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Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College
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Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College [Hardcover]

Andrew Ferguson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1, 2011
The cutthroat competition to get into the perfect college can drive students to the brink of madness and push their parents over the edge—and bury them in an avalanche of books that claim to hold the secret of success. Don’t worry: Crazy U is not one of those books. It is instead a disarmingly candid and hilariously subversive chronicle of the journey that millions of parents and their children undertake each year—a journey through the surreal rituals of college admissions. It’s a rollicking ride from the man Christopher Buckley has called “my all-time favorite writer.”

Pummeled by peers, creeped out by counselors, and addled by advice books, Andrew Ferguson has come to believe that a single misstep could cost his son a shot at a happy and fulfilling future. He feels the pressure to get it right from the moment the first color brochures land in his mailbox, sent from colleges soliciting customers as though they were sailors come to port.

First is a visit with the most sought-after, most expensive—and surely most intimidating—private college consultant in the nation. Then come the steps familiar to parents and their college-bound children, seen through a gimlet eye: a session with a distracted high school counselor, preparations for the SAT and an immersion in its mysteries, unhelpful help from essay coaches and admissions directors, endless campus tours, and finally, as spring arrives, the waiting, waiting, waiting for the envelope that bears news of the future.

Meanwhile, Ferguson passes on the tips he’s picked up during their crash course. (Tip number 36: Don’t apply for financial aid after midnight.) He provides a pocket history of higher education in America, recounts the college ranking wars, and casts light on the obscure and not-terribly-seemly world of higher-education marketing. And he dares to raise the question that no one (until now) has been able to answer: Why on earth does it all cost so much? Along the way, something unexpected begins to happen: a new relationship grows between father and son, built from humor, loyalty, and (yes) more than a little shared anxiety. For all its tips and trials, Crazy U is also a story about family. It turns out that the quiet boy who pretends not to be worried about college has lots to teach his father—about what matters in life, about trusting your instincts, about finding your own way. In launching his son into the world,

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ferguson (Land of Lincoln), an editor at the Weekly Standard, chronicles his son's journey to getting accepted into college in this humorous memoir. Ferguson, an overwhelmed and underprepared parent, shows off his wit and research skills as he tries to make sense of a serpentine system that has him debating if he needs to hire his own ,000-a-year college admission counselor. From there, Ferguson discusses everything from what lengths schools will go to rate highly in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings guide to an outline of the "history of American higher education." In all this digging, Ferguson finds the many "claims for and against" the SATs, how the skyrocketing cost of college is creating its own education bubble, and that "two out of every three" freshman openings are filled before a "general" applicant even gets considered. Still, despite the funny moment like his disastrous retake of the SATs, it isn't till the book's final chapters, when the author starts to connect with his son, that it becomes apparent what they truly learned together on their quest for higher education. (Mar.)
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"A hilarious narrative and an incisive guide to the college admissions process...Ferguson's storytelling is irresistible."
--Steven Levingston, The Washington Post

"Hilarious....[Ferguson] shines a (very funny) light on the issues, and offers an important reminder that not every young American needs a $200,000 degree to live a good life." --Amy Scribner,

A calm, amusing, low-key meditation on a subject that is anything but calm, amusing or low key. [P]arents will grip it ... as if it were a cold compress they might apply to their fevered foreheads. --Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Reading Andy Ferguson’s prose is like sipping a martini—even if you don’t happen to drink martinis. His adventures in the college application trenches are hilarious, eye-popping, and instructive, a perfect match of author and subject. A+!”
—Christopher Buckley, bestselling author of Losing Mum and Pup and Thank You for Smoking

“Alas, by the time our almost-grown children arrive on campus, they will already have been hardened by exposure to the principles of Absurdistan. As a parent, I wish I had read Andrew Ferguson's guide to this world of bloviation, hypocrisy and bureaucracy before I was pitchforked into it myself.”
—Christopher Hitchens

“Thank God a writer as good as Andrew Ferguson has finally written a book about what I, after two serious bouts of it, call ‘college madness.’  His title Crazy U says it faster and funnier.  I’ve heard it called other colorful names but none fit for a book lying around in a high school junior's home.”
—Tom Wolfe

“It’s Andy Ferguson, so of course this book is meticulously researched, brilliantly written, and funny. But by using his son’s forced march through the anxiety and muck of picking and getting into a college, Andy has done a new thing: He has employed poignancy as a tool of critical analysis. As a result, the stuffing is removed from the absurd, fraudulent, parasitic college admissions process—and from the absurd, fraudulent, and parasitic colleges themselves.”
—P. J. O’Rourke, bestselling author of Don’t Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards

“Andrew Ferguson has long been one of the funniest and most observant and beautiful writers. A satirist who can illuminate both the absurdities of life and its deeper meaning, he is the perfect guide to the madness of applying to college. Crazy U is not only a terrific and hysterical book—it may be the only way to keep you sane.”
—David Grann, bestselling author of The Lost City of Z

“The joy of pride in one’s child, the sadness of separation—all this is part of leaving for college, and in Ferguson’s honest,deeply felt, and truthfully recorded memoir it is overlaid with the monstrosity known as the college application process. Rumor, gossip, college hucksterism,and internet bandits rule. Ferguson has written for every hair-rending and stressed parent who has gone through the process—or is about to. The book is hilarious, probing, maddening, moving, and gets it right.”
—William Bennett, bestselling author of The Book of Virtues

“[Ferguson’s] got a big, beating heart, but he tucks it behind a dry prose style that owes a little bit to Mark Twain and Tom Wolfe…and also to Dave Barry…[Crazy U] is a calm, amusing, low-key meditation on a subject that is anything but calm, amusing or low key.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“A hilarious narrative and an incisive guide to the college admissions process… Ferguson cuts through the muddle to elevate the discussion and deliver some powerful big-picture analysis…[his] storytelling is irresistible.”
—Steven Livingston, The Washington Post

"This is an affectionate, affecting account, and . . . it may help you figure out how to keep your sanity in a process that lacks it entirely."
—David M. Schribman, The Boston Globe

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439101213
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439101216
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews
111 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasure to Read March 8, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a professor working at my state's "Big State University" (BSU in Mr. Ferguson's parlance), I see the flip side of the story that Mr. Ferguson presents in this book. I can relate to the issues he discusses, and I feel for his family as they go through the hoops of getting their son into college. This is an outstanding read that hits a great many nails on the head. The writing style is easy, the book is incredibly informative, and it is a pleasure to read. I was struck with how thoughtful this book is. I was expecting it to be funny, and it is, but only because Mr. Ferguson himself is funny. This book never reads as an intentionally funny comedy. It is instead a very temperate and evenhanded discussion of the joys and pains his family encountered as they went through the inherently arduous process. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect is his own introspection as he struggles between giving his son freedom/aid and realized he is behaving peevishly, stressed, or neurotic. I think that every father will be able to relate to all of the author's foibles and triumphs.

Mr. Ferguson has organized his book chronologically from the beginning realization that his family needed to start thinking about college admissions through his son's orientation into his own BSU. In addition, each chapter contains a detailed and relatively scholarly consideration of the underlying issues and structures of the associated component of the admissions process, so the book is really structured as an annotated discussion of college admissions as opposed to a simple story of, "and then we mailed the applications."

Chapter 1 focuses on Mr. Ferguson's efforts to come to grasp that getting into college, especially an elite institution, is more than just sending off a few applications.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars College admission is never easy! March 4, 2011
By A123
You love this book if you ever have been through the college, if you have kids going to college! College admission is never easy!

This is a story of a orderly, obsessive, well-meaning dad and his procrastinating son, and you laugh out loud over their college-app fight. The son tells his high school counselor that he wants to major in beer and paint his chest the school colors for football games, ...and when his father hears this,he says:: "It'll be a big help when he writes your recommendation."
Ferguson's son applies to the Big State University, couple of stretch schools (Georgetown, Villanova) and some safety schools (Virginia Tech, Indiana University).

Then there's Dad handing his lazy a book on successful college essays and watching the boy vacantly turn the book over in his hands. "I thought of the apes coming upon the obelisk in the opening scene of '2001: A Space Odyssey,' " Dad writes. "He did everything but sniff it."
And then the father meets a mother with a daughter gloating that they worked three months on the essays every day after school, plus weekends. The father says, "We did three months of work all in twelve days."

He meets a $40,000-a-pop private counselor who helps grease the wheels for admission into the Ivy League. He takes the SAT, earning a math score "somewhere below `lobotomy patient' but above `Phillies fan.' "

This is a one parent's view of the college admissions and the whole process is seen through the father's point of view. It is funny, but there are also the facts of the serious process behind this story.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spoonful of humor helps the truth go down!! March 19, 2011
First, the book needs to come with a serious Warning label....I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard reading a book.
Chortles, wheezes, guffaws and various other snorts were heard to come from my corner of the couch.

Second, having survived the process with my oldest, and currently suffering through the critical junior year with two children (yes, twins) I can attest to the veracity of the material inside the book. It should be the only book you need to read if you are anywhere near a college decision...a fact-filled, indispensible guide for the journey.

Lastly, this book is a sum greater than its parts. Mr. Ferguson skillfully reveals the huge flaws supporting our crazily constructed towers of values and beliefs in society today. Like rats in a maze, we seldom stop to think about that cheese, and whether it's actually worth the race.......

A rollicking great read!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious! How did we all get this neurotic? March 13, 2011
Back in the Eighties -- Man, was that a long time ago! -- I had 2 criteria for choosing Cal: 1) it was in the UC system and 2) it was at least 300 miles from the parental home. I applied to one school, and I got in. Fortunately, my parents were immigrants and hadn't been too college, or else, there's no way I would have gotten away with cockiness, i.e. ignorance. Still, I suppose that's how a lot of us got into college any time before the Internet Age took over our lives, and we came to recognize how every decision became 1,000 decisions. Whatever the reason, there's no way that we'll let our kids make a decision about college that takes less time than deciding what ingredients go into our Chipotle burrito. Case in point, I'm reading Ferguson's book, and my oldest child is seven.
I heartily recommend Ferguson's book. I realize that I got into Cal on a fluke, but I have no illusions that my kids will have it so easy. Ferguson makes fun of all of us for catching this neurosis, which has no physiological or psychological origin, but purely originates from a social disease, which inflicts anyone who resides in the "bottom quintile of the lower upper middle class" or greater. Ferguson's style is breezy, witty and detached, making "Crazy U" a quick read, but poignant and personal enough to make the lessons he learned during the college search process real and hard-hitting. If you don't read Ferguson's book while going through the college admissions process -- or about ten years before that process starts -- I'm pretty sure it will drive you insane.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars In my view, this book devotes way too much ...
In my view, this book devotes way too much space to criticize US News rankings and the SAT. I am not saying these don't belong in here, but the short comings of USWR rankings and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Trent
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
It's more of a funny book than useful.
Published 7 months ago by AC
5.0 out of 5 stars not a to do list or a guide, but gives a lot of food for thought (and...
Helpful common person's view on the insane college admission system
Published 11 months ago by Andreas
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny read, and it is so true
Always enjoy Andrew Ferguson's writing. I related to his story, been there with my kids. Got the book for a friend who is just going through the process as a single mom. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Aunt Susie
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious! Insightful!
Author stops short of any strong assertions, but perfectly raises most of the truly key issues for readers to pursue further if they like. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mr. Loehr
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and very funny
This book should get way more attention than it has. Every parent of a college-bound student should read it, for starters. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Faking Faker
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a 'how it is' book that is truly helpful.
This is not a boring 'how to' book. This is a 'how it is' book that is truly helpful. Each chapter discusses a specific topic related to the process. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Eli
3.0 out of 5 stars Books provide good info on the college process using authors personal...
Books provide good info on the college process using authors personal experience. I knew most of the information on college admission process and this book confirmed some the... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Salman
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched, very informative, and helpful. A must ...
Well-researched, very informative, and helpful. A must read for parents involved in the search for the right college for their son or daughter. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Suzanne
2.0 out of 5 stars Good reading but doesn't help in getting into college
I thought this book was about the lessons that the author learned as a result of trying to get his son into college. It's not. Read more
Published 22 months ago by W. Chilson
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