Best Colleges in Hawaii

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Updated on July 6, 2023
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Hawaii's beaches and island lifestyle attract people from around the world, but colleges in Hawaii have given students another reason to make the trip. Featuring more than two dozen colleges and universities, including some of the top schools in the country, Hawaii offers a blend of public and private two-year and four-year institutions.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Hawaii has made great strides toward improving educational outcomes in the state, with 46% of adults holding a college degree as of 2019 — approaching the state's goal of 55% by 2025. Given its relatively small size, Hawaii residents and visiting students may not have the most schools to choose from, but there are several high-quality options. We ranked the best colleges in Hawaii to help degree-seekers find a school and program that fits their needs.

What Are the Best Colleges in Hawaii? Here Are Our Top 5:

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#1 Brigham Young University-Hawaii Laie, HI
#2 University of Hawaii-West Oahu Kapolei, HI
#3 University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu, HI
#4 Chaminade University of Honolulu Honolulu, HI
#5 University of Hawaii at Hilo Hilo, HI

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At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

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Best Colleges in Hawaii

  1. Brigham Young University-Hawaii

    Laie, HI

    Based in Laie, this BYU extension school — run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — offers members of the church and any interested students the opportunity to attend school at its Hawaii campus. For its 3,200 students enrolled annually, BYU-Hawaii offers a challenging curriculum of 40 majors, 60 minors, and 12 certificate programs.

    Forty-two clubs and organizations on campus give students the chance to meet friends and pursue their academic and personal interests. Students must follow the honor code of the church, and church members pay discounted tuition rates.

    The competitive undergraduate admissions process at BYU-Hawaii requires a completed application, high school transcripts, and ACT or SAT test scores. Most incoming students possess a GPA above 3.5.

    BYU-Hawaii is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

  2. University of Hawaii-West Oahu

    Kapolei, HI



    Founded in 1976, UH West O'ahu operates as one of 10 University of Hawai'i campuses. The school offers numerous four-year degree programs and provides a comprehensive education, emphasizing baccalaureate degrees based in the liberal arts tradition. Students can also select from career-focused fields, as well as majors that meet with Hawaii's regional needs.

    The university oversees eight major colleges, focusing on areas like education, the social sciences, and creative media. More than 3,000 undergraduate students enroll each year in the university's degree programs, while also joining campus clubs and making friends.

    Prospective first-year students must show a 2.7 minimum cumulative GPA and pay a nonrefundable application fee. UH West O'ahu welcomes transfer students and military students. The school also offers flexible online learning options, as well as certificates.

  3. University of Hawaii at Manoa

    Honolulu, HI



    A research university based in Honolulu and founded in 1907, UH Mānoa provides students with many academic opportunities at its flagship campus. The university offers a variety of learning experiences and holds recognition as a land-, sea-, and space-grant institution. UH Mānoa operates as an R1 research university, and leads the way in many issues related to the environment, climate change, and sustainability.

    The school welcomes first-year students, transfer students, and international applicants. High school applicants must hold a minimum high school GPA that is considered "competitive" for their specific program, submit official transcripts, and provide ACT or SAT test scores. A nonrefundable application fee is also required.

  4. Chaminade University of Honolulu

    Honolulu, HI

    Chaminade — Hawaii's only Catholic university and one of only three Marianist universities in the United States — offers a private, four-year education to its students. The school embraces reason and faith as being integral to the pursuit of truth.

    Learning from a faculty that emphasizes the importance of critical thinking and creative problem-solving, students investigate areas like the fine arts, behavioral sciences, business and communication, nursing, mathematics, and the humanities.

    Founded in 1955, Chaminade complements its academic programs with many student activities. Enrollees may become involved in athletics, residence life, or join one of the many student clubs and organizations through the Office of Student Activities and Leadership.

    Chaminade's admissions team reviews applications holistically. Aspiring undergraduates should have a GPA of 2.5 or higher, but they no longer need to submit SAT or ACT scores. Applicants should also send in a statement describing their interest and passion in their intended area of study.

  5. University of Hawaii at Hilo

    Hilo, HI



    UH Hilo became a four-year academic university in 1969. The school is known for its student-focused approach, boasting a 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and a student body of about 3,400 learners.

    The university provides a quality education in a beautiful setting, and the campus offers many athletics, arts, and cultural events that encourage students to expand their knowledge outside the classroom. Students can pursue coursework from the certificate to doctoral level, choosing from nearly 90 different areas of study.

    Admission requirements for undergraduates include a minimum 3.0 GPA. ACT and SAT scores are not required if these GPA requirements are met, but UH Hilo still suggests that applicants submit their scores for advising and placement purposes.

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