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Early College Access Program (formerly ESSENCE)

Early College Access Program (formerly ESSENCE)

Early College Access Program (formerly ESSENCE)

What is Early College Access Program?

The Early College Access Program is designed to give high academic achievers the opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school. To participate in the Early College Access Program, each student must have a 2.5 high school GPA. Early College Access Program students can be in local high schools, local private schools or homeschooled. Students are in the Early College Access Program regardless of where (at HCC or at their  high schools) or how the courses are offered (lecture, hybrid, or online).

About the Early College Access Program

  • Washington County Public School (WCPS) students are not charged tuition for Early College classes. WCPS students will pay all fees and textbook costs for each class they take while concurrently enrolled in high school.
  • All non-WCPS students will receive a 25% tuition discount based on residency for all Early College classes.
  • Maryland residents who attend a public or private high school may apply for additional funding through the Early College Access Program Supplemental Scholarship. Please see the application for specific criteria. This scholarship is in addition to any early college discount that students may already be eligible for during 2022-2023.
  • For more information on the Early College Access Program, please call 240-500-2238, text 240-892-7258 or email

How to Become an Early College Access Program Student (classes taken on campus at HCC or online)

  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 and Enrollment Management.
  3. Fill out the Early College Access 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.
  4. Complete HCC placement tests or have the required SAT/ACT/MCAP scores to exempt you from testing. A student is exempt from placement testing if they have a cumulative high school GPA of 3.0, a score of 530 or higher on SAT mathematics and a 480 or higher on SAT evidence based reading/writing; 21 on the ACT mathematics and/or ACT English; 4 or higher in MCAP Algebra II  and/or a 4 or higher in 10th or 11th grade MCAP English/Language Arts; 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 or email to schedule a time to register. Early College Access Program students can't register on Self-Service.

How to Become an Early College Access Program Student (classes offered at high school)

  • Steps to apply for admission and register for classes offered at local high schools can be found here.

Other Early College Programs for High School Students

  • Early College Degree Program
    High school students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Medical, Business, or Arts 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 72 students annually from North Hagerstown, South Hagerstown, Williamsport high schools, and Hancock Middle Senior High School. Learn more at
  • CATE Program
    CATE students take a combination of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, Early College Access Program courses, and courses at WCTHS that articulate to credits at HCC. Students who follow the CATE program pathway have the potential to earn up to 30 college credits. After graduating from high school, students can possibly complete their Associate degree at HCC in a year or less. Find our more on the CATE Early College Program page.