CORVALLIS - High school students from Hawaii, including some of the state's brightest scholars, are enrolling at Oregon State University in increasing numbers thanks to several programs designed to familiarize students with the university and college life in general.
From 1993 to 1998, the number of Hawaii high school students enrolled at OSU jumped from 183 to 279 - a 52 percent increase. During that time period, it was the largest student increase at OSU from any state outside of Oregon.
Hawaii now sends more out-of-state students to Oregon State University than any other states except California and Washington.
Since 1995, Oregon State has been conducting a new student orientation program in Hawaii for students and their parents. But OSU's involvement with Hawaii students begins before they graduate from high school.
Shirley Lucas, director of Summer Session and Precollege Programs, has been developing partnerships with Hawaii high schools to provide preparation to motivated college-bound students. This summer the Office of Precollege Programs, through one of its Countdown to College programs, hosted 26 seniors-to-be from Kamehameha High School, Mid-Pacific Institute, Punahou, Kaiser and Kauai. The students spent four weeks in the Freshman Early Achievement and Transition Program (FEAT). They joined seven other prospective college students from Alaska, California and Oregon to learn about the transition from high school to college, while developing "power learning" skills, exploring a multitude of disciplines, developing academic leadership skills and earning six college credit hours.
"This program has really opened my eyes (about) the transition from high school to college," said T.J. Auld, class president at Kamehameha High School. "I've learned a lot about college and will look at OSU as an option when I graduate because I've become comfortable with the campus."
Besides the academic programs, Auld said there are some simple reasons Hawaii students eye OSU as an attractive option for college.
"It's close to Hawaii and there is a large Hawaiian population on campus," she said. "Most of us have friends that are already going to school at OSU. It's like a home away from home."
Lucas said it's important to have high school students understand the rigors of college academic expectations and the challenges of the new campus environment before they graduate, in order to facilitate smooth transitions and better decision-making.
"For some students, it's the first time they've been away from their parents for more than a week," she said. "There is a lot of interest in OSU among Hawaii students but it is a big transition. The precollege programs help them prepare for the academic and lifestyle changes that come with college."
Bob Bontrager, director of Admission and Orientation at OSU, said he's not surprised to see larger numbers of students from Hawaii choosing OSU.
Bontrager said the university's orientation program in Hawaii has grown from 28 students in 1995 to 124 students this year. In addition, 110 parents and family members participated in this year's program, which was held in June.
"To say this program has been extremely well received would be an understatement," Bontrager said. "The numbers themselves provide the best evidence of that, but we also receive many glowing comments from parents regarding the degree to which they appreciate our special efforts in providing this program."
As part of the program, the university sends advisers, staff from Admission and Orientation and representatives from Alumni Relations and the OSU Foundation to Hawaii to talk with students and their families. Along with the traveling group, current OSU students from Hawaii that are home for the summer and their parents and local alumni help answer questions. Students receive placement testing, advising, computer course registration and orientation to OSU and Corvallis.
The university's efforts appear to be paying off not only in higher numbers, but in the quality of students attracted to OSU.
Of the 122 Hawaii All-State Scholars for 1999, four have said they will attend OSU in the fall. That is the same number that will attend Stanford University and the University of Southern California and more than will attend Brigham Young University and Harvard University. The only mainland university to attract more Hawaii All-State Scholars is the University of California at Berkeley, which will have five.
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Bob Bontrager, 541-737-4088