A Steppingstone for Greater Things

Deciding what college to attend can be one of the biggest decisions that someone makes in their life. A good student-college fit can provide numerous opportunities to succeed during and after college. A poor student-college fit can lead to dropout, lost experiences, misdirected investment or the need to transfer schools.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 38 percent of first-time college students will transfer schools, representing over 1 million transfer students. Although the decision to transfer colleges is difficult, it can provide a better student-college fit and keep students on track to graduate.

Gabe Miller, a senior Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) major from St. Paul, Minnesota, transferred to Minnesota State University, Mankato after spending his first year at a community college. For him, community college provided the entry he needed to focus on his grades and thrive in higher education.

During his year at the community college, Miller’s GPA jumped almost an entire point from what it was in high school. He wasn’t completely happy though; something was missing. He hadn’t made the friends he had hoped to and didn’t feel a part of a college community. After much consideration, he decided to transfer schools.

“When I came to Mankato, it was way different. Specifically, the first week I was here… the sun was shining, and the campus was bustling and busy. The atmosphere wasn’t the same. Everyone was so happy to be on campus. It just seemed like the college experience that I was missing,” Miller says.

When Miller transferred in, he wanted to double major in Psychology and Political Science; then he met a student ambassador at orientation who told him about the PPE major. He knew right away that it was going to be a good fit.

The PPE major is one of only 50 such programs nationwide and the only one in Minnesota. The focus of the major is on the dynamic relationships between the economic, political and legal systems of society and the relationships that require the analytical methods of all three disciplines to be understood fully: perfect for someone who wants to go into law. Although Miller hadn’t always wanted to be a lawyer, he found a passion in philosophy and discussing the deeper meanings in life.

“Every single piece of my major will help me with law school,” he says. “Being able to know more about each thing is a huge advantage over others applying to law school.”

Now, not only is Miller set to graduate a year early thanks to his hard work, but he is also currently applying to his dream law schools including the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan, Stanford, NYU, the University of Chicago and Mitchell Hamline.

In his last two years at Minnesota State University, Mankato, Miller has taken advantage of numerous resources on campus. Despite being busy studying for the LSAT and applying to law school, he also balances a work-study position at the Career Development Center and is a member of the pre-law society and transfer student honors society. He even worked on a congressional candidate’s campaign over the summer to gain political experience. All of these things have helped him get to the place that he is today.

“I get to apply to my dream schools, because I went to Mankato,” he says.

Miller applied and could have transferred to a few other universities in Minnesota, but there was something about Mankato that stood out to him. The size of the institution provided him with the ability to get to know all his professors, which he didn’t feel like he would have been able to do at a larger university.

“I’m so happy that I came to a school that’s big enough to have the college experience, but small enough, especially in my program, where I get to know my professors and my classmates and be in this classroom setting where I feel like I can actually learn and be a part of discussions,” he says.

He has really enjoyed smaller classes and getting to participate in those deep discussions he loves so much. When applying for different law schools, he even felt comfortable asking any one of his professors for a recommendation, since he had gotten to know all of them personally.

Down the road, Miller not only wants to become a successful lawyer, but he wants to give back. He wants to support his family and friends who have supported him on his journey and eventually run his own firm so that he can give back to his community. His dream is to make a foundation for students on the west side of St. Paul, where he’s from, to educate them on financial literacy, applying for college and financial aid to help them get out of poverty.

What was once a decision to transfer colleges to make new friends and be a part of a college community has now turned into the steppingstone for Miller to move on to even greater things.

“I got my college experience. I’m so happy that I came here. I honestly am.”