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The Lantern

PSEO – not always a fairytale ending

The Lantern investigates whether or not choosing a PSEO option is appropriate for students

Stay in high school ?... take PSEO courses?...What are my options?

Stay in high school ?... take PSEO courses?...What are my options?

Carol Carpenter

Carol Carpenter

Stay in high school ?... take PSEO courses?...What are my options?

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In the story of Goldilocks, an inquisitive and arguably naive girl finds herself faced with options that are often too big, and too small before finally stumbling on one that’s just right. With fall semester coming to a close, students at CFHS, like Goldilocks, are on the lookout for schedules with academic challenges that aren’t too big but also not too small. For underclassmen this means evaluating a few electives and AP classes; but, rising juniors and seniors must make an additional choice: continue to take classes at the high school or try taking classes through PSEO online or at nearby colleges Although PSEO is often advertised as an opportunity to take more advanced classes and earn college credit, students should do their research, pick their program carefully and be aware that not all PSEO options are created equal. Otherwise, students risk not only feeling disappointed when their program fails to meet their expectations, but losing academic ground as well, which is very possibly worse than being chased out of the perfect cottage by three bears.

For many PSEO students, being aware of their motivation for taking PSEO classes and their expectations of them is crucial to having a positive, productive experience. Ella, who does PSEO in conjunction with AP classes offered at the high school and  has felt the rigor as well as the diversity of classes offered at Inver Hills is “just right “ for her, admits that she “can see where someone could really hate it if they were not prepared.” Before signing up for PSEO classes she was clear to define what she wanted from her PSEO program. Unlike most students at CFHS who take Spanish to meet their foreign language requirement, Ella has chosen to pursue a different path to meet her educational goals: American Sign Language (ASL).Cannon Falls only offers one year of ASL, while Inver could offer her an additional year. This provided her with “a challenge in classes that were not offered as AP in Cannon Falls.”

Other students, who lack clear goals for their PSEO education, have not found the same success nor enjoyment as Ella. A senior who also does PSEO at a local college, revealed her primary motivation was not necessarily to gain anything in particular from college classes, but rather to flee the “stereotypical toxic high school environment.” However, in the opinion of the student, embarking on a college course load in an unfamiliar environment was far worse than continuing to take high school classes because she simply felt unready for a college environment. “It is immensely stressful,” explained the senior, “This stress, I feel, not only took away from the quality of my education, but the experience of senior year.” Adding to this stress was a confusing college writing curriculum, which the student lamented was not only contradictory to the AP Composition class taught in Cannon, but often ignored basic rules of writing such as using organization in favor of “stream of conscious” writing. Furthermore, the student is now uncertain as to whether their hard fought for college credits will even transfer to the four-year private college where they were accepted.

This stress, I feel, not only took away from the quality of my education, but the experience of senior year”

— CFHS senior

The key for Goldilocks was trying out all the options and deciding that certain bowls of porridge were too hot or too cold before determining one was just right. To avoid the mishaps and frustration that can come with delving into college courses and truly benefit, high school juniors and seniors considering taking advantage of Minnesota’s PSEO program should also make sure they taste test each option, being sure to fully investigate not only what their program offers, but their own aspirations. By selecting programs and classes based on where their passions and interests lie, students can ensure they’re satisfied with the challenge their PSEO decision offres, regardless of whether the credits transfer. Additionally, PSEO participants can increase the chances of their credits transferring by considering if they want to go to a private or public university when they matriculate. Students should also realize that programs taken at junior colleges are not their only option. Many other Minnesota schools including the University of Minnesota as well as private institutions such as Macalester and St. Olaf offer dual enrollment that more closely resembles the college experience. Researching these options can give students a greater variety of courses to choose from and improve the odds their credits will follow them to their four-year colleges. Students who fail to truly consider their options will likely find themselves staring at an unappetizing lukewarm bowl of PSEO porridge, or forced to scarf  down a scalding serving the entire school year.


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PSEO – not always a fairytale ending