My decision to participate in Minnesota’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program has been the most defining aspect of my high school experience. A full-time PSEO student at the University of Minnesota (UMN), I graduated high school with 66 college credits via PSEO, and I’ve been able to access opportunities usually restricted to high schoolers.
How does dual-credit work?
It’s an incredibly straightforward process. All students who choose to take some or all of their classes at a university receive all their grades on their regular high school transcript, as well as a separate university transcript. The grades I’ve received count towards my high school and college GPA—meaning that my last three semesters have impacted my college application process, as well as my future goals— if I decide to apply to law school.
PSEO students are also free to double dip. My first semester, I took precalculus at Normandale and the rest of my classes at UMN. This is an especially valuable option to students who absolutely need to fulfill a high school graduation requirement, but are unable to do so at their first dually enrolled college.
Regarding the balance between high school and college, PSEO students have quite a bit of flexibility to balance their priorities wherever they need to.
Even though I was a full time PSEO student, I’ve still had access to my old high school activities. I was even able to start a Youth in Government delegation with the help of my high school administration. Furthermore, despite my PSEO status, I still had access to student groups and other activities at the university.
Surprisingly, during my first year of PSEO, I was able to become heavily involved in the UMN Economics Student Organization, a student group for economics majors, as well as land a role as a research assistant at the UMN Law School. Ultimately, there simply isn’t that much limiting PSEO students (besides age in some instances) from pursuing many of the opportunities available to regular undergraduate students.
PSEO Allowed Me To Focus on My Future
Overall, PSEO has significantly aided my postsecondary prospects. Besides the credits I’ve earned, I’ve been able to take courses more beneficial to my future goals. For example, since 10th grade, I’ve planned on majoring in economics. Unfortunately, my high school is relatively small and didn’t offer any economics classes. At UMN, I’ve been able to take many prerequisite courses for economics majors. These credits will allow me to graduate earlier than I’d normally be able to, while completing multiple degrees. All the money I’m able to save can be used for my ultimate goal of attending law school which, as I’ve come to realize, isn’t cheap!
This is not to say that there aren’t any challenges for PSEO students. Across the state of Minnesota, and to the dismay of many students, there still are some school districts that do not offer PSEO. A few schools try to prevent PSEO students from participating in high school activities, or don’t properly disseminate information on applying to PSEO to their students.
That’s why I’ve been grateful to be able to work with People for PSEO, a nonprofit which advocates for positive changes in PSEO law and helps spread information on how students can participate in PSEO. I’m currently working with their policy committee on this year’s legislative goals, which include grade weighting, stronger protections for students and increased allowance for colleges to advertise their PSEO programs.
While I don’t believe that PSEO is the best option for all high school students, it’s an often-underutilized tool for students to save money on college. If I didn’t participate in PSEO, I’d be significantly disadvantaged relative to where I am now. I can confidently say that I feel more prepared for the next steps I’ll take after high school.
Jonah Martinez is a former PSEO student at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities, and is a board member of People for PSEO. He's continuing to pursue degrees in economics and finance, with a minor in statistics.