Portrait of Jia Griffiths

It would have been difficult for anyone to keep their cool, taking PSEO college courses during a pandemic. But perhaps a Junior World Cup-aspiring speed skater has an edge in that respect.

Jia Griffiths was already taking a full load of classes as a junior at DeLaSalle High School. This would have been enough for many students. Yet Jia says, “I had expressed a strong interest in psychology last year, and my mother suggested that I apply for PSEO to take a more challenging college-level course.” Despite landing one of the last PSEO orientation dates, Jia managed to snag an opening in Introduction to Psychology.

The thrill of this success and her experiences taking her first U of M course emboldened her to shoot higher. “For second semester, I went a bit crazy taking all the classes I could because I wasn't sure how well PSEO would fit into my revised high school schedule,” she says. She signed up for sociology, an advanced guitar class, and Asian American Images.

Excited about PSEO

Many students choose the PSEO route to get ahead in their academic career. The psychology and sociology courses form the foundation for her future studies. Jia plans to use her introductory course credits to let her get right to the advanced studies wherever she will attend college.

“As a full-time high school student, and especially during the pandemic, I learned to navigate University classes offered in an asynchronous format and online after school. Through successes and a few missteps, I know better how to balance school with life.”

"I learned to navigate University classes offered in an asynchronous format and online after school. Through successes and a few missteps, I know better how to balance school with life."

This wisdom sounds like it comes with experience. When asked if she has any advice for high school students thinking about PSEO courses, Jia had an urgent message. “Please do not take more than one or two PSEO courses if you only have one study hall! I somehow scraped by on minimal hours of sleep, but do not attempt to take three college courses with a full high school schedule.” She also advised against taking 3000-level courses as a junior in high school, due to the enhanced study time commitment. “There is a very good reason PSEO students need special permission to take a college junior-level course.”

Plans Delayed, for Now

Portrait of Jia Griffiths

But high school requirements weren’t her only considerations when signing up for college-level courses. While recovering from a knee surgery in 2019, Jia resolved to make a goal of joining the Junior World Cup speed skating team. It was difficult to watch her teammates improving without her, but she was glad she took the time to heal and rebuild her strength. She’d hoped to make the team in 2020, but we all know what happened next. “Most competitive speed skaters in the United States train in Salt Lake City or Milwaukee on an inside track. My team skates on an outdoor 400-meter rink,” Jia notes. “My teammates and I figured that our oval would be the safest during COVID-19, but Minnesota's strict policy on organized sports had other plans for our team.”

The flexibility of her online studies format allowed Jia to continue her dual enrollment. Now she has her sights set on qualifying for the Olympic trials. “Another reason why I chose to stay online and asynchronous last semester was because skating often requires me to travel for consecutive days, and that simply isn't compatible with in-person lessons.” Within the obstacles, Jia found an advantage that worked for her, enabling her to prepare for her future, academically and athletically. Best of luck to her in both pursuits!