What to Expect

Competition at each grade can be keen, and there are usually more qualified applicants than spaces. Schoolwide, there are typically 1,800 applications for approximately 500 spaces.

What is Punahou looking for in students? 

The answer isn’t simple because no child is simple. Punahou considers each applicant fully and looks for the kind of learner who sees school, life and the world as one big classroom, open and waiting to explore, to connect and to enjoy.

Previous school performance and text scores factor into decisions, but students’ interests, their passions, their abilities and personalities are valued. It is important to know who each child is, how children interact with others, how they observe and interpret the world.


Tell me more about what Punahou looks for in an applicant.

Punahou is not looking for anything specific because it's looking at the total child. It's not all about test scores. It includes a combination: the school performance; the test scores; how that school performance correlates with the test scores. For grades 6 - 12, it's good to see that students are involved in other activities in addition to their academic responsibilities. Punahou also looks at an applicant's character, citizenship, personality, and how they get along with other kids. Punahou is looking for diversity, both economic and ethnic. The child's unique abilities, interests and learning styles are also considered and respected.

Is there a particular profile Punahou hopes to enroll?

No, and you can see that in Punahou's student population. Punahou is looking at kids who have different interests, different talents, different skills. That's what makes it a more vibrant community. Punahou admits students who might not have the highest test scores, but because of their work ethic, have been very successful and have become leaders at the school.

Are there feeder schools for Punahou?

No. Punahou admits applicants from all schools. In kindergarten, which is the largest entry point, 150 admitted students typically come from more than 50 schools.

Is there a connection between giving and admission?

None whatsoever. Admission and Advancement are two separate departments. There is no correlation between gifts to Punahou and the admission process. Admission to Punahou is based on the match between the child and the school. It is a process managed separately from a family's giving to Punahou.

Is summer school a requirement prior to being admitted to Punahou?

No. Many families use the summer school program as an introduction to Punahou, but enrollment in summer school is not a requirement for admission.

Does a request for financial aid jeopardize an applicant's chances for admission?

No. A family's financial status is not part of admission criteria. The Financial Aid Committee grants aid on the basis of Punahou's calculated financial need.


Student selection is based on academic and non-academic considerations. Admission criteria include scholastic performance, test scores, and reports of demonstrated talents and interests. Characteristics, such as initiative, independence, responsibility, self-discipline and creativity are desirable traits. Students willing to reach and push themselves to their limits are those most likely to benefit from a Punahou education. Faculty and administration share the responsibility for student selection.

Special consideration is given to qualified candidates who are: children of alumni, faculty or staff or of Hawaiian descent; descendants of Punahou's missionary founders; or siblings of enrolled students. Admission, however, is not automatic for applicants in those categories.

All decision letters go out the same day.

Decision letters for the 2018 – 2019 school year are mailed by:

  • Kindergarten – Grade 5 mailed by 4/20/18
  • Grades 6 – 12 mailed by 3/23/18

The decision dates allow for compliance with the common reply dates of the Hawai'i Association of Independent Schools. A non-refundable $500 deposit is due upon enrollment. The full amount is credited toward tuition.

Post-decision conferences may be scheduled by calling the Admission Office at 808.944.5714 or 808.944.5715, according to the date suggested in the decision letter. 


How are special considerations weighted in decisions?

Special considerations are only for tiebreakers. Alphabetically, they are: children of alumni, faculty or staff; children of Hawaiian descent; descendents of Punahou's missionary founders; and siblings of current students. Special considerations do not guarantee acceptance.

How does the wait pool work?

It's called a wait pool because a waiting list implies that they are in rank order. When there is a spot available, the pool of applicants who responded to the wait pool letter for that grade level is reviewed for admission.

What advice can Punahou offer those receiving a regret letter?

Families should call for a conference to discuss the applicant's performance and records; and how they were reflected in the admission decision.

What does Punahou do to help families who have been denied admission?

The admission directors, admission counselors, or assessment specialists with whom families confer can make recommendations and provide guidelines. They can suggest things the family might do to build confidence and self-esteem or to strengthen specific skills so that the student might be a more competitive applicant the next time.

If a child is denied acceptance, is it worth applying again?

Absolutely. Besides looking for the right fit, Punahou is looking at the right timing for that fit. Some applicants could be much stronger students if given a few years.

Applying to Multiple Schools

When a candidate is notified of admission, parents and candidates are asked to cooperate with schools. If a candidate has applied to multiple schools and is accepted to his first choice, the family should accept the offer of admission and notify all other schools of the decision. Failure to notify all such schools immediately causes hardship for candidates who are still anxiously awaiting notification.

Punahou School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability in administration of its educational or admission policies, financial aid programs, athletic and other School administered programs or in its employment practices.