Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be | Frank Bruni

Summary of: Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania
By: Frank Bruni


In ‘Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania’, Frank Bruni challenges the popular notions surrounding Ivy League universities and their perceived value. The summary focuses on Bruni’s arguments against the importance given to these institutions, whether it’s the obsession with elite schools in the college admissions process or the illusion of guaranteed success that they confer to students. Bruni’s exploration of how universities manipulate acceptance rates, the financial influences on college experiences, and the limitations of college rankings sheds light on the problems that beset the American higher education system and the consequences that follow.

The Myth of Ivy League Supremacy

Many people believe that attending an Ivy League school is essential for success. However, this perception is not entirely accurate. While Ivy League schools offer excellent education, many successful individuals come from other institutions. Former New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, advised his son to attend Princeton instead of his alma mater because of the public’s perception of Ivy League students as better. However, only one CEO in 2014’s top ten Fortune 500 companies graduated from an Ivy League school. Even in the top 100 companies, only 30% of US-born CEOs attended Ivy League schools. Therefore, while attending an Ivy League school may provide advantages, it does not guarantee success.

The Truth About Ivy League Acceptance Rates

Ivy League schools endeavor to lower their acceptance rates not only to appear prestigious but also to improve their ranking in college rankings. Legacy students have a higher chance of admission, making it even more challenging for non-legacy students to gain acceptance. The competition to gain admission has forced students to go to extreme lengths to win over admissions boards.

The High Cost of College Prep

As the competition among college applicants intensifies, many are resorting to costly college prep courses like those offered by Bespoke Education and Aristotle Circle. Parents are willing to spend exorbitant amounts to give their children an edge in primary school, kindergarten, and preschool in places like New York City. However, some students take their efforts too far, submitting extreme applications that admissions officers like Michael Motto cannot endorse. As traditional qualifications become insufficient, applicants are increasingly turning to expensive college prep to stand out from the crowd.

The Harm of College Rankings

College rankings can harm rather than help students in their college search. The rankings lack scientific rigor and cause students to focus more on a school’s ranking than if it’s the right fit for them. The rankings also use superficial opinions to determine a school’s worth, ignoring factors like job placement and international opportunities.

In the quest to get into the “best” school, students often turn to college rankings to determine which school will give them the greatest advantage in life. However, even those working for the best-ranked schools will admit that these rankings aren’t helpful, and in fact, they can be harmful.

According to Jeffrey Brenzel, former dean of Yale, these rankings are unscientific, arbitrary, and misleading. Consumer Reports magazine has far more scientific rigor in ranking vacuum cleaners than the US News & World Report does in ranking colleges. Additionally, these rankings contribute to students focusing on a school’s ranking rather than whether it’s the best academic fit for them.

The opinions used to determine these rankings are also superficial. High school guidance counselors, university presidents, and other educational professionals are asked to describe universities as being “distinguished,” “strong,” “good,” “adequate,” “marginal,” or “I don’t know.” This is a problematic approach as the only in-depth knowledge they are likely to have is about their own school.

It’s crucial for students to focus on factors like job placement among graduates and international opportunities when it comes to college search. These crucial aspects of a school experience are not considered in the rankings. Ultimately, the rankings can be misleading and harm students’ decisions. It’s a common practice for students to favor lists that mirror the all-important rankings rather than consider lists of schools that were carefully created with their needs and wants in mind.

In conclusion, students should weigh their options carefully and pick schools based on their academic needs and preferences rather than rankings.

The Real Value of College

Former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, and Yale graduate, Rebecca Fabbro, share their diverse experiences and perspectives on the true value of college. While Schultz believes college provided opportunities for personal growth and expanding horizons, Fabbro questions the lack of socioeconomic diversity in elite schools.

Former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, believes that the true value of college lies beyond career advantages and the quality of education. For Schultz, college provided the opportunity for personal growth, expanding his horizons, and stepping out of his comfort zone. Attending Northern Michigan University, Schultz was exposed to different values and perspectives, which allowed him to learn about different ways of life outside the classroom. Schultz also took on part-time jobs to pay for his education, which taught him valuable life lessons that cannot be learned in a classroom. His experience highlights that college is not only about obtaining a degree but also about personal growth and development.

However, Yale graduate, Rebecca Fabbro, noticed a lack of socioeconomic diversity in elite schools. Growing up in the wealthy New York suburb of Edgemont, Fabbro found that most of her classmates at Yale were children from well-off families. When she saw that the school literature claimed that the student body at Yale came from diverse backgrounds, she did some research of her own and found that nearly half of the students at Yale come from families that earn over $200,000 per year. In other words, around 50% of Yale’s student body comes from the wealthiest 5% of the United States. Fabbro’s findings highlight the need for greater diversity, both in terms of socioeconomic status and cultural backgrounds, in elite schools.

Overall, the experiences and perspectives of Schultz and Fabbro demonstrate that the true value of college lies beyond the acquisition of knowledge and skills. It provides opportunities for personal growth, expanding horizons, and learning about different perspectives that cannot be found in a classroom. However, the lack of socioeconomic diversity in elite schools shows that there is still much work to be done to ensure that college truly provides equal opportunities for all individuals.

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