Is an obsession with elite colleges taking a toll on America’s students?

High school seniors are in agony. It is March and in a few short weeks they will find out whether the college of their dreams, the college their parents’ have always wanted for them or the college they believe is a ticket to future success will admit them.

In his new book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be,” New York Times Columnist Frank Bruni takes on this agony and often the years of preparation that precede it.

Tonight on PBS NewsHour Correspondent Jeffrey Brown talks with Bruni about the new book. In the portion of their extended conversation shared here, Bruni talks about the extreme measures some student take to make their applications stand out and how colleges are becoming part of a boutique culture of bought access he says is permeating American society from education to airplane trips to the gym.

Through conversations with successful adults from a range of professions and backgrounds, Bruni makes the case that it is the relationships students form with professors and peers and the work they do in college that matters, not the name on the diploma.

The NewsHour also spoke with students at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia and Suitland High School in District Heights, Maryland about how applying to college made them feel, what they felt was most important about the schools they want to go to and what they think it takes to get in. You can see some clips from those interviews below.

Editor’s Note: This post has been changed. A previous version stated that T.C. Williams High School is located in Arlington, Virginia, it is located in Alexandria, Virginia.

PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.