By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Finish high school, then start college.
That’s how most people advance their education, but four local students have proven it doesn’t always have to be this way.
Will Dietrich, Nathan Lindahl, Ben Rasset, and Caydin Wolter graduated from Holy Trinity High School in Winsted this spring, and received their associate’s degrees from Ridgewater College in Hutchinson at the same time.
All four students began studying post-secondary the beginning of their junior year.
“We tried to take the same general classes,” said Caydin, who lives in Lester Prairie with her parents, Jon and Chris, and younger siblings, Warren and Carly.
“The first year, we had one math class back at Holy Trinity, and the second year, all our classes were at Ridgewater,” added Waverly resident Nathan Lindahl.
Nathan said saving money is a big benefit of starting college early, since classes are free for high school students. Now, when he heads off to St. Cloud State University in the fall, he’ll already be half done with his bachelor’s degree.
Caydin is also going to St. Cloud this fall, with plans to major in business accounting.
“I always liked math and working with numbers,” she said.
For students who are considering earning an associate’s degree (a total of 60 credits) during high school, Caydin said she’d definitely recommend giving it a try.
“It’s a good challenge,” she said. “It’s a way to get the college feel before you actually go there.”
She added that classes were more difficult, and teachers had higher expectations than in high school.
The extra rigor was part of what drew Ben, son of Joe and Kathy Rasset of Winsted, to try post-secondary.
“I just thought I needed a little bit more challenge,” he said, noting that his favorite classes at Ridgewater were biology, psychology, and philosophy.
Ben has been accepted into the honors program at St. Cloud State University, and plans to major in business with a minor in psychology. Someday, he hopes to have a career that allows him to travel and work internationally.
Will, son of Kevin and Andrea Dietrich of Winsted, also has his future mapped out, with plans to major in biochemistry at Minnesota State University-Mankato.
“I want to go be a surgeon,” he said. “I have eight years of medical school, and getting two out the way is a big benefit.”
Will got the idea to study post-secondary at Ridgewater from his older sister, Anna, who had done the same thing. (Anna, who is two years older than Dietrich, recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, with a degree in apparel design and development.)
Will was still able to be part of student life at Holy Trinity while taking classes in Hutchinson, and was in football, baseball, cross country, and trapshooting. Although a late lab cut into football practice one day a week, he was usually done with classes by 1 or 2 p.m.
Caydin also stayed active in high school activities while taking college classes.
“I was Snofest royalty my junior year, and I still went to all the football, basketball, and volleyball games,” she said. “I played softball both springs.”
Ben noted that many of his classes at Ridgewater had high school students in them, and in some, more than half were enrolled post-secondary.
“I made so many new friends there,” he said. “It was a great time.”