Nearly every incoming first-year shares a simultaneous heart-drop during the last month of their high school senior year when Gustavus mails one more envelope requesting yet another seemingly life-changing decision to be made: Three Crowns program or Liberal Arts curriculum?
For many admitted first-years, the choice is not crystal clear. There are undefined benefits and restrictions to each program, which future Gusties have no knowledge of. However, it is clear to assert that as a high school student, making college choices is overwhelming. It may even feel as if your answer will affect every aspect of college: your education, your friendships and your college experience.
As a first-year, I can attest to this reaction. I was unaware that Gustavus offers two curriculums, let alone that I had to select one for myself. It was impossible to make an educated choice when I had little information on the difference between the programs. I recall spending a few days panicked about the approaching decision deadline; I spent those days texting upperclassmen at Gustavus from my hometown and discussing each curriculum with equally panicked first-years in a maximum occupancy Snapchat group. It came to my surprise that, as brand-new Gusties, we were all clueless and terrified of making the “wrong” decision.
Ultimately, I was drawn away from the Three Crowns program by my hope to graduate a semester early and the inability to transfer outside credits onto my transcript. Fortunately, I have fallen in love with the compatibility and compassion of my First Term Seminar classmates; unfortunately, we have only two more months of class together.
First-year Ellie Hartmann, however, has a different experience. Hartmann chose to enroll in Three Crowns and, like myself in choosing the Liberal Arts curriculum, has no regrets. As a double major in English and Political Science revolving around pre-law, Hartmann values a curriculum that is more discussion and writing based. “Law schools want someone who can talk and write,” Hartmann adds. The Three Crowns program provides what Hartmann is hoping to attain from the Gustavus experience—skills for her future.
Although Hartmann has benefited from the Three Crowns curriculum, she recognizes that enrollment is not practical for every Gustie. The curriculum is unable to accommodate for the requirements of every major because through Three Crowns, half of students’ classes are pre-selected. This does not allow the schedule and registration flexibility that many majors require, therefore excluding some Gusties from the program by the means of scheduling restraints. She suggests that the program develop a more inclusive structure, so Gusties of all majors can experience Three Crowns if they so wish.
Reflecting on his years of Three Crowns experience, Senior Lucio Gonzalez, a Political Science and Philosophy double major, agrees with Hartmann’s initial reactions to the program. Originally, Gonzalez was drawn to the program because of its emphasis on an education dedicated to the arts, as well as history and politics. Then, Gonzalez’s eagerness to learn flourished as his professors expressed an undying passion toward teaching.
Gonzalez notes that it is very common for first-years to join and drop the program after finding its incompatibility with their major. “Sometimes, Three Crowns just isn’t someone’s cup of tea. And that’s okay, there is no shame in dropping the program, because it is a part of the college experience—trying new things just to find out if they’ll work,” Gonzalez said.
In reviewing the difference between the Liberal Arts curriculum and Three Crowns, I became concerned that spending four years with the same group of peers might become strenuous, especially if there are conflicts and discrepancies among students. Gonzalez agrees that conflict is unavoidable, but that conflict is healthy in the classroom. In Three Crowns, there are plenty of opportunities for discussion. Over the four years together, Three Crowns students learn how to have civil debates while building friendships. “You’re all in the same struggle together with one outcome—to learn” Gonzalez said.
Neither Hartmann nor Gonzalez have regrets in joining Three Crowns. At such different stages of their Gustie experience, both Three Crowns students are enjoying the benefits of the program. At the same time, I am enjoying the benefits of the Liberal Arts curriculum. To reiterate what both Three Crowns students have observed, the Three Crowns program is not for every Gustie, nor is it shameful to reject or drop the program. That is why Gustavus has two curriculums—to offer the educational variety necessary to support thousands of students’ unique learning methods.
For every prospective or questioning Gustie, this article is for you. I am hopeful that each year, fewer Gusties encounter my confusion about Gustavus’s curriculums—and, that more Gusties feel comfortable in their decision, for it is not as fearfully life-changing as it may appear to be.