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ESSENCE Early College Program (for high school students)

HCC students enjoying a spring day

The ESSENCE Early College Program is designed to give high academic achievers the opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school.  To participate in the ESSENCE program, each student must be 16 years old and have a 2.5 high school GPA.

ESSENCE students can be in local high schools, local private schools or homeschooled.  Students are in the ESSENCE program regardless of where (at HCC or an off-campus location including local high schools) or how the courses are offered (traditional, hybrid, or online).

As a result of Maryland Senate Bill 740, there is a joint plan between HCC and Washington County Public Schools (WCPS) to address changes to the dual enrollment program for high school students.  To read more about dual enrollment in Maryland, click here.

MD Senate Bill 740 requires HCC to give each WCPS student a 25% tuition discount on their first four courses.  WCPS will pay part of the tuition for ESSENCE students for the first four courses and HCC will cover a portion of the tuition for the first 12 credits.  The total discounts give each WCPS student a 50% tuition discount on their first 12 college level credits taken at HCC.  In most cases, students will be responsible for all fees and the cost of books and other materials needed for a particular course. 

WCPS students who are in the Free and Reduced Meal Program (FARM) do not pay tuition for their ESSENCE classes (per MD Senate Bill 740).  FARM students will be responsible for registration fees.  Students who need to apply for Free and Reduced Meals can do so by going to .  WCPS students can begin applying for Free and Reduced Meals July 1st and must have applied by Augst 15th for the fall semester and December 31st for the spring semester.

Private and homeschool students who reside in Washington County will also receive a 25% tuition discount and can apply for the ESSENCE Early College Opportunity Fund Scholarship which will result in the total discount being 50% on their first 12 college level credits.

Out-of-county and out-of-state ESSENCE students will receive a 25% tuition discount on the first 12 college level credits a student takes with HCC while they are still enrolled in high school.

Here are the steps to becoming an ESSENCE student:

1.  Fill out and submit an application for admission to HCC.  The application is available online or in the counseling office at your high school.

2.  Submit high school transcripts and SAT/ACT scores (if taken) to the Office of Admissions and Registration.

3.  Fill out the HCC ESSENCE Program (Early Entry) Application Form.  This form can be found in the counseling office at your school or in the Admissions and Registration office at HCC.  It is also available online. This form must be submitted each semester a student is in the ESSENCE Program.

4.  Complete HCC placement tests or have the required SAT/ACT scores to exempt you from testing.  A student is exempt from placement testing if they have a score of 550 or higher on SAT mathematics and/or SAT critical reading; 21 on the ACT mathematics and/or ACT English; or completion of college-level courses in mathematics or English.  Click here for more information on placement testing.  Web based tutorials are available on the Testing Center page.

5.  Call 240-500-2238 to schedule a time to register.  ESSENCE students can't register online.  ESSENCE students who are taking classes at their high school, do not need to register at HCC.  A member of the ESSENCE Team will visit your high school to conduct registration.