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Study in Hawaii

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A paradisiacal Polynesian archipelago 2,000 miles from the southwest coast of the US mainland, Hawaii feels a world away from the rest of America. Its combination of tropical weather, beautiful beaches and unique natural landscapes makes Hawaii a coveted destination for vacationers – and it’s also a great place to spend your student years.

Read on for information about universities in Hawaii, popular locations for students, and what treats are in store if you choose to study in Hawaii

Universities in Hawaii University of Hawaii at Mānoa

If you are looking to study in Hawaii, chances are you will first discover the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. This institution enjoys the strongest reputation among universities in Hawaii, and is the state’s sole entry in the QS World University Rankings® 2015/16.

The University of Hawaii at Mānoa is ranked joint 327th in the world (joint 65th in the US) in the latest edition of the QS World University Rankings. It was established in 1907 on a campus of 320 acres in Mānoa valley just outside of downtown Honolulu on the island of O‘ahu. This location means students are just minutes away from the beachfront town of Waikiki and other O‘ahu attractions such as the Ala Moana Center, the largest open-air shopping center in the world.

The University of Hawaii at Mānoa is the flagship institution of the University of Hawaii system, which incorporates three universities and seven community colleges across the Hawaiian islands. The University of Hawaii at Mānoa is both the largest and oldest in the system, offering a more than 240 degree programs and boasting wide diversity among its student body of 18,865 (5,176 of which are postgraduates).

The school has a strong research focus, recognized among leading research universities in the US, and identifies its own areas of excellence as environmental law, Eastern philosophy, international business, second language studies and athletics. It also boasts the highest percentage of students from minority backgrounds earning postgraduate degrees.

The University of Hawaii at Mānoa isn’t the only option for those wishing to study in Hawaii. As well as the other institutions under the University of Hawaii umbrella – the University of Hawaii at Hilo and the University of Hawaii at West O‘ahu – universities in Hawaii also include a number of community colleges and private universities, including Hawaii Pacific University, which has campuses in Honolulu and Kaneohe.

Where to study in Hawaii 

Inaugurated as an official US state in 1959, Hawaii retains a distinct culture influenced heavily by its Polynesian roots. Although only vestiges of the more traditional aspects of Hawaiian culture can be glimpsed in modern day Hawaii, the traditions of Hula and Luau, examples of Hawaiian dance and party, are just two examples of the cultural exports Hawaii is famous for.

The only US state made up entirely of islands, Hawaii’s capital city Honolulu can be found on the island of O‘ahu. The high quality of life here is reflected across the state’s islands, with residents enjoying the natural beauty of white sand beaches, vast coral reefs, rainforests and volcanoes.

Honolulu Honolulu

An affluent city and the capital of Hawaii, Honolulu is a popular stopping point for tourists, home to famous destinations including Waikiki Beach and Hanauma Bay. Life here is characterized by diversity, with a vibrant mixture of ethnicities, languages and foods. Meaning ‘place of shelter’ in Hawaiian, Honolulu is on the island of O‘ahu, the third-largest Hawaiian island and probably top of the list for those wishing to study in Hawaii, since it’s home to the only state’s only institution to feature in the QS World University Rankings – the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.

Maui Maui

The island of Maui is the top whale-watching spot in Hawaii islands, due to the surrounding sheltered waters. In winter, humpback whales shelter and mate in the warm channel, leading to some of the most amazing sightings of these creatures. Maui is also perfect for watersports, particularly surfing, with a coastline that caters to both pros and newbies. 

Inland, the island offers even more opportunities for adventure, with the chance to trek along the cratered terrain of the world’s largest dormant volcano or take a ride down Hawaii’s longest zip wire. Even if you’re not based in Maui, it’s a great place to visit during university holidays, especially if you want a break from the touristy scene of Honolulu. It was even voted the ‘world’s best island’ by Condé Nast Traveler for 19 years in a row, surely an endorsement you can’t overlook!

Hawai’i – ‘The Big Island’ Rainbow Falls, Hilo

Often referred to as ‘The Big Island’ to avoid confusion, Hawai’i is the largest Hawaiian island. It’s almost double the size of any of the other islands, and is the island the state of Hawaii is named after.

The Big Island is home to two active volcanoes, one of which is the most profuse in the world, erupting molten lava since 1983, and the geography of the island is varied and diverse. One side is characterized by vast, lava-created desert and the other by weathered valleys and rolling grasslands. Its sheer size means the island feels relatively un-touristy and spacious, and the majority of towns here have a very laid-back feel, home to many born-and-bred Hawaiians. 

Although there are no internationally ranked universities on Hawaii’s Big Island, there are a number of immense reserves and parks that students may wish to explore during their study breaks. These include the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the Kau Forest Reserve and the Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve.

Facts about Hawaii Hawaii facts

  • Located off the south-west coast of the US; the only state composed entirely of islands.
  • Capital and largest city is Honolulu.
  • The eight main islands of Hawaii are Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaho’olawe, Maui and Hawai’i.
  • Hawaii is the only US state which grows coffee.
  • Population: 1,431,603 (2015 estimate).
  • More than 90% of the native plants and animals living on Hawaiian soil are found only in Hawaii.
  • Hawai’i, ‘The Big Island’, is getting bigger, thanks to active volcanoes Kilauea and Mauna Loa.
  • The earliest written record of surfing is from 1779, describing Hawaiians using wooden boards to ride the waves.
  • Famous people born in Hawaii include current US president Barack Obama, actress Nicole Kidman, and singer-songwriters Bruno Mars and Jack Johnson.
  • Famous British explorer Captain James Cook died on the shores of Kealakekua Bay, Hawai’i, after a fight with Hawaiians in 1779.

This article was originally published in March 2014. It was updated in February 2016.

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Written by QS Staff Writer

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I want to apply in the university of Hawaii for undergraduate studies. How can I apply? How much will it cost to study in Hawaii? Is any scholarship for undergraduate studies or part time job available in Hawaii?

Hi Ahsan. Hawaii is part of the US, and the same general application process applies as for other US states. For information about applying to study in the US, check out our country guide:

Hope this helps! Laura.

how do i apply to study in hawaii

I´d love visit Hawaii!!! and study there