of college appeals to you. Small? Big? Public? Private?


11th Grade

  • In October or early November, take the PSAT/NMSQT.

  • Sign up to take the ACT or SAT. Colleges usually accept either one, but check with where you’re interested. Many students will take the test once as a junior and again as a senior. Is it worth taking it twice? According to ACT, 57 percent of students increased their Composite score on the retest.

  • Visit campuses if possible.

  • Attend college fairs and network with the college representatives.


12th Grade

  • In the fall, repeat the ACT/SAT tests. Sign up for the SAT Subject Tests, if appropriate. Send in scores.

  • Gather teacher and other personal recommendations. Send thank yous afterward!

  • Narrow down the list, but have at least four to eight schools to apply to.

  • Draft your essay. Leave enough time for at least two people to read it and comment.

  • Check all due dates at the colleges you want to attend; they vary by institution and you don’t want to miss anything.



Standardized Tests


SAT/SAT Subject Tests

The nationally administered SAT tests reading, writing and math and is used to test how ready a student is for college. The SAT Subject Tests are also used by colleges for admission consideration, particularly for certain majors, and to help with course placement. For bilingual students, the Subject Tests are also an excellent opportunity to show off mastery in another language, like Mandarin, Japanese or Korean. For more, go to sat.collegeboard.org/home.


The SAT underwent a revamp in early 2016, notes Denise Yamamoto, a college and career counselor at Mililani High School. “There was a revision in 2005 with the writing component; now they are making the writing component optional again and kind of following what the ACT is doing. The SAT [used to] penalize you for guessing, but with the revision, they aren’t going to penalize you for guessing.” For more on the changes that took place in spring 2016, visit collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/inside-the-test/compare-old-new-specifications.


Registration deadlines are typically a month ahead of the test. Test dates are as follows: Oct. 6, Nov. 3, Dec. 1, March 9, May 4, June 1. collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/dates-deadlines



The ACT is a national college admissions exam that includes English, math, reading and science questions. The ACT Plus Writing includes a 30-minute writing test, which is required by some colleges and not others. In Hawai‘i, the state picks up the cost of taking the ACT test for all juniors, says Yamamoto. To register, visit


Upcoming ACT Test Dates:

Oct. 27: Register by Sept. 28; late registration until Oct. 14

Dec. 8: Register by Nov. 2

Feb. 9: Register by Jan. 11

April 13: Register by March 8

June 8: Register by May 3

July 13: Register by June 14


No cell phonesDO bring a current photo ID issued by a city/state/federal government agency or the high school, as well as printed test ticket and calculator.

DON’T bring a cell phone to an SAT test; they are prohibited. ACT test sites allow cell phones if they are turned off and placed out of reach.


A World Away

I spent four months studying in Italy. Here’s how it broadened my worldview … and elevated my pizza expectations.

By cassidy keola

  Cassidy study abroad

Photo: Courtesy of Cassidy Keola


The timing couldn’t have been more right. I was clicking through random stories on my Instagram explore page when I came across this post: “There comes a moment when you’re 19, thinking about life, when you realize why people tell you, ‘don’t grow up too fast.’ No one can prepare you enough to leave your family, but it’s going to be OK. You have to go on your adventure.”


I read this at LAX while waiting to board my flight to London, then to Florence to start a study abroad program. It was my first time flying internationally by myself. My first time traveling to Europe. My first time having to deal with weather below 60 degrees. As cheesy as I thought this post was, it couldn’t have been more true at the moment.


I spent my whole life on O‘ahu. As much as I love Hawai‘i, I was ready for change. After graduating from Kamehameha Schools Kapālama in 2016, I left home to attend Chapman University in Southern California.   


My first year at Chapman was an exciting one full of firsts—first time using Uber, first time eating Chick-fil-A, first time making friends not from Hawai‘i. But after a year, I found myself craving a new adventure. I applied to study abroad at Richmond University in Florence.



Italy has always been on my travel bucket list. From its rich Catholic history and trendsetting fashion to the breathless Tuscan scenery and delectable cuisine, I knew that Florence was the adventure I desperately wanted. (Plus, what girl didn’t want to ride a red Vespa through the streets of Italy after watching The Lizzie McGuire Movie?) Richmond was a perfect choice for me academically as well—classes in digital photography and journalism tied into my major requirements. I also decided to participate in service-learning so that I could spend time getting to know people living in the community. After applying for a visa, getting all of my classes approved, finishing weekly assignments and other homework from Chapman’s global education center, I left California to spend four months in Florence. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.


As a communication major, I’ve spent hours in the classroom reading about social interactions among cultures, comparing one culture’s communication style to another and much more. However, I am a firm believer that the best way to learn something new is to experience it for yourself. While my friends at Chapman buried their noses in a book about the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, I admired its stunning architecture every day on my walk to class. Rather than just sitting at a desk writing sentences, I practiced my Italian ordering risotto from Il Teatro restaurant.


Living in Italy also brought the unexpected. I remember the first time my roommates and I made the 1.5-mile walk to Esselunga supermarket. Never did I think that I would have to Google translate simple words such as shampoo or apples. I lived without a dryer, microwave or flat iron for my hair. The trash had to be separated into organic waste, residual waste, glass and multimaterial before being hauled to the nearest disposal unit five minutes away. Even Netflix was different.


It was about two months into the semester when I realized how exhausting this new lifestyle was. Living in Italy, I felt that I owed it to myself to always be on a great adventure. I felt guilty when I wanted to lie in my little dusty apartment rather than trek through Rome or skydive above the Swiss Alps. But then a friend gave me a piece of advice: Studying abroad is not a vacation. I would be living here for four months, not four days. I reminded myself that it’s OK to want to rest on weekends, to crave katsu curry over pasta and to miss the aloha spirit.

  Study abroad


I would be lying if I said I didn’t complain, but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I now know that I have no sense of direction without Google Maps, but that I can still spend a whole day in an unfamiliar city and be OK. I learned that I’m a person who can easily let go of things that are out of my control.


I taught Italian teachers and students about Spam musubi and how to throw a shaka. I ate heaps of gelato and the best truffle penne pasta I will ever have. I learned a new language (kind of), adapted to a different lifestyle (I walked everywhere) and traveled across Europe with new friends I know I’ll keep for life.


I also realized that I couldn’t escape the responsibilities of being a college student. Despite living in another country, I continued to plan my meals for the week. I learned to keep an even closer eye on my budget, always converting the cost from euros to U.S. dollars on my phone. The adventure made it worth it.


Studying abroad was like diving into the ocean after a long week of work. The experience widened and refreshed my outlook on the world and life. It taught me to stop running through the motions, to learn from each experience and treat it as if it were my last. I’m sure returning to Chapman after being away for eight months will be an adjustment, but I wouldn’t change anything about my experience (yes, even the millions of carbs). Instilled with a newfound desire to travel, my friends and I are already planning a study abroad reunion trip in New York.


After returning home for the summer, I’m ready for my next adventure, but I can’t help but feel grateful–grateful for the chance to travel, grateful for parents who understand the importance of a good education and grateful to forever call Hawai‘i ku‘u home kulāiwi (my native home).


How to Start Your Journey Abroad

  1. Research a program that fits you. Does the institution abroad teach classes in English? Do the offered courses meet your interests? Does the program include a meal plan? What about homestay?

  2. Choose a location. There are so many choices when it comes to picking a destination, whether it be a small town in northern Italy or a major city in South Korea. Some factors you may want to think about before choosing include the difference in language, currency exchange and the weather when you’re there. Many students choose to go abroad in Europe because of the simplicity of travel between countries. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s a place you can imagine yourself living in.

  3. Talk with a study abroad adviser. Some colleges have an office where prospective students can learn more about what it takes to study abroad. The advisers there can offer guidance when it comes to applying for a visa, getting classes approved for credit, etc.

  4. Start saving. There are a ton of scholarships specific to study abroad, and some universities may allow you to apply your federal financial aid. You’ll also need funds during your time abroad for food, traveling, souvenirs, etc. Setting a monthly budget before going will help you limit your spending as well.


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