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ESSENCE Early College Program

ESSENCE Early College Program

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 at their  high schools) or how the courses are offered (lecture, hybrid, or online).

About the ESSENCE Program

  • HCC gives all high school, homeschool, and private school students a 25% tuition discount on their first 4 classes 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 Students must sign up to receive Free and Reduced Meals by September 15th for the fall semester and February 15th for the spring semester.
  • Maryland residents who attend a public or private high school may apply for additional funding through the ESSENCE 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.
  • In most cases, students will be responsible for all fees and the cost of books and other materials needed for a particular course.

For more information on the ESSENCE program, please call 240-500-2238, text 240-892-7258 or email

How to Become an HCC ESSENCE 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 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.
  4. Complete HCC placement tests or have the required SAT/ACT/PARCC 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 PARCC Algebra II  and/or a 4 or higher in 10th or 11th grade PARCC 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. ESSENCE students can't register on Self-Service.

How to Become an HCC ESSENCE 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

  • HCC Middle College
    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 70 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, HCC ESSENCE 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.