ESSENCE Early College Program

What is ESSENCE?

The ESSENCE (Early Support for Students ENtering College Education) 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 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).

About the ESSENCE Program

  • HCC gives all high school, homeschool, and private school students a 25% tuition discount on their first 12 college level credits taken while still in high school.
  • Washington County Public School students will also receive a tuition discount from Washington County Public Schools for their first 4 classes.
  • Students who receive Free and Reduced Meals (FARM) will only pay fees for their ESSENCE classes based on MD Senate Bill 740. To apply for Free and Reduced Meals, go to
  • Maryland residents who attend a public or private high school may apply for additional funding through the ESSENCE Supplemental Scholarship.
  • All high school students who attend a public high school may apply for a Federal Pell Grant.
  • In most cases, students will be responsible for all fees and the cost of books and other materials needed for a particular course.
  • Contact the Financial Aid office at 240-500-2473 or Email for more information on the ESSENCE Supplemental Scholarship or high school students receiving Pell Grants.

For more information on the ESSENCE program, please call 240-500-2238 or email

How to Become an HCC ESSENCE Student

  1. Fill out and submit an application for admission to HCC. You can fill out the application online or pick up a paper copy from the counseling office at your high school.
  2. Submit high school transcripts and SAT/ACT scores (if taken) to the Office of Admissions, Records and Registration.
  3. Fill out the HCC ESSENCE Program (Early Entry) Application Form. This form is available online and can also be found in the counseling office at your school or picked up in person from the Office of Admissions at HCC. 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 500 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. Learn more placement testing or view Web-based tutorials on the Testing Center page.
  5. Call 240-500-2238 to schedule a time to register. ESSENCE students can't register online. Registration for classes offered at local high schools will be conducted in the classroom when the class begins.

Other Early College Programs for High School Students

  • STEMM Technical Middle College
    High school students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math or Medical) Programs can attend HCC full time during their junior and senior years and earn college credit, which can be applied towards certificates or associate degrees. Learn more at
  • TRiO: Upward Bound
    Upward Bound is a year-round college-preparatory program made possible through a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education. HCC’s Upward Bound program will serve 70 students annually from North Hagerstown, South Hagerstown, Williamsport high schools, and Hancock Middle Senior High School. Learn more at