Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be by Frank Bruni
If you are not aware of the book by Frank Bruni, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, it is a compelling book about the college admissions process. The book is available in the Westwood library. Two reactions to the book are presented below. The first is by a member of the Westwood class of 2015, Navya Kumar. The second is by Westwood Lead Counselor, Steve Clark.
* * * * * * * *
Amidst the plethora of self-satisfied college guidebooks promising results, acceptances and prestige stands Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, a sobering take on the mania that is college application and admission. As a student, I heard lots of things about college. I heard that I must have something super special to wow the programs I was looking at. I heard that a near-perfect or perfect standardized test score was absolutely crucial to getting into the Ivy League elite. I heard that who I am would be absolutely, completely dictated by where I would go. Frank Bruni destroys that notion with his very first paragraph.
The problem with the mania is not the focus on success and achievement. The failure arises when the school is chosen based on a popular opinion of its greatness, not the specificity of the programs or the actual rigor of the academics. How many times have I heard that I must go to an elite university to engage in real undergraduate research, to have professors, not TAs, who will teach me, to ever have a chance at earning a Fulbright or Rhodes Fellowship? Statistically and methodically, Bruni proves that most public universities, like UT Austin, University of Houston or Arizona State University, for example, which are not regarded as truly elite, provide ample resources.
Bruni says the one thing that every other book neglects to mention: who you are is who you’ll be, what you do is who you’ll be, and how you take advantage of the opportunities in your life determines the course of it. This book is precious cargo, and I recommended it highly to anyone who feels disenchanted with the process or any parent who doesn’t want to believe that their child is worth the college they end up attending. Honestly, I recommend it to everyone. It is an enlightening and fascinating read and it will change the way you view higher education.
* * * * * * * *
As Westwood celebrates the Class of 2015 and we send them off to the next phases of their lives, it has allowed me an opportunity to reflect on the process of selecting a college and the admission process. At Westwood we are fortunate that most of our graduates have a post-secondary plan. We are also fortunate that our graduates cast a wide net when selecting a school and are eventually admitted to a wide variety of universities across the country.
Over the rainy Memorial Day weekend I had an opportunity to read Frank Bruni’s latest book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be. Bruni makes the argument that less selective universities produce just as many successful individuals as more selective schools. He continues his argument that after being employed for several years, the college from where one graduates matters even less than what they have done in their field. Bruni cites multiple examples including the following:
University of Delaware
- Joe Biden, Vice President
- Steve Schmidt, Senior Strategist for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign
- David Plouffe, President Barak Obama’s 2008 campaign manager.
- Condoleezza Rice, Former Secretary of State
- Howard Schultz, Chief Executive of Starbucks
As a high school counselor I want our students to earnestly consider the process of selecting a college. As a father I want my daughters to have more opportunities than I had. I would never tell my girls not to attend a selective school if they were to be admitted. I think attending an Ivy or similarly elite school will open doors that may remain shut for others. However, I do believe where any student goes to school does not define them. The much bigger questions to ask when selecting a college is “Why do you want to go to college?” and “What do you want to gain from the collegiate experience?” As the Class of 2016 begins the process of applying to college, I hope they ask themselves these important questions.