Student’s fast track leads to 3 degrees

ABOVE: Emma Hilgendorf is about to graduate from Fairmont High School with three college degrees already to her name.

FAIRMONT– In a few weeks, Fairmont native Emma Hilgendorf will be graduating high school with three college degrees under her belt. The 18-year-old has been on a fast track, amassing over a hundred college credits, since her sophomore year.

Emma, daughter of Keri and Dan Hilgendorf, has attended the public school system the majority of her school career. She shared that she was interested in taking college classes and learned about some options early on from her guidance counselor, Scott Geerdes.

Since then, she has been taking a mix of CIS (College in the Schools) and PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Option), as well as regular high school classes.

“I’ve taken a variety because I need to meet my credits to graduate high school,” Hilgendorf said. “Mr. Geerdes worked with me to help me find out what classes would work for high school and college together.”

Some of the CIS and PSEO classes then have been in math, science, social studies and english. However Hilgendorf said her favorite classes have been business classes, most of which she has taken through PSEO.

“I did take an accounting class at Fairmont High School that I really enjoyed,” Hilgendorf said.

CIS classes are taught by teachers in the Fairmont Area School District who have the credentials to teach college level classes and most of the PSEO classes students take are online through Minnesota West.

“Our school works with them very closely and if you stay in the area they (the credits) usually transfer,” Hilgendorf said.

It’s a good thing for Hilgendorf as she has a whopping 112 college credits under her belt. She has met all of the requirements to graduate high school, as well as amass three different degrees through Minnesota West. They include a Business Transfer Pathway AS, Business Management AS and a Liberal Arts AA degree.

“I’ll walk at my college graduation (in Worthington) this weekend, and my high school graduation in a couple weeks,” Hilgendorf said.

She’s finished with all of her high school classes and recently finished all of her finals. She’s considering taking a summer job but may just take some time to herself.

“I haven’t taken any breaks since my sophomore year. I took classes during winter breaks and summer breaks,” Hilgendorf said.

As for what comes next, she’s set up to start taking classes at Liberty University beginning in August. She plans to major in Business Administration and data Analysis. She’ll be entering college as a senior student and only needs 10 more credits before she obtains her bachelor’s degree.

Beyond that, Hilgendorf doesn’t have an overall career goal.

“I feel like my degree is very broad and there are a lot of different jobs and industries I can go into. I’m just going to see where life takes me after my college experience,” she said.

Hilgendorf acknowledged that she’s been on a track that not many students take. While she noted that other students take a few CIS or PSEO classes, she chose early on to take as many as she could.

“You do have to make sacrifices and it’s definitely been hard but my advice is to stay focused and confident, and always remember to take care of yourself and your mental health. It’s important not to get too overwhelmed. You need to try to find time for yourself,” she said.

For her that’s meant getting involved in other activities with other students. She was on the high school’s Dance Team for two years, took part in the school’s fall musical several times and also participated in the student council.

In addition to that, Hilgendorf believes the support she’s received from her family, friends and the district have been very beneficial for her.

“Mr. Geerdes has been great and I want to thank his time and help and guidance throughout the whole process. I also want to thank my family and friends for their support throughout the process. i feel so blessed and I’m excited to see what the future holds,” Hilgendorf said.


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