"For a long time and for a lot of us, 'college' was more or less a synonym for success. We had only to go. We had only to graduate. And if we did, according to parents and high-school guidance counselors and everything we heard and everything we read, we could pretty much count on a career, just about depend on a decent income and more or less expect security. A diploma wasn't a piece of paper. It was an amulet.
If you're among the lucky who can factor more than cost and proximity into where you decide to go, college is a ticket to an adventure beyond the parameters of what you've experienced so far. It's a passport to the far side of what you already know. It's a chance to be challenged, not coddled.
We must make college practical but not excessively so, lower its price without lowering its standards and increase the number of diplomas attained without diminishing not only their currency in the job market but also the fitness of the country's work force in a cutthroat world.
But college is about more than that, with less targeted, long-term benefits that aren't easily captured by metrics.
They're dominated by people in their late teens and 20s, the age range that represents a particularly experimental chapter in life.
If you were shut out of an elite school, that doesn't mean you're less gifted than all of the students who were welcomed there."
Frank Bruni went to UNC-Chapel Hill, and he'll be happy to talk to you about it.