Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Frank Bruni Urges Parents to Escape the College Admissions Mania


Before packed house at the Willows Community School, Frank Bruni, New York Times columnist and author of “Where you Go is Not Who You’ll Be; An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania,” urged parents to rethink their view of the college admissions process. He challenged parents to look beyond the Ivies and encourage their children to embrace colleges that will offer their students a chance to develop their talents and interests.

Bruni gave lots of examples that, while not entirely surprising, were nonetheless eye-opening of how destructive and dangerous the “admissions mania” has become for our children.  He reported on the increase in students suffering from depression and anxiety, noting that one high school even devised a sleep curriculum. More tragically, he spoke about the need for sentries at railroad tracks in Palo Alto, where eight teenagers have committed suicide by stepping in front of trains in the last 5 years.  And even for those who get into a highly selective school, it’s not always enough. Bruni told of one college professor who reported that almost 60% of his class of juniors and seniors  at Cornell say they still wish they’d been admitted to their first choice school.

Though not a parent himself, Bruni said he has seen how the college application process ravages the lives of his nieces and nephews and the children of his friends. He offers his research in the book as an antidote to the toxic narrative that getting into an Ivy League or other highly selective college is the single definition of success. And that selectively is the best measure of an institution.

Because he was talking to parents, Bruni took aim at the “Elite Edge,” the notion that the where you go to college translates into greater success in life.  Studies show that income achievement more strongly correlates to the type of student than the school they attend. According to Bruni, highly successful people share common experiences and personality traits rather than degree pedigree. For example, finding a mentor in college or doing an internship where you are able to apply what you are learning, or working on a project that takes more than a semester to complete, were citied in research as contributing to greater professional success, reinforcing Bruni’s thesis that “how” you got to college is more important than “where” you go.

After his presentation, Bruni took a range of questions from parents, including one from a woman with an eight year-old, asking how she should navigate the middle school selection process  — another example of how anxiety about college pervades the entire education cycle.

Bruni’s lecture was free to the community and is part of a series of lectures offered by the Willows Community School. For more information on Bruni’s book, click here.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Latest Articles

.printfriendly { padding: 0 0 60px 50px; }