A young student discovers the power of her writing voice

Smiraa Misra

It’s the only universally required course at the University of Minnesota, and every year more than 5,000 students enroll in First-Year Writing (WRIT 1301). The course is seen as critical to helping students develop the skills necessary to effectively participate in the communities that will be central to their personal, academic, and professional lives. The bonus: a growing awareness of themselves as writers, each with their own unique voice, and each with something to say and contribute.

One way to enroll in the course is through the U of M’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program, which allows high school juniors and seniors to take University courses for both high school and college credit.

PSEO student Smiraa Misra is one of those students, and not only did she earn college credit—she discovered her own powerful writing voice to carry her forward.

Misra took WRIT 1301 as an Eden Prairie High School junior. Then this past May, she was one of only 12 students from a pool of more than 5,000 who were chosen to share their work during an 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, including Misra’s work, "Our Atman Never Dies.”

Nominator Kimberly Strain described Misra’s work as a “multimodal visual essay … that 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.”

Here, Misra talks about PSEO, her essay, and her experience at the U of M.

How did you learn about PSEO, and what prompted you to enroll in the program?

I learned about PSEO from 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 U of M course so far?

My favorite course has to be Introduction to American Law and Legal Reasoning. I've always loved learning about the justice system and the methods in which cases are analyzed. This class was perfect to start learning about legal analysis and writing.

Is there a particular U of M course you’re looking forward to?

Biology and psychology. I love understanding the inner workings 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.

What do you like best about PSEO?

I can start my day when I want and end it on my own terms. 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 also a huge variety of classes for every interest.

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.

This story was adapted from the original at the College of Continuing and Professional Studies.