Q & A with Normandale Graduate Sara Wagner

By Steven Geller - Director of Media and Public Relations

Sara Wagner came to Normandale Community College looking for a fresh start after struggling academically in high school. Sara knew she had the ability to be a successful college student, and was committed to making that a reality. Throughout her time at Normandale, she has proven she can excel at a high level academically.

This past year, Sara went through the Finish Line Program, which assists Normandale students to develop the skill set and experiences necessary for a successful transition into their next post-secondary option or career. Students who are part of the program also receive up to $2,000 in financial assistance per semester based on successful completion of program activities and goals.

Sara graduated from Normandale this past May, and is currently deciding on where to pursue a bachelor's degree in psychology or anthropology. She has been accepted to the University of Minnesota, and was recently accepted to Columbia University in New York. Through her hard work and dedication to her studies at Normandale, she has given herself the opportunity pursue her dreams and goals. Recently, Sara talked about some her future goals, and reflected about her experiences at Normandale.    

What originally brought to you to Normandale Community College?

"I came to Normandale for a couple of reasons. My oldest sister went there and enjoyed it, and I wanted to follow in her footsteps. My second reason was that I was very unsuccessful in high school, and I knew I could come to Normandale and start my educational path over with a fresh start, without being judged or rejected for a low ACT score or my 1.7 GPA. Normandale gave me the chance to show I had the ability to succeed without having to have been an honor student in high school."  

What academic area did you pursue at Normandale and what are your career goals?  

"At Normandale, my academic areas changed almost with the semesters. I was a creative writing major, a law enforcement major, and eventually left with an associate degree in Liberal Arts. I've always wanted to write. but realized that I could do it no matter what my career was. After deciding that, I wanted to go into law enforcement because I have a strong interest in working as a psychiatrist with violent offenders. I'm not sure what my career goals are, but as of now they are most likely pointed in that direction. I would like to work for the FBI as a behavior analyst in their Violent Crime department, and I would like to study the psychology of school and rampage shooters. Although that's my biggest goal, I am also very interested in studying anthropology and theology, and can definitely see myself having multiple bachelor and master degrees. If I could, I would be a student forever."  

When did you decide to apply to Columbia University, and what made you decide to do so?  

"I decided to apply to Columbia in March after receiving an information packet about their School of General Studies in the mail. My younger brother was much more excited about that prospect of an Ivy League school than I was, but I was attracted to the rigorous academic standards they held and wanted a challenge. I had already been accepted to the University of Minnesota, and knowing I had a school lined up made it easier to take the chance on a school with a six percent acceptance rate. I really thought I had no chance at getting in, but I'm glad I tried. Being a part of the Finish Line Program also helped push me to apply, because Lesley (Lesley Farnham is Normandale's Finish Line Program Coordinator) was very supportive and encouraged me to do so."  

How exciting was it to find out you had been accepted?  

"Finding out I was accepted was an amazing feeling. Like I said before, I (barely) graduated high school with an overall GPA of 1.7 and an ACT score of about 25. I had to send them those scores, and I had the feeling that the people who had to send them to Columbia were laughing at me. Who really sends those types of scores to an Ivy? I was so excited to learn that my hard work at Normandale and having joined groups like Phi Theta Kappa had been such an enormous benefit to me. It's very encouraging and literally life changing. It's not that I wasn't smart in high school, I just had too much going on to put any work into school. Being able to go back at age 20 and build up enough of a positive record to be accepted to Columbia was extremely validating and I'm very proud."  

Talk about the Finish Line Program and what impact it had on your process of applying to four-year colleges.  

"The Finish Line Program was awesome. It was fun to be a part of the program, and it really encourages students to take their education to a new level past Normandale. They offer chances to meet representatives from tons of schools in the Midwest, and give you the opportunity to develop your story and voice. It's a really positive and helpful experience, pushing students to succeed in whatever goals they may have."  

Describe your overall experience at Normandale.

"I loved Normandale. With the experience that I had in high school, I almost ran away from my first day of school on campus, but I'm so glad I didn't. The teachers at Normandale are incredibly helpful and caring, they go out of their way to help students understand subjects. The mix of students is great too. I got to meet people from different countries, states, and backgrounds. I will always be proud of the things I accomplished at Normandale."