Dr. Helen

The College Admissions Mania

I was at Barnes & Noble today and read the new book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni, a columnist for The New York Times. It is a good read for those who wonder if they, or their kids will make it in life without an Ivy League education. The answer is yes, and you may be better off. The gist of the book is summarized at Amazon:

Over the last few decades, Americans have turned college admissions into a terrifying and occasionally devastating process, preceded by test prep, tutors, all sorts of stratagems, all kinds of rankings, and a conviction among too many young people that their futures will be determined and their worth established by which schools say yes and which say no.

That belief is wrong. It’s cruel. And in WHERE YOU GO IS NOT WHO YOU’LL BE, Frank Bruni explains why, giving students and their parents a new perspective on this brutal, deeply flawed competition and a path out of the anxiety that it provokes.

Bruni, a bestselling author and a columnist for the New York Times, shows that the Ivy League has no monopoly on corner offices, governors’ mansions, or the most prestigious academic and scientific grants. Through statistics, surveys, and the stories of hugely successful people who didn’t attend the most exclusive schools, he demonstrates that many kinds of colleges-large public universities, tiny hideaways in the hinterlands-serve as ideal springboards. And he illuminates how to make the most of them. What matters in the end are a student’s efforts in and out of the classroom, not the gleam of his or her diploma.

From a NYT’s review on the book:

Getting into a top college, even for the most accomplished high school students, has become a mad scramble. But in his sensible and sensitive book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be,” Frank Bruni, a columnist for The New York Times, wants to help young people understand the urgent truth of his title. “Where we go to college will have infinitely less bearing on our fulfillment in life than so much else: the wisdom with which we choose our romantic partners; our interactions with the communities that we inhabit; our generosity toward the families we inherit and the families that we make.” That’s something we all know in retrospect but that’s hard to know in prospect for anyone caught in what Mr. Bruni calls the “college admissions mania.”

It does seem so difficult these days to get into an ivy league. The book points out that by the time these schools take legacies, those who give money, minorities, and athletes, most students have very little in the way of real chances to get into these schools and yet, their lives may turn out fine anyway!