Book Recommendation: "Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be" - Frank Bruni

I should make Frank Bruni's "Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be" required reading for all of my clients. Bruni promises an antidote to the college admissions mania, and he delivers. A columnist for the New York Times, he has been offering contrarian perspectives on college admissions for many years. I appreciate Bruni's sober take on rankings, prestige, and counsel for alleviating the stress and anxiety that accompanies admission to selective universities.

He makes a case against highly selective universities and the Ivy League and observes that many successful people come from public or regional private universities. His arguments support not just going to public flagships like UT-Austin, but universities that provide a quality education without the promise of lifetime's debt. With so much emphasis on getting in, many students don't have a clue what to do once they arrive.

"What drives earnings isn't the luster of the diploma but the type of person in possession of it...A good student can get a good education just about anywhere, and a student who's not that serious about learning isn't going to get much benefit."

He critically examines the media's influence, state funding, and how economic insecurity drive ever greater application numbers for fewer seats. UT's application numbers over the past decade, for example, have nearly doubled.

I always tell my clients that, though I can guarantee their student will submit their strongest application possible, I cannot guarantee a favorable admissions outcome. "If you're a parent who's pushing your kid relentlessly and narrowly toward one of the most prized schools in the country and you think you're doing them a favor, you're not. You're in all probability setting them up for heartbreak."

A family cannot control what happens outside of their house, at their child's school, or in the media, but they can control the lessons they impart. If you choose to buy-into the prestige myth and think that where you go matters more than how you approach your education, you are all but guaranteeing a hollow future.

Bruni ends on an optimistic note, "It's because parents care for their children and endeavor to do best by their children that I have hope. Parents just need to be reminded and educated about all of the damage the admissions mania does, and this can't be a subtle or a fleeting campaign."