Courses & Programs

Gateway to College

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Please email for students from the Springfield district; please email Vivian Ostrowski for students from school districts other than Springfield.

Gateway at a Glance

Gateway to College is a dual enrollment program at Holyoke Community College in which high school students who have dropped out (or are at risk of dropping out) take college classes for credit in both high school and college. This is not a high school equivalency program; students who complete the Gateway program earn a high school degree from their school district – and graduate with earned college credit.

Part of a national network that includes 31 programs in 18 states, HCC's Gateway program has earned national recognition for its extraordinary success. More than 415 students from 14 different local school districts have graduated from Gateway to date. Before entering Gateway, most had a high school GPA below 2.0. Some had left school entirely, while others were behind their cohort and unlikely to complete. In addition to finishing high school through the Gateway program, these students accumulated approximately 12 college credits. Most Gateway graduates continue in college.

Student Support

Students complete an in-depth application process with Gateway, including essays, testing, and a personal interview. The two most critical pieces of the application process are the genuine desire to finish high school, and a commitment to the changes necessary to become successful college students.

Gateway is rigorous. Students take a fulltime course load, with classes that match their high school requirements, MCAS needs, and career interests. They may attend classes in five terms: fall, intersession (January), spring, Maymester (May), and summer. They need to meet the same standards as students on federal financial aid: successful completion of 67% of attempted courses, with a minimum GPA of 2.0.

Innovative Teaching & Learning

Gateway students are college students, and have a flexible college schedule. Gateway applicants need to have the maturity to handle this flexibility, as well as the rights and responsibilities of college life. Attendance is a key component of college success, as students may be withdrawn from classes after just three absences. Gateway is an amazing opportunity, but it requires tremendous effort and commitment. Gateway asks each student to move beyond their high school identities and begin a new chapter in their lives. Gateway students are college students who transform into scholars and leaders who fully expect to make a difference in their communities.

Our Students

Gateway is open to students ages 16-20 years of age. Interested students MUST attend an information session to start the application process. Upcoming sessions are listed below. Students must come from school districts with a contract with Gateway to College.

Information Sessions

Please email for students from the Springfield district; please email Vivian Ostrowski for students from school districts other than Springfield for information about upcoming virtual information sessions.

What type of student is successful at Gateway to College?

Gateway students have dropped out, or are in danger of dropping out because they are behind in credits. Most of our students left high school with a GPA of 2.0 or less. Promising students who drop out because of unfortunate circumstances do well at Gateway. All applicants should consider the tough workload, extra transportation time, and amount of homework necessary to do well in college.

What kind of support will I get?

You will work closely with a Resource Specialist to choose classes, pick a major, and identify and manage issues before they escalate into problems. We will help you find creative solutions to all sorts of challenges (homelessness, daycare, medical issue, transportation, childcare, family issues, lack of motivation, etc).  The key component to success is communication: We can't help you if we don't know what's going on.

What is the school day like?

Each student has a different schedule based upon their classes, so the school day is different for everyone. While Gateway students typically spend less time in actual classes than high school students, the amount of work required outside the classroom is MUCH greater. Expect to spend three hours on homework and projects for every one hour you are in class.

What does it cost?

Gateway is free to students, as your school district pays for you to attend. Because it is a scholarship program, students need to meet minimum standards in order to stay in the program. 

What about transportation?

Gateway students receive PVTA bus passes that are valid for each academic semester. If students choose to drive, they must register their car and post a (free) HCC decal in their vehicle.

What if I am a young parent?

Twenty percent of our students have young children, and Gateway's flexible schedule is helpful. However, young parents often feel overwhelmed by the college workload and homework, and need to have contingency plans in place. All applicants, especially young parents who are juggling multiple responsibilities, should consider the tough work load, extra transportation time, and amount of homework necessary to do well in college.

Can a student with an IEP attend Gateway?

Yes, if the student's IEP team determines that the college-based accommodations available through HCC are adequate to meet the student's needs.

Can I stay connected to my high school?

Some Gateway students participate in high school events such as prom and graduation. Some Gateway students even play sports for their high school. Some Gateway students choose to never have contact with their high schools.

Will Gateway let me earn my High School Equivalency?

No. Gateway is for students who want to earn their high school diploma. If you want to get your High School Equivalency, we will help you find a High School Equivalency testing site.

Do I need to pass MCAS?

Yes. You need to meet all of your district's graduation requirements, including courses and MCAS. 

Can I have a job while I'm in Gateway?

It is very difficult to juggle the demands of college and a job, especially in the first semester. If you need to have a job, work with your Resource Specialist to find a manageable schedule that allows you to juggle your multiple demands. School needs to be your top priority. If you are not successful academically, you will lose your scholarship and will be withdrawn from the program.

How do I apply?

Interested students MUST attend an Information Session at HCC. That begins a process that includes testing, a written application, and an interview. Call Vivian Ostrowski at 413.552.2370 to reserve your spot in an Information Session.

Attendance at an information session is required in order to apply for admission to Gateway to College. Information sessions are held on Thursdays at 3:30 p.m. in the Fine and Performing Arts building, room 227, and last approximately 90 minutes. Applicants are encouraged to bring a support person, such as a family member or friend. Free parking is available in the Visitors' Lot, and PVTA busses come directly to campus.


Please email Vivian at for information about upcoming virtual information sessions.

About Gateway

Learn more about this national program.