PSEO Student Smiraa Misra's Imaginative Essay Explores Grief

It’s the only universally required course at the University of Minnesota (UMN), and every year, more than 5,000 students enroll in First-Year Writing (WRIT 1301). The goal: to help students develop the skills, tools, and knowledge to participate effectively in the communities that are central to their personal, academic, and professional lives. The bonus: a growing awareness of themselves as writerseach with their own unique voicewho have something to say and contribute. 

One way to enroll in the course is through the UMN Twin Cities Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program, which allows motivated high school juniors and seniors to take University courses for both high school and college credit.

Just ask PSEO student Smiraa Misra, who has not only earned college credit paid for by the Minnesota Department of Education,* she’s also discovered that unique writing voice to carry her forward. 

Smiraa Misra

Misra took WRIT 1301 last year when she was an Eden Prairie High School junior. In May, she was one of only 12 students from the pool of 5,000+ chosen to share her work during the inaugural First-Year Writing Student Showcase. 

The program’s 60 faculty and graduate instructors nominated work they “believed exemplified the goals and values of First-Year Writing.” From there, a selection committee chose the most outstanding projects.

“Our Atman Never Dies,” is described as a “multimodal visual essay” by nominator Kimberly Strain who writes, “Smiraa's project demonstrates the power of storytelling and the ways in which art, religion, family, and culture can serve as a form of emotional and spiritual healing.”

Smiraa explains how the video remix "was about narrating my essay alongside corresponding pictures to present it in an audio-visual format, and to make it more accessible." 

While extending our hearty congratulations to Smiraa, we took some time to ask about her PSEO experience and what she is looking forward to in her senior year and beyond.

How did you learn about PSEO, and what prompted you to enroll in the program as a high school junior?
I learned about PSEO from my upperclassmen who had participated in it and said it was worth it. I was convinced to enroll when I found out the amount of flexibility, variety, and freedom you had in the program when it came to classes, especially compared to high school.

What has been your favorite UMN course so far?
My favorite course has to be LAW 3000 [Introduction to American Law and Legal Reasoning]. I've always loved learning about the justice system and the methods in which cases are analyzed through the lens of the law. This class was perfect to start learning about legal analysis and writing. 

"If you're someone who seeks more freedom in school, then think about PSEO. If you're someone who wants more structure, then think differently. You can be successful no matter what, just prioritize what you want."

Is there a particular UMN course you’re looking forward to in the coming year?
Biology and psychology. … I love understanding the inner-working of living things, and biology is critical to understanding that. On the other hand, I love learning how humans interpret the world around them differently, which is why psychology is also interesting for me. 

What do you like best about PSEO?
There's a lot of freedom that comes with being in PSEO. I can start my day when I want, and end it on my own terms as well. I can space out classes so I can work in the mornings, go to class, eat out, and come home for extracurriculars. There's less busy work, so I can balance academic and free time a lot better. There's a huge variety of classes for every interest. I love this type of flexibility when it comes to choosing my academic path.

Tell us about your post-high school goals.
My goal is to major in biochemistry during college, and specifically work in the field of pharmaceutical/therapeutic innovation… From then on, I plan on going to law school and becoming a lawyer. 

What advice would you give to a high school junior or senior considering PSEO?
The best advice I can give is figure out your priorities. If you're someone who seeks more freedom in school, then think about PSEO. If you're someone who wants more structure, then think differently. You can be successful no matter what, just prioritize what you want.

* University tuition, course fees, and textbooks for PSEO students are covered by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Photos courtesy Smiraa Misra


Anastasia Faunce is a writer and content strategist with the College of Continuing and Professional Studies, covering the College’s personal enrichment, pre-college, ESL, and long term care programs, as well as its engagement efforts. The former director of several CCAPS programs, she worked as the director of public relations for the Minneapolis College of Art and Design prior to joining the University. Connect with her via LinkedIn.