Can we Take the Mania Out of College Admissions? Thoughts from Frank Bruni

Personally, my own experience choosing a college was nothing like what Frank Bruni describes in his book Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania. But I'm convinced that many families easily get swept up into the type of madness he describes: parents who push their students to get into the most prestigious universities possible, students who burst into tears at the thought of getting a less than perfect score on a standardized test... It is all unnecessary, and it all should end.

For one thing, the admissions game is too flawed and too rigged to be given so much credit. For another, the nature of a student’s college experience—the work that he or she puts into it, the skills that he or she picks up, the self-examination that’s undertaken, the resourcefulness that’s honed—matters more than the name of the institution attended.

Bruni makes a compelling case for sanity when choosing a college. The success of a student depends largely on their own experience and initiative, and not the type of school they went to. Successful business leaders and politicians have not all graduated from Ivy League schools as we may have thought. Many graduate from public schools such as the University of Delaware (alumni include Joe Biden, Jill Biden and Chris Christie).

Fit Matters

Although the efforts of the student will make the difference between a successful college experience and an unsuccessful one, choosing a good fit college is still important. Especially when it comes to finances.

Bruni quotes a Gallup and Purdue University study that found that of all factors, the amount of student debt is most indicative of whether or not a student reports being satisfied with their college education.

...student debt had a significant impact on well-being and workplace engagement. Graduates with between $20,000 and $40,000 in loans, which the report defined as the average student loan debt, were much less likely to be thriving than graduates without any loans to repay.

According to the same report, college graduates did better if they had an academic mentor or professor who cared about their success, if they were engaged both inside and outside the classroom while in school, and if they were able to graduate in four years or less.

What is Your Approach to College Admissions?

How is your family handling the college search and application process? If you find yourself getting swept up into college admissions mania, perhaps it's time to step away and take a breather. Read Bruni's book to learn some of the places where CEOs, politicians and influential leaders went to college. You may be surprised!

Get your child to begin thinking about which colleges are actually a good fit, academically, financially and socially, by having them complete their College Match Profile.