2020 Hawai‘i College Guide

(Sponsored) Your guide to navigating the admissions process, financial aid applications, preparing for college, building a network and more.
College Guide

A message from

HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union



Karl Yoneshige

There are few milestones in life as pivotal as taking the first steps toward a college degree. As exciting as the journey ahead may be, the decision to pursue a higher education can stir feelings of uncertainty, especially when it comes to finances.


That’s where we come in.


HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union has partnered with HONOLULU Magazine to present the 2020 College Guide as a playbook of sorts to help both parents and students navigate common questions that arise during the college planning process.


Within these pages you’ll find information you can begin putting to use today—advice such as how to choose the right school for your career goals and why it’s never too early to start saving and building credit.


Founded through the Department of Education, HawaiiUSA understands the value higher education can bring not only to individuals, but to the entire community.


Wise financial choices lead to wise life decisions, which help our members achieve their personal goals and dreams.


We hope this guide inspires your next steps to reaching your education dreams, and becomes part of your journey to a healthy, fulfilling financial future.

  Hawaii USA Federal Credit Union

Mahalo nui loa,

Karl Yoneshige

President & CEO

HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union


UH Manoa

Figuring Out Your Finances

HawaiiUSA FCU offers advice on saving and spending in college.

By Shinae Lee


photo: courtesy of chaminade university


Finishing high school strong, packing, selecting classes—getting ready for college can be a daunting process. But even the most prepared can sometimes find themselves dealing with questions they never considered, especially when it comes to money matters. We asked the experts at HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union for advice on how to deal with a few of those situations.


Going Away for School: Is a Mainland Bank Account Needed?

Not necessarily. It depends on your personal and financial situation. A Mainland bank account can offer branch and ATM locations near your school; however, it may be more difficult to send and receive money from Hawai‘i. If you plan to come back to the Islands after college, opening a Hawai‘i bank account makes a lot of sense and can still be convenient. Students with a HawaiiUSA FCU account, for example, can use ATMs and branch locations at any credit union on the Mainland that’s part of the CO-OP Shared Branching and ATM Network, all without any additional fees. And, if your credit union or bank offers online and mobile banking, plus the ability to mobile-
deposit checks with your phone, that long-distance relationship has never been easier.


Should a Parent Be on the Account?

If your parents are looking to offer financial support or advice, a joint Hawai‘i bank account could be an easy way for them to deposit money while helping you stay accountable for your spending. If they’re not on it, set up account alerts to avoid overdraft, when you spend more than is in the account. Even the most responsible person sometimes forgets to make a deposit, so alerts will warn you when an account dips too low. Another bonus of the feature: It can also flag security issues.


photo: courtesy of hawai‘i pacific university


Debit or Credit: Which Card Do You Need?

Both types of cards let students easily purchase books, supplies and food without needing to withdraw cash. But which one you go with depends on your financial goals.


  • Want to build financial responsibility? Debit cards give you access to your checking account and ATMs. But debit cards also require responsible money management. Monitor statements to make sure you don’t spend more than you have (learn about overdraft fees) and report anything unfamiliar that could be identity theft, fraud or other scams.

  • Want to build credit history? When used responsibly credit cards can be a beneficial payment and credit building tool. If you plan to take out loans or rent in the future, a credit card can help you establish good credit history, as long as you pay bills on time and in full. Credit cards also have built-in fraud protection and many include rewards for purchases. With no existing credit, you can apply for a student credit card with your parent as a co-signer if you don’t have your own job, a secured credit card with a cash collateral, or become an authorized user on your parent’s card (though this doesn’t build as much credit).


Is College Too Early to Start Saving?

Chances are you’ll start school on a tight budget. But that doesn’t mean you can’t save. Saving is an essential component to building your financial wellness, and it’s never too early to start making wise choices with your money.


  • Talk with a financial expert to learn which account type or saving plan may be the best fit for you.

  • Keep track of what you spend money on and cut down on inessential purchases. Do you get Starbucks and buy lunch every day? Those purchases rack up, so consider meal prepping instead. This will let you save for emergencies and large purchases.

  • With all that goes on in college between classes, homework and organizations, it’s understandable that finances might not be your first priority. That’s where apps and alerts can help you stay on track. HawaiiUSA recommends finding a personal financial management tool that lets you set a budget—bonus if it also helps you track your credit in real time. You can enter purchases and paychecks and see in an instant where your money goes and when you’re over budget.


It’s never too early to start making wise choices with your money.



A Local Kid’s Guide to Surviving College

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

by cassidy keola and shinae lee


Scheduling Classes

  1. With so many options available, pace yourself. Make sure you’re on the right track by talking with an academic or major adviser. That’s why they’re there!

  2. Take a mix of subjects.You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with hard classes, but you also don’t want to bore yourself with too many easy ones.

  3. Don’t stack all of your classes on the same days. If you have to, check if your professors allow you to eat in class and bring a lunch. Don’t starve!

  4. Have some backups ready. There is a chance that as a first-year, you won’t get everything you want, so look for courses that may count toward your requirements, even if they’re not among your top choices.

  5. Remember to check not just the times, but also locations. If you have back-to-back classes across campus from each other, will you make it? And remember, Hawai‘i kid, if snow is involved, it could take you longer to get there.

  6. Try out your options. The course descriptions you liked on paper may not be as appealing in person. Visit multiple classes that interest you during the first week, then add or drop before the deadline.


Getting Around

Research public transportation. Bus or metro passes are often included in a university’s student fees.

Split rides with friends. Riding by yourself in an Uber or Lyft can be expensive and sometimes sketchy, so travel in groups.

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

Don’t go to the campus bookstore first! While it’ll be your No. 1 resource for school swag, the books are almost always pricier there.

BookFinder.com is an incredible online resource—it compares prices of new and used books from more than 100,000 sellers, so you can be sure you’re getting the best deal.

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 you may find useful notes to help you ace the test. (Think of it as a free personal tutor.)

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.)


Working Part-Time

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


Search the school’s job database. Campus jobs usually hire for the next year or semester, so more crop up near the end of term.

Look for “help wanted” signs on and off campus. Go on a walk downtown and keep your eye out around campus. Some jobs might not be posted online.

Walk into places where you want to work and ask if they’re hiring. Bring your résumé and leave it with them in case of an opening.

If all else fails, the dining hall is usually an easy place to get hired as a student.


Money Tip!

Download an app such as Venmo or Cash App. Every time you go out to eat with friends, come across a campus fundraiser or just need to pay your roommate for toilet paper, various apps and some banks let you do it instantly, so you can request and send money from a bank account.


Gearing Up

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

  2. Check which appliances are allowed in the dorms before buying a rice cooker.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.


HPU ad



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 university of hawai‘i west o‘ahu


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, director of Outreach and Recruitment at The 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.”

  Hawaii Tokai

photo: courtesy of hawai‘i tokai international college


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.”





Tips for Nontraditional Students

Don’t be intimidated, you’ve got this! But if you are not entering college right out of high school there are a few things to consider. Here’s our guide.

By Kathryn Drury Wagner

  Nontraditional students

photos: courtesy of university of hawai‘i/jeff kuwabara, courtesy of chaminade university


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 it be 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.

  Chaminade VR


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., interim senior vice provost 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 postsecondary 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 the differences.

by kathryn drury wagner and Shinae Lee


For-Profit Universities

• Often, their education is in specific disciplines; they are owned by private corporations that run the universities like businesses.

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

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

Examples: Remington College and Argosy University.


Trade Schools

• They specialize in training students in one specific job area.

Examples: Hawai‘i Professional School of Bartending and Hawai‘i Medical College.

  Hawaii Tokai


Community Colleges

• Serve many reentry and nontraditional students.

• Funding comes from taxes and tuition.

• Performance standards are the same as for public four-year institutions, so general education credits will transfer.

• Low tuitions often attract students who aren’t sure what to study.

• Classes are smaller.

• Community colleges award certifications and two-year associate degrees.

Examples: Honolulu Community College and Kapi‘olani Community College.


Private Four-Year Universities

• Funding comes from student tuition and endowments.

• Leadership is a board of trustees.

• These schools can develop their own institutional plans.

• They have higher average costs than public nonprofit schools.

• Class and campus sizes vary widely.

• Award bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and postdoctoral degrees.

Examples: Chaminade University and Hawai‘i Pacific University.


Public Four-Year Universities

• Funding comes from state or local taxes, tuition and endowments.

• They have performance standards set by the state.

• They are mostly state-run and offer lower tuition for in-state residents.

•  Classes usually include large lectures and smaller upper division seminars.

• Award bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and postdoctoral degrees.

Examples: UH Mānoa, UH Hilo and UH West O‘ahu.

  Kamehameha Schools



Ready, Set, College

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

by kathryn drury wagner

  Ready, set, college

photos: courtesy of university of hawai‘i/cameron brooks


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 former Mō‘ili‘ili resident Pamela Funai, who has completed the college search process for her two kids and now lives in New York. “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, recently graduated from the University of British Columbia at Vancouver. “The program they have—a forestry program—[was] perfect for him,” says Funai. “I mean, they have a farm on campus.”


Funai’s daughter, Madeline Ikeda, is beginning her junior 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. Then, when she visited, “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 gave her children the chance to get a feel for what environment they were 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.”

  UH aerial


Financial Aid

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 completed a college-search process for the second time two years ago. “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, 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 on Oct. 1 for the following year 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 that not only paid for his entire undergraduate tuition at UH Mānoa, but also guaranteed admission to the School of Medicine. 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 university of hawai‘i/jose magno, courtesy of hawai‘i pacific 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, former 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.




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

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.

  Extracurricular activities

Get involved: Getting involved in extracurriculars and staying with them can improve your application.


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 Finley, the private college consultant. 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.


photo: courtesy of chaminade university


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 160 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

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.


photo: courtesy of hawai‘i pacific university


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 who attended UH Mānoa, was unable to visit the Mainland schools she was considering due to extracurricular activities. 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.”


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 ($40/year) that has profiles of 1,800 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 and Shinae Lee



Upcoming Dates

Oct. 1

FAFSA forms become available. The online FAFSA application must be submitted by June 30, 2020. However, many colleges will require this earlier. Complete the CSS/PROFILE to find more scholarship options.



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



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

(2018–2019 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. 16, 19 and 30). 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. 26: Register by Sept. 20; late registration until Oct. 4

Dec. 14: Register by Nov. 8

Feb. 8: Register by Jan. 10

April 4: Register by Feb. 28

June 13: Register by May 8

July 18: Register by June 19


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.

UH West Oahu



More Than a Degree

Getting involved outside the classroom gave me real-world experiences (and friendships) my classes didn’t.

by Shinae Lee

  More than a degree

Shinae (standing, third from right) with the Spring 2019 editors of City on a Hill Press.
photo: courtesy of shinae lee


Being in college is about more than just academics. Sure, my degree says Bachelor of Arts in Feminist Studies, but if I were to count the hours I spent on my major versus time spent in the student newsroom, there’d be no question I actually majored in City on a Hill Press (University of California, Santa Cruz’s student-run weekly). I spent most of my time working for CHP, and was also a staff member for UCSC’s Korean American Student Association.


While my extracurriculars were technically hobbies, they ended up helping me in my future career. Planning events for the Korean American Student Association as its secretary led me to a part-time paid position working for UCSC’s Student Media office, and I later landed my internship at HONOLULU Magazine because of my work at the student newspaper.


But becoming a student leader took some work. I entered the university as a shy freshman who only ventured out with my two roommates. I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation—I chose my major because I knew I wouldn’t get tired of feminism. But toward the end of my freshman year, I decided to try journalism.


I applied to the student newspaper and started as a reporter. It was way outside of my comfort zone to meet new people and immediately probe them for information, and every time it was like tearing off a Band-Aid. Just gotta do it. For my first story I even worked up the courage to interview dorm residents by blindly knocking on their doors. I enjoyed reporting so much that I started emailing sources and writing drafts in my lecture classes (not saying you should do this, but do try to find your passion!).


Shinae (bottom left) with graduating friends she met in the Korean American Student Association and other organizations.
photo: winggo Tse


Now that I loved one student organization, I wanted to try them all. I became a regular at Korean American Student Association meetings, met some of my best friends in Japanese Student Association and learned how to dance (and fangirled over K-pop) in POPreKa, UCSC’s K-pop dance group. I didn’t sleep much my second year, but I loved school. My new friends became my family away from home, giving me instant comfort the moment I saw them at events or meetings.


By senior year I was the Korea association’s vice president and managing editor at the paper, and had gotten a job as print coordinator for Student Media. I planned events and managed a newspaper, all the while making connections. I had grown from my shy freshman self to being comfortable leading a meeting of 50 people and, as a reporter, asking student government leaders why they misused thousands of dollars.


In life after graduation, nobody’s asked me to write a 10-page research paper, but the skills I learned, including mentoring others and meeting deadlines, can be applied at any job. Beyond the résumé entries, it’s the memories of laughter, late nights, homemade news memes and friendships that I’ll keep with me. Sitting in a lecture hall, not as much.


Which organization should you join?

  • Professional and academic: Academic associations and career-oriented organizations can provide connections and future job tips.

  • Ethnic and identity: Race-, religion- and sexual orientation-based organizations can help you find people you relate to, who can be part of your community at college.

  • General interest: From a capella to the environment, discover what you’re passionate about.

  • Greek letter: Despite stereotypes, fraternities and sororities can provide a tight-knit community, and alumni networks can be useful.

  • Service: Volunteer and raise money to support a cause. Organizations can include the American Red Cross, Rotaract clubs or the American Cancer Society.


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