Pre-College Program: A Real College Experience

Pre-College Program: A Real College Experience

Written by 2018 Chaperone Brenda Cumpa about her experience as a chaperone for the program.

Selfies in Central Park

I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this before but I love college. During my four years of undergrad, I enjoyed living in the dorms with roommates, sitting with my friends in the dining hall for hours, forming study groups on the oval on sunny days, and exploring New York City in my free time. My love for college is likely why I jumped at the chance to live on campus for the summer as a pre-college chaperone. As a Wagner College graduate student and pre-college chaperone, I was most excited to share my favorite experiences with high school students and help give them their first taste of college.

On the very first day of the program, the students arrived to campus with their families. I was nervous to meet the parents because of the responsibility that they were putting in my hands. My nerves quieted once the students arrived and I noticed that the group clicked immediately, despite having very different personalities.


All of the students were staying in Foundation Hall, which is the newest and, in my opinion, best dorm at Wagner College. When they arrived, some of them said it reminded them of a prison, which made me laugh out loud. I assured them it would feel different once they were able to decorate and make it their own. Goodbye hugs between the new students and their families signaled the official start of what would be three incredibly busy weeks, full of challenging college-level school work but also full of laughs and unforgettable times.

#OvalDays at Wagner are the best

The main objective of the Wagner Pre-College Program is for high school students to explore a subject they are interested in and earn valuable credits, all while they experience what is really like to be in college. The professors did a great job inside the classroom. Outside the classroom, it was my mission to show them why I loved my college experience so much.

On the first Monday before class, we all went to the dining hall for a quiet breakfast. Some of the students were not so hungry but they were amazed by the amount and variety of food, especially the eight different brands of cereal. When we returned to dining hall for lunch after their first class, all I could hear was excitement. Now the cafeteria was packed, there were many other students from different programs, athletes that stay over the summer, graduate students, and faculty. After lunch, we decided to hangout on the oval in the sun until their next class. We would meet again for dinner and fall into a routine for the remainder of the first week until the weekend finally arrived.

After a great first week of class and campus life, it was finally time to go on an adventure in New York City. The energy that they maintained at all times, despite their rigorous coursework, was surprising and admirable. My co-chaperone, Cameron, and I tried our best to keep up with them while planning all the adventures in New York City. The students were happy to simply walk around Times Square while eating ice cream but we wanted to show them every corner of this amazing city including the best Instagram-approved food spots chosen by our locals. It was a fun weekend and everyone was ready for a new week.

Smiles brighter than Times Square

Just like the start of any year in college, all was going well… and then “finals” hit. The students suddenly felt overwhelmed with all of the information and assignments from their courses. We no longer took our time hanging out in dining hall, or on the oval for hours, instead they were setting times to eat so they could go back and do their school work. They gave up fun city trips to study and stayed up late solely to finish papers. I was thrilled to be the one to say, “Welcome to college!” While I was joking around, they seemed somewhat defeated and admitted to me that they felt like they were “too young to handle all of the work” and it would be “impossible to meet all of the deadlines.” Despite their negative thoughts, I’m proud to say that it was possible for them to meet all of the deadlines and they proved they could handle all of the work.

From the start, I was impressed by the fact that high school students would take college-level classes during their summer break. In the end, I was still impressed as their dedication to their education was highlighted throughout their incredible final presentations. On a personal level, I was thrilled to see them walking around campus proudly wearing Wagner College hoodies. On the last day of the program, goodbye hugs between the new, hopefully lifelong group of friends signaled the official end of the summer 2018 Wagner Pre-College Program. Sending them on their way, I realized that as they each head home to begin their final years of high school, they will each find themselves way ahead of the game with some real college experience. I hope they loved it.