High schoolers in search of a challenge can attend the U

Benjamin Sandell

Juli Romm was bored with her high school classes. She wasn’t being challenged; the work was too easy.
She was so frustrated, she considered dropping out of high school altogether.
But after looking into a program for advanced high school students at the suggestion of her boyfriend, she discovered an alternative.
Hundreds of students in similar situations have made the same discovery and landed in the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program. The PSEO program affords Minnesota high school students the opportunity to attend most colleges and technical schools in the state.
“It wasn’t harder than I expected; the worst part is that we aren’t allowed to register for classes over the Internet,” said Romm, now second year PSEO student from Armstrong High School in Plymouth.
“I was really scared when I got (to campus), but soon felt like I belonged.”
All high school juniors and seniors in any Minnesota public, private or charter school may apply to the program.
Advanced High School Students Services Director Michelle Koker said there are approximately 600 PSEO students attending the University this year, 75 percent of whom are high school seniors.
Joshua Bleet, a second-year PSEO student from Minnetonka High School, was accepted into the Institute of Technology at age 16.
“I played it like a freshman,” he said when asked about being so much younger than most other students. “I felt that the professors were uncomfortable with me. I was taking advanced IT classes, and they didn’t know if I could handle it.”
The PSEO law, passed in 1985, states all post-secondary students may attend a university free of charge.
Students accepted to the program are able to walk into any University bookstore, get the books they need and walk away without spending a cent.
What it takes
High school students in the top 15 percent of their class make up the majority of students accepted to the program, though class rank is not the only criterion.
Once admitted, they are not considered official university students and must still comply with requests from their high school while earning university credits.
The University accepts approximately 50 percent of those who apply to the program for fall semester of each year.
When registering for classes, PSEO students have to meet with an advisor form the AHSSS department in Wesbrook Hall. They can sign up for any introductory-level course offered by the University and are allowed to take up to a full load of credits.
PSEO students attend an hour-long orientation, unlike the two-day orientation that freshmen must go through.
Ahead of the class
A common misconception is that it’s harder for PSEO students to get good grades than it is for official college students. Yet according to the AHSSS, the average GPA for a PSEO student is 3.1 — higher than the average freshman GPA of 2.7.
Anna Marie Bohmann, a second-year participant, is taking classes at Minneapolis South High School, while at the same time completing 11 credits this semester at the University.
“PSEO is kind of a practice for actually going off to college,” she said. “It’s reassuring to know that I can handle the work and situation … The teachers and students were friendly, and I didn’t stick out as obviously two years younger than anyone else.”
She added that going to college at such a young age was not harder than expected. “In fact, it was easier in some ways because homework — especially for math — wasn’t really due on a certain date. I was able to work it into my schedule better. I could do it at convenient times instead of having to stay up really late.”
PSEO also helps students decide what kind of college they would like to go to when they graduate high school.
“Being at the University makes me realize that I would like to go to college in a large school in a city rather than a small liberal-arts college in a small town,” she said.
According to the AHSSS, 50 percent of the PSEO students attending the University will stay after high school graduation.
Bohmann said PSEO is something she definitely recommends to others, and the reason why is simple.
“It just makes life more interesting,” she said.