Off the Beaten Path: Frank Bruni Explains The College Admissions Process

Nov 18, 2016 | Events, Features

On November 16th, 2016, esteemed journalist Frank Bruni visited Nueva. Bruni is known for writing three best-selling books — Born Round, a book about his food-loving family and his struggles with overeating at a young age, Ambling into History, a book on George W. Bush written after following his campaign trail, and Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, his take on college admissions.

His writing career has been very diverse, ranging from movie and restaurant reviews to political campaigns and congressional decisions. Bruni is currently an Op-ed columnist of the New York Times, as well as the first openly gay man to hold his position. He came to Nueva to discuss his views on the hysteria surrounding the college admissions process.

Bruni explained that the main purpose of his book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, is to show students and their parents that there are plenty of paths to success that do not involve Ivy

league or other top-tier schools. “Most schools have plenty of depth and complexity,” he said, “the issue isn’t choosing which school you’ll attend, it’s what you do when you get to the school.” Elaborating on this, Bruni said that in looking back on his education, he didn’t regret his choice to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill instead of going to Yale, he regretted not taking full advantage of all the opportunities provided to him at UNC.

Bruni told students that while many parents feel the only way to success is through the Ivy Leagues, he had looked at the educational backgrounds of the 2014 and 2015 MacArthur geniuses, and said that 50% or less had attended top-tier schools. He further shared that the media reinforces this incorrect viewpoint on Ivy Leagues by only mentioning a CEO or politician’s alma mater if it is a well-known school with low acceptance rates.

Most schools have plenty of depth and complexity, the issue isn’t choosing which school you’ll attend, it’s what you do when you get to the school

Bruni told students that while many parents feel the only way to success is through the Ivy Leagues, he had looked at the educational backgrounds of the 2014 and 2015 MacArthur geniuses, and said that 50% or less had attended top-tier schools. He further shared that the media reinforces this incorrect viewpoint on Ivy Leagues by only mentioning a CEO or politician’s alma mater if it is a well-known school with low acceptance rates.

Bruni asserted that the world is a different place than it was when our parents were applying to colleges. “You can’t look at where your parents have gone as the yardstick for you.” He shared an anecdote about his niece, who had chosen to avoid the schools with the lowest acceptance rates. Bruni said she feels above average at her current college and that it has dramatically reduced her stress and increased her overall happiness at school.

When asked for some writing advice, Bruni shared insights about journalism that he felt would be helpful to anyone who needed to do a lot of writing. “Nothing is as useful as a deadline,” Bruni said, sharing that he sets himself extra deadlines during his writing process. He also told us that “perfect is the enemy of good,” and that when writers cause focus on perfecting their piece they are put behind schedule. Bruni said that when he has trouble getting a start on something, he likes to “think of a piece of writing as a conversation,” since most people find talking much easier than writing.

Bruni briefly voiced his thoughts on the current election. “If you’re going to live in a democracy, you have to respect what happens,” he said; “We live in a truly diverse country, and that includes people who voted for Donald Trump.” He said that he thought it was important for us to work together to solve the country’s problems rather than “just wag our fingers and vilify them [Trump voters] as horrible people.” He said that he learned during his time in D.C. that “We will rebound.”

Written by SCOTT B

Written by SCOTT B

Editor-in-Chief