2023 Hawai‘i College Guide: 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.
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9th Grade

  • Enroll in challenging classes.
  • Keep grades up.
  • Get involved in extra-curricular 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). 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?
  • In October, take the PSAT/NMSQT (this year, it’s Oct. 12, 15 and 25).



11th Grade

  • 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% of 2015 graduates 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. 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


The nationally administered SAT tests reading, writing and math and is used to test how ready a student is for college. SAT Subject Tests and the optional SAT Essay are no longer offered by College Board. For more, go to sat.collegeboard.org/home.


Registration deadlines are typically a month ahead of the test, with late registration a week or two before the test. SAT dates this year are as follows: Oct. 1, Nov. 5, Dec. 3, March 11, May 6, June 3. satsuite.collegeboard.org/sat/registration/dates-deadlines


If you have been tested for dyslexia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or believe you may qualify for accommodations such as extra time, visit accommodations.collegeboard.org to learn more.



The ACT is a national college admissions exam that includes English, math, reading and science questions. The ACT Writing Test includes a 40-minute essay, which is required by some colleges and not others. In Hawai‘i, the state picks up the cost of taking the ACT for all public school juniors. To register, visit act.org.




bring a current photo ID issued by a city/state/federal government agency or the high school, as well as printed test ticket and approved calculator.



bring a cell phone, smart watch or even a fitness tracker to an SAT test; they are prohibited. ACT test sites allow phones if they are turned off and placed out of reach.



Use a site like myscholly.com to sniff out scholarship opportunities. Scholly requires a subscription, ranging from $4.99/month to $34.99/year.



Upcoming ACT Test Dates


October 22
Register by September 16; late registration until September 30


December 10
Register by November 4


February 11
Register by January 6


April 15
Register by March 10


June 10
Register by May 5


July 15
Register by June 16


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