Graduate Admission Policies

This is content from the Catalog 2019–2020 back issue. Please visit the current catalog for current information.

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is an equal opportunity institution of higher education and does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, sexual identity, age, disability, religious affiliation, or country of origin.

Students are expected to be familiar with and follow the guidelines and policies set forth in the UH Hilo Catalog and Graduate Student Handbook. Students are ultimately responsible for selecting courses appropriate to the program degree objective.

Professional programs’ policies may vary slightly from graduate program policies. Please check with your program chair for details.

Application Requirements

Note: The following requirements are the minimum requirements for any UH Hilo graduate program. Particular graduate programs’ requirements may differ from the minimum. Therefore, prospective students must also check the requirements of their program of interest.

Applicants applying for admission to graduate programs must submit the following items (except for the app and fee) directly to the Graduate Division:

  1. A completed application form and appropriate fee. The application form and fee information are available online from the Admissions Office.
  2. One official transcript from each post-secondary institution attended. These transcripts must be sent directly from the institution or submitted by the applicant in a sealed institutional envelope if accompanying the application. Transcripts from within the UH system are not required.
  3. Official Graduate Record Examination scores or other qualifying test scores as determined by the program (check admissions requirements in each program description). International applicants whose native language is not English, or who have not attained a baccalaureate or higher degree from an English-speaking institution, also must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores.
  4. A minimum of three letters of recommendation attesting to the academic ability or other qualifications of the applicant.
  5. Statement of academic and/or long range goals.
  6. Verification of financial status (for all international students).

International Applicants

In addition to the above requirements, international applicants must submit official academic records in the original language accompanied by certified English translations. These translations must bear the embossed seal or inked stamp of the issuing institution or government agency and the original signature of the translator. Translations must be complete and exact word-for-word translations of the original documents. International applicants with a Grade Point Average of less than a B (or equivalent) in their undergraduate work or less than a B in 12 or more credits of post-baccalaureate work are not eligible for admission.

Minimum Qualifications for Acceptance

Baccalaureate Degree

Each applicant must hold a baccalaureate degree or graduate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. college or university, or its equivalent from a recognized non-U.S. institution of higher learning. The standards of the degree in question must be equivalent in scholarship requirements to those maintained in the undergraduate program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

The GRE is required for most applicants for consideration of acceptance. Some programs may require a professional test specific to the program of study in lieu of the GRE for admission purposes. Minimum scores on the GRE or professional tests are set individually for each program. Applicants who have completed a graduate program at a regionally-accredited U.S. institution or its equivalent from a recognized non-U.S. institution are not required to submit GRE scores.

Test of English As A Foreign Language (TOEFL)

In addition to above requirements, an applicant whose native language is not English must demonstrate English language proficiency as a partial admissions requirement. Evidence of proficiency in English is successful completion of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a minimum score of 550 (paper version), 213 (computer version), or 79 (internet version). The minimum IELTS score is 6.0. Applicants who have baccalaureate degrees from English-speaking institutions are exempt from the TOEFL requirement.

International Transcripts: Transcripts from international institutions where a bachelor’s degree was awarded must be submitted to a transcript evaluation service. See International Transcript Information for more info.

Please plan ahead to allow adequate time for processing of the evaluation of international transcripts, which may take a month or longer.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

The applicant must have a GPA of 3.0 or the equivalent from the last 60 semester credits (or equivalent) in the undergraduate degree completed, or must hold a graduate degree with a GPA of 3.0 or better in his/her graduate program. Please note: The meeting of minimum requirements does not assure acceptance into a UH Hilo graduate degree program. Acceptance into a graduate program is competitive and decided upon by each individual graduate program.

Classification of Students

Regular Admission

Regular admission may be granted to applicants who hold a baccalaureate degree with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better for the last 60 semester credits (or equivalent), or who hold a graduate degree with a GPA of 3.0 or better from an accredited institution. Determination of acceptance, however, is made by the admissions committees of individual programs. Students accepted by program admission committees are defined as “classified students.”

Provisional Admission

An applicant whose GPA in the last 60 credits (or equivalent) falls between 2.75 and 2.99 may be admitted under provisional status. To be accepted, the applicant must have program approval and otherwise meet program requirements. Some conditions may apply; the student will be notified at the time of acceptance of any conditions in place.

Denied Admission

Students whose academic records do not meet the minimum requirements, whose applications are incomplete, and/or whose admission is not supported by the program and the Graduate Division, will be denied admission.

Visiting Graduate Student

Applicants who are pursuing an advanced degree at another institution and who wish to study at UH Hilo for a limited time may apply for admission as visiting graduate students. To be eligible, applicants must be enrolled in and actively pursuing a graduate degree program at a regionally accredited institution of higher education or an equivalent degree at a recognized non-U.S. institution of higher learning, and be in good academic standing. Current transcripts from the home institution must be provided in order to determine academic standing and eligibility for specific classes at UH Hilo.

Visiting graduate students register on a space available basis and only in courses for which they are judged to be eligible by the instructor of the course and the chair of the individual graduate program. Visiting graduate students are limited to two semesters of study. Visiting graduate students will be asked to sign and return a contract upon acceptance agreeing to the two semester limitation.

Visiting graduate students must provide the same application materials as applicants for regular admission: the application, the application fee, statement of research interest/goals in the program, resume, three letters of recommendation, and official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. The exception is that visiting graduate students do not need to provide official GRE scores. The program chair must approve their acceptance into the program. Visiting graduate students will be accepted as “classified graduate students.”

Visiting international graduate students must comply with certain application and enrollment regulations in order to qualify for an I-20 certificate of eligibility, which permits them to request an F-1 student visa. Regulations include providing a copy of a current passport, providing proof of adequate financial support, and maintaining full time enrollment (6 credits per semester) while at UH Hilo. Please contact the Graduate Divisionfor details.

Admission as a visiting graduate student does not guarantee subsequent admission as a regularly admitted graduate student. A visiting graduate student who decides to apply for admission as a regular graduate student must apply for acceptance via the standard admissions process as do all other applicants. Visiting graduate students who later become admitted as regular students may request to have courses taken under the visiting student status credited toward the new degree objective. They should consult with their graduate programs. The visiting student will submit the Petition to Transfer, Substitute, and/or Waive Courses form to the Graduate Division. The form must be signed by the student, the primary advisor (if applicable), and the program chair.

Unclassified Graduate Student

Students with documented baccalaureate degrees who do not meet the minimum requirements for admission to a program, or who for any other reason have not been formally accepted into a program, may attempt to register for selected courses. Such registration is done on a space-available basis, and is with the written consent of both the faculty teaching the course and the chair of the program. Admission into a course as an unclassified graduate student does not guarantee admission as a regularly classified graduate student at a future date. A limit of 9 credit hours at UH Hilo may be taken at the graduate level by unclassified graduate students in their academic career. Waivers to this rule may be granted with the permission of the instructor and the graduate program chair using the form Permission to Enroll in Graduate Coursework as an Unclassified Student.

Applicants who are sponsored by an educational institution or governmental agency and who wish to undertake a special program of study, research, or training without a degree objective may apply as unclassified graduate students. These students also are limited to 9 credit hours at UH Hilo.

All applicants for unclassified graduate student status are required to submit the following:

  1. A graduate application;
  2. Proof of baccalaureate degree;
  3. A brief statement of objectives specific to each class in which the applicant hopes to enroll.

Unclassified graduate students are not required to submit the application fee, GRE scores, or letters of recommendation. If an unclassified graduate student later applies, and is accepted, into a graduate program, the student may petition for acceptance of credits taken while in unclassified status, but acceptance of the petition by the graduate program is not assured.

Undergraduate students with Senior standing and with a GPA of at least 2.5, before being granted a baccalaureate degree may petition to take graduate coursework for credit in the status of an Unclassified Graduate Student. Permission must be received from the student’s academic advisor, the graduate course instructor, and graduate program chair. This coursework must be in excess of the requirements for the baccalaureate degree. Failure of the student to obtain the baccalaureate degree at the end of the semester in which the graduate coursework is undertaken will invalidate any graduate credits from the coursework. Students must present evidence of successful completion of the baccalaureate degree to the Graduate Division Office. Completion of graduate coursework does not guarantee future admission to a UH Hilo graduate program. Submit the completed form Permission to Enroll in Graduate Coursework as an Undergraduate Student to the Graduate Division.

Additional Considerations

Concurrent Degrees

An applicant may apply to more than one graduate program but may enroll in only one program initially. Concurrent enrollment in more than one program is strongly discouraged. The individual programs applied for, however, will determine individually what constitutes the minimum course load, and the student (with the approval of both program chairs) may decide to attempt both programs.


Applicants who have been denied admission to a graduate program at UH Hilo because of failure to meet academic standards may reapply for admission after completing at least 12 semester credits of post-baccalaureate course work. The courses must be numbered 400 or above and completed with a GPA of 3.0 or above.

Completion of additional course work does not guarantee admission. To be reconsidered for admission, applicants must follow the standard application process and will be considered along with all other applicants. If admitted, no more than 12 semester credits of relevant post-baccalaureate course work may be applied toward the new degree objective.

If Admitted, But Not Enrolled

Admission may not be postponed or deferred. Newly-admitted students who do not register during the semester for which they are admitted or who withdraw from all courses before the last day to drop are considered no-shows. Their admission status will be rendered invalid. To reapply for admission, they must contact the Graduate Division for instructions.

Returning Student

If a student has not registered continuously, that student must reapply for admission. Readmission is not guaranteed.

International Student Documents

International student documents are processed by the Graduate Division in consultation with the International Admissions Officer. Visa questions will be handled by this office.