New York Times columnist Frank Bruni offers an antidote to the college admissions mania in his new book, "Where You'll Go Is Not Who You'll Be."
A “warped obsession” with getting accepted to an elite college or university has long been a hallmark of frenetic East Coast parents, who are known to move heaven and earth to give their kids the best possible chance to win acceptance into the Ivy League.
That mentality isn’t nearly as prevalent in Seattle. Still, if the self-worth of you or your child seems to be tied up into where he or she goes to college, check out “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be,” (Grand Central Publishing, $25), by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni.
The book, billed as an antidote to the college admissions mania, is written for high-schoolers setting their sights on a dream school and, as such, it lands during the month when most selective colleges and universities will finish sending acceptance letters for this fall. (The University of Washington’s letters are being mailed starting this week.)
Bruni hunted down the pedigrees of business leaders, successful politicians, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists and scientists who won top awards, and found that they had graduated from a wide diversity of colleges, including plenty of schools that aren’t typically considered among the nation’s elite.
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Bruni examined the pedigrees of the heads of the top-10 Fortune 500 companies in 2014 and found that only one went to an Ivy League school. (Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, went to Dartmouth College.)
Bruni interviews Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, who says college students should be thinking more about whether a college is a good match for what they’re planning to do with their lives. And Carnevale notes that if a career is closely tied to a particular geographic area, a school there might be more relevant and helpful than a highly selective institution elsewhere.
“People bloom at various stages of life, and different individuals flourish in different climates,” Bruni says, noting that not all students bloom in high school. Parents (and children) often attach “a make-or-break importance to a finite circle of exalted institutions — and to private colleges and universities over public ones — that isn’t supported by the evidence.”
Roughly 75 percent of students at the 200 most highly-rated colleges come from families in the top quartile of income in the U.S., Bruni writes. “If you’re a kid becoming desperately attached to a handful of those schools, you need to pull back and think about how quixotic your quest is, recognizing the roles that patronage and pure luck play.”
Bruni is speaking at Town Hall Seattle May 1 at 7:30 p.m. He’ll be discussing his book, and also talking about the way in which digital technology and the Internet are often used to create narrow niches that separate people from one another. Tickets are $15.
How seriously did you or kids consider a college’s reputation when choosing a school? Share your thoughts in our new Facebook group for parents of college students.