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With the clash of cymbals and the last trumpet blast, Bella Stone, a PSEO student at the University of Northwestern—St. Paul, plays the final note of the UNW Orchestra concert on her viola. Even though she’s in high school, Stone has played in a college-level orchestra for nearly a year, while many of her peers play in their high school groups.  

Stone plays viola in the UNW Orchestra at the 2021 Christmas at Northwestern concert. Photo courtesy of @unwmusic via Instagram.

What makes this opportunity possible for Stone and other Minnesotan high schoolers? Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO). At UNW, Stone gets a head start on college and can participate in numerous extracurricular activities like orchestra. Although she’s unsure of her next steps after high school graduation this spring, PSEO allows her to experiment with different options. Last year, Stone took some health sciences classes and enjoyed her medical terminology class. “It was really hard, but it was just really interesting. We learned so many different things about the human body,” Stone says with a smile. Now, she’s an English major and thoroughly enjoys her writing classes, even though they challenge her.  

Day in her life 

Stone works on a writing project in one of Totino’s practice rooms. Photo courtesy of Lillie Jaenchen.

As a commuter, Stone begins her day on a quest to find a parking spot—a challenge for any student. Once parked, she attends classes and studies in her favorite Nazareth Hall study spot or a Totino practice room. Since PSEO students don’t have a meal plan, Stone packs her own lunches. Though she doesn’t have a dorm to retreat to, she still manages to satisfy her introverted needs by finding a quiet corner in the library while also enjoying her community of UNW friends.

Growing up

While PSEO builds a unique community for high school students, it also helped Stone “grow up a little bit more.” That might not be ideal for every high school student, but Stone wants to take advantage of her two years of free college at UNW. “I don’t feel like I have to second guess everything I do,” explains Stone. “You get a lot of experience in a lot of different classes.” However, this creates a balancing act between discovering what she’s interested in while at the same time being mindful of what she’s doing to “make the most out of it.” 

Making the Most of It

How does she make the most of it? For Stone, PSEO allows her to 

  • Make wise financial decisions by saving money on college
  • Participate in college-level extracurriculars, such as orchestra and painting 
  • Learn how to think critically

Often, professors don’t know when PSEO students take their classes, so Stone experiences the same expectations and responsibilities as traditional students. Stone’s advisor helps her prepare for classes each semester, and she takes advantage of services like the Writing Center and Career Development. 

PSEO “hasn’t necessarily nailed me down into one thing, but that’s why I think college is the time for changing your mind and maybe making a couple of mistakes because you have to figure out what you’re aiming for.”

-Bella Stone

As Stone explores options for her future post-high school, she plans to hold onto these things she learned at UNW:

  • The importance of good communication
  • How to argue and persuade effectively
  • Making the most of the place she’s in
  • Pursuing meaningful friendships
  • Seeking help when she needs it and using the resources around her

Though younger than most traditional students, PSEO allows Stone to explore her interests and the possible directions that God may be leading her.