This year's twenty-nine La Pietra–Hawaii School for Girls graduates hauled in a current total of 127 college acceptances this year with one student accepted into 15 schools.
It is certainly not hyperbole to say it is extraordinary for any graduating class to earn more than four times its number in college acceptances.
So, how do La Pietra students connect so well with colleges and universities?
Leilani Arita-Takayama, Academic Dean and College Counselor, identified a crucial attribute to the school's success with college applications is early orientation.
"At La Pietra, we start the educational process about college applications early by holding group educational sessions for parents and students in middle school," she shared.
"We continue to build everyone's knowledge of the process in upper school by holding meetings at every grade level to cover important college news, how to build their extracurricular and academic profile and then provide information on what steps they should be taking at their grade level and in the future."
Arita-Takayama further associates her students' success with the Junior Seminar class she teaches and individualized meetings with seniors and their parents. Students are continuously guided to focus on meeting early action deadlines, highlighting and expanding their extracurricular resume, taking rigorous course work throughout high school, and writing robust admissions essays.
She added that "strong" letters of recommendation are also critical to an application because they provide colleges with "important information they might not see at first glance from the application itself."
"The sources of the letters are important as well. They should come from writers who personally know the student, know her well, and can help convey who this student is within the context of the classroom or other areas. Most letters of recommendation come from teachers, coaches, and myself."
Teachers tends to focus on who the student is in the classroom while the counselor's letter concentrates on who she is as a person–her academic and extracurricular strengths, personal character, and why she stands out.
"Through those details, a college can help bridge together who this student is along with the student's application. The letter of recommendation not only conveys a student's success, but also what she learns after failure. Resilience is a prerequisite for college success," said Arita-Takayama.
Essays can also make an immense difference in college applications. Writing conveys a student's "individuality, success, and the key factors, personality, and skill sets they would bring to the college or university they are applying to. It is a key piece of conveying a student's personal story and truly reveal the applicant," said Arita-Takayama.
"When a student's story is told in an eloquent and engaging manner, college admissions offices feel like they know the person through their papers and applications. This is pivotal for the student as each admissions offices are most likely reading thousands of applications and essays."
Valedictorian Mahealani Daniels '17, who was accepted by nine colleges to-date said she got a very early start thinking about college.
"My mom forced me on to the whole college scene at a young age," said Daniels. "In the eighth grade, I visited my first school and by the time I had reached the summer of my junior year I had visited over 30 colleges."
Daniels said the early college exposure made her realize she wanted to choose a college that was like no other. "I wanted to find a prestigious small liberal arts college that was a gem," she said. That's how she found what she calls her "love-at-first-sight-college" Colorado College.
"No other school is like it. Although it's widely unknown, it's considered to be a hidden Ivy [League School]."
Daniels said she is excited about Colorado College's exotic block plan. "When I'm studying coral reef ecology, Colorado College will take me to Belize. When I'm taking art history, Colorado College takes me to Europe and rents out the Sistine Chapel so I can sleep under the work of Michelangelo. And when I'm learning about classic literature, Colorado College takes me to Greece so I can read the Odyssey while traveling the path of Odysseus."
Despite her high grades, Daniels said she did not slide into Colorado College. In fact, after applying for Early Action last fall, she got word that she had been deferred just as she sat down for a long plane ride to Iceland. "I cried the whole way there," she said.
Knowing that only 30 out of more than 500 students get in after deferral, she said she considered it "a kind of death sentence."
Daniels recommends for future college applicants to 'pitch' one's most unique quality. "There should be one factor that is so unique to just you, and no other student out there, that the admissions team will exclaim, 'that's why I want this student.' "
Amongst Daniels' peers, class president Erika Lee '17 was accepted to seven colleges, including her top choice to the University of California - Berkeley. "It offers a multitude of world-renowned programs, majors, and opportunities that I can choose to delve into." said Lee "Furthermore, I was drawn to its close proximity to San Francisco, which is a city that presents so much to do while simultaneously providing convenient transportation. I also like the school's large student population. Coming from a small high school, I want to experience an entirely new atmosphere throughout my undergraduate years."
Lee encourages high school student to find time to "thoroughly" examine all the schools and learn as much as possible about them.
"When it comes time to submit your applications, you will feel excited to apply because these colleges will be schools that you can confidently see yourself enrolling in and being a part of in the next chapter of your life."
Her second piece of advice is to keep things simple when applying. She said she found it is best to just be one's self.
"Do not overcomplicate the college application process," said Lee. "It's all about demonstrating who you truly are to each school, which is something only you are capable of doing."
The members of the Class of 2017 will be attending schools throughout the United States and internationally. Collectively, the Class has garnered over $2 million in merit scholarships. They will be studying in majors such as animation, psychology, architecture, human biology, air traffic management, interactive digital media, physics communications, education, nursing, astronomy, art, agriculture, and more. Below is their list of colleges they will be attending in the Fall:
Cal Poly Pomona
College of Southern Nevada, Charleston campus
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Loyola Marymount University
New York Film Academy
Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University
San Diego City College
South Puget Sound Community College
St. Andrews University
The New School Eugene Lang
University of California - Berkeley
University of California - Irvine
University of California - Los Angeles
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
University of Northern Colorado
University of Puget Sound
University of Redlands
University of Southern California
University of Wyoming
Waseda International University