In Frank Bruni’s provocative book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, an important question arises as to what university and college are for. There is no question that a post-secondary experience is an important step on the path our girls venture along. We, as a school, value the university experience greatly and work with our girls to prepare them for it and for life beyond it. Where the tension can arise is understanding what it is that our students and their parents are looking for in an undergraduate degree, and whether that first post-secondary experience is any better at one school than another- be it Ivy League or not. I realize that in writing this, as the Principal of one of the most academic girls’ schools in the country, priding itself in 100% university placement for our students, I risk backlash. I should be espousing the ‘best’ schools for our girls. The reality is that we do- and must- work together with our parents, girls and counsellors to define what ‘best’ means for each of our girls.
I was taken with Bruni’s comment about undergraduate experiences. He says of one’s first degree, “College (or university) is a singular opportunity to rummage through and luxuriate in ideas, to give your brain a vigorous workout and your soul a thorough investigation, to realize how very large the world is and to contemplate your desired place in it. And that’s being lost in the admission mania which sends the message that college is a sanctum to be breached- a border to be crossed- rather than a land to be inhabited and tilled for all that it’s worth.” I couldn’t agree more.
At St. Clement’s we talk a lot about the best path rarely being a straight line. We learn so much from variety and turns- both those that life throws us and those we have the courage to choose. We are adamant that our girls choose the best for themselves- and that it be grounded in who they are, what they are passionate about and how they learn best. This is the key to finding a land “to inhabit and till.”