Academy (9 – 12)

The principal, assistant principals and two deans per grade level oversee Academy students. Each dean pair moves with their class of more than 425 students through the four years in the Academy. Classroom size averages 18 – 22 students, with some smaller seminars and labs, and larger lectures. 

Academy students have increasing levels of choice during the four high-school years. They select courses from an extensive catalog, personalizing the mix of classes in a modular schedule.

With the student at the center of the Academy curriculum, the goal is to provide students an environment and variety of experiences that will enable them to develop the skills and attitudes necessary for success as lifelong, independent learners prepared to contribute to their community and make a difference.

College preparatory graduation requirements include credits in English, language, mathematics, science, social studies, physical education, and visual and performing arts. Each year, 99 percent of graduates go on to college.

Freshman

Each year, 72 newly-admitted students join Punahou to help form a freshman class of around 425 to begin their journey in the Academy.

The curriculum is largely pre-set, with some elements of choice. Students take at least 5 academic courses including English, math, language, biology and social studies courses, but may opt for additional courses in arts or PE, all of which are required for graduation. Students who fulfill requirements in summer school naturally have greater flexibility to exercise choice.

Ninth grade is a transitional year, where students begin to hone study skills and practice time management. Students no longer have a fixed team of teachers and classmates, but are assigned a “homeroom” teacher, who will act as their anchor for Chapel, assemblies and extended advisory, all the way through graduation.

In the fall, all freshmen are invited to Camp Kuleana, a two-day, off-campus experiential program where students explore responsibility and relationships through challenge-based activities. The students then build on that experience with a non-credit, once-per-cycle course focusing on topics such as healthy choices, human development, substance abuse, peer pressure and emotional health.

The fall semester also features a freshman-only social event on campus and, in February, all ninth-graders participate in the school’s annual carnival and work at least one booth shift.

Sophomore

Following a transitional freshman year, a student’s sophomore year at Punahou continues with a similar curricular experience, but with a bit more choice and a new focus on personal growth. With more freedom in their schedule, students rely on, and further develop, their study skills and time management practices.

Tenth-graders take English, math, language, social studies and science courses. As in the previous year, additional course options in arts and PE are also available. 

The vast majority of students opt for the elective course, Introduction to Counseling Psychology, where students study group dynamics as a medium for personal growth, and learn individual counseling, communication and group facilitation skills. They may also apply to attend a four-day experience camp focused on team building and introspection through intense personal challenge.

In the fall, sophomores take the PSAT, a non-recorded practice test to prepare students for the SAT they’ll take in their junior year.

In February, all tenth-graders participate in the school’s annual carnival and work at least one shift. In March, planning begins for the following year’s carnival, which is hosted by the junior class. Student Carnival chairs and division heads are selected and choose the Carnival theme.

The spring also features a sophomore-only social event, the Spring Lū‘au.

Junior

The junior year at Punahou is both fun and challenging, with a focus on leadership development and preparation for college. Compared to their sophomore year, a student’s choice of courses grows significantly, as do the academic rigor and expectations.

Students take English, math, American literature and U.S. history. Having fulfilled their language and science requirements in their first two years, they may choose to continue on in those studies or to explore a wide variety of other courses.

A progression from Counseling Psychology in tenth grade, many juniors continue their development by taking Peer Helping, where they serve as peer facilitators for Punahou student groups ranging from kindergarten to Academy. They may also apply to attend a four-day experience camp focused on team building and introspection through intense personal challenge.

In preparation for the college application process, juniors take the PSAT in October (high scores qualify students for National Merit), the SAT in December, and any applicable AP exams in May (typically). Juniors are assigned a college counselor and take a non-credit college guidance course in the fall. During the year, students have the opportunity to attend sessions with admission representatives from any of the roughly 200 colleges that visit Punahou.

As hosts, juniors are integral to the planning and execution of the annual carnival in February, a schoolwide event benefitting the financial aid program. Along with thousands of parent and alumni volunteers, every member of the junior class works several booth shifts, and many volunteer as chairs. Carnival offers leadership opportunities and is a tremendous bonding experience for the class, as they work toward a common goal.

Following a mixed junior-senior social event the night before Carnival, the spring also features an off-campus social event, best described as an informal junior prom.

Senior

While a students' senior year is focused on graduation and preparation for college, it is also a time of reflection and celebration of their journey at Punahou.

Students take English and European history, and select from a wide variety of other courses to fulfill their graduation requirements and pursue their particular passions. This includes a required senior Capstone course, with themes of social responsibility, economics, the environment, empowering deeds of service and sustainable solutions. Students may opt for a science-focused Capstone course or international travel-based courses in the summer (preceding their senior year).

In September, seniors begin the college application process. During the fall, students have the opportunity to attend sessions and personal interviews with admission representatives from any of the roughly 200 colleges that visit Punahou.

After placement auditions in the fall, in January, rehearsals begin for Variety Show, the senior class’s primary contribution to the school’s annual carnival in February. After Carnival, students prepare for a series of memorable traditions including Senior Chapel, Senior Sing, Senior Skip Day, Baccalaureate, Commencement and their first Alumni Lū‘au following graduation.

Beyond Curriculum

In addition to the curricular experience, Punahou offers Academy students a wide variety of co-curricular after school programs, as well as opportunities for athletics, clubs and travel.