Lucy Kurup: How to be a college graduate ... while still in high school
Also known as dual enrollment, PSEO allows students to take classes at a local college and receive credit for both high school and college at the same time.
After an emotionally exhausting 2020-2021 school year that was partially virtual and partially in person, I was ready for a change. I had not loved full-time online school, but I also didn’t enjoy the long, structured days of regular high school. Instead, I had my heart set on trying something totally different: full-time PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Option) through RCTC.
Also known as dual enrollment, PSEO allows students to take classes at a local college and receive credit for both high school and college at the same time. Juniors and seniors who participate can earn up to two years of college credit without paying a cent, create flexible schedules with fewer in-class hours, and take fun and engaging classes that are not offered at the high schools.
I begged my parents to let me sign up for only PSEO classes junior year instead of continuing with the more traditional path at Mayo High School. At first they were hesitant to allow me to make such a big change, unsure of how the decision would impact my social life and whether taking AP classes would look better on college applications. Luckily, they eventually said yes.
As a PSEO student, I am able to set up my schedule so I only go into class for a few hours on either Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday. I change it up a bit every semester, but I have managed to never go to school more than four days a week. RCTC also offers a plethora of asynchronous online classes that help keep my schedule open and flexible. My first classes are usually at 10 a.m., so I never have to wake up too early.
I take four or five classes a semester, which lets me focus more on each individual class rather than be swamped with five core classes and 1-2 electives every day. College classes also have fewer in-class hours and more homework. I have learned how to balance my time so I get everything done while still feeling like I have enough time for other activities.
The flexibility of my PSEO schedule has allowed me to pursue interests outside of school as well as to spend more time with my family. I volunteer at Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo on Friday mornings. I eat lunch with my aunt and grandma every Tuesday. I can take on pet-sitting gigs during the day when my clients are at work and most kids are at school. I have a part-time job that begins before Mayo High School classes are over for the day.
PSEO offers a wide variety of interesting classes and electives that my friends and I have enjoyed. Digital art, science fiction and philosophy, dystopian literature, painting, compassion studies, acting, and theater appreciation are just a few of them. Even my most challenging classes at RCTC have been more fun than I expected. I took a physics class that had only seven students, which made lab days especially interactive and interesting. My English class has lively discussions that I look forward to every day. The professors make class engaging, and they care deeply about what they are teaching. By checking the “Rate My Professor” website, I can also choose my teachers based on whose style is a good fit for me.
When I started PSEO last year, one of my friends encouraged me to try to earn an associate’s degree by the time I graduated high school. Taking all college classes both junior and senior year would allow me to fill all the requirements without too much extra workload. Liberal Arts and Sciences was the major that lined up the best with high school requirements, so I set out to earn an AA. I am now set to graduate from RCTC this spring. I find it hilarious that my community college graduation will take place exactly one month before my high school graduation.
Although not all colleges accept dual-enrollment credits, the colleges I am looking at will accept all the credits I took, effectively completing two years of college right off the bat. I am saving tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, and I will barely have to spend any time on core requirements, allowing me to choose any classes I find interesting. Then, I can either try to get through college quickly and graduate in two years, or I can use my credits to double major, explore different fields of study, work, or do research on top of college.
Overall, taking PSEO classes has been an incredible experience for me. As I prepare for my “first” year of college this coming fall, I find it a little less intimidating knowing that I have already been a successful college student for the past two years.
Lucy Kurup is a senior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, email@example.com .