FRANK BRUNI was named an op-ed columnist for The New York Times in June 2011. Before that, he was the paper's chief restaurant critic for over five years. He's also been their Rome bureau chief, White House correspondent, lead reporter covering George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign, and staff writer for the Sunday Magazine. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his work at the Detroit Free Press.
Year after year, high school seniors open rejection letters that destroy their confidence and lead them to believe they have failed at one of life's most critical junctures, a process that has hijacked so many American households with college-bound kids. While there are countless books teaching people how to get into and identify the colleges of their dreams, there's a deep need for dialogue questioning the intensity of those dreams, emphasizing that the college admissions moment isn't the most important in a lifetime, illustrating that college is what a student makes of it, and exhorting people to look at it in a different, less status-oriented way.
Expanding on an April 2014 column titled "Our Crazy College Crossroads"--which went viral, generated tons of emails to Bruni, and topped the "Most Viewed" and "Most Emailed" categories at the NYT for days--WHERE YOU GO IS NOT WHO YOU'LL BE is the manifesto that puts the college admissions process into desperately needed perspective. It not only dissects the limited meaning of a rigged and sometimes random admissions process, it also discusses many of the hugely successful Americans who didn't go to Ivy League schools. It sketches profiles of kids who were denied their dream colleges but found that the schools they ended up at were perfect for them and makes the case that the attitude with which a student approaches college matters more than the college itself. It presents data and expert opinions that question the advantages of diplomas from Ivys and their ilk and looks at the abundance of fantastic schools--and fantastic programs--outside the few dozen elite institutions that parents focus relentlessly on. All the while, it weaves in larger life lessons--that setbacks can be springboards; that the wisest course isn't always the most obvious one--that makes this a corrective and a balm not just for all high school graduates eying the horizon.
WHERE YOU GO IS NOT WHO YOU'LL BE serves as a thought-provoking antidote, land impassioned rallying cry and a poignant retort to aspirational thinking.