‘Crazy U’ for college-crazed parents

Andrew Ferguson’s Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College is getting great reviews.

The New York Times compares his writing to Mark Twain, Tom Wolfe and Dave Barry.

The admissions process, as Andrew Ferguson puts it in his new book, “Crazy U,” entangles not just our pocketbooks but everything else that, besides world peace and cocktail hour, matters to parents: “our vanities, our social ambitions and class insecurities, and most profoundly our love and hopes for our children.”

. . . As this story moves forward, Mr. Ferguson makes short, shrewd detours into areas that include: the history of American education, how college guidebooks compile their rankings, the SAT tests and its critics, and the headache-making intricacies of college loans and financial aid. He talks to an expensive admissions guru who learns of his late start and fumbling progress and says, smiling: “Oooooh. Baaaaaaad Daaaaaad.”

The book is “compulsively readable, unusually vivid — and thoroughly dispiriting,” concludes the Wall Street Journal.

This is a guy who doesn’t just delve into the history of the SAT. He also takes the test himself. (“Close to a disaster,” he says of the results, with a math score so bad that he won’t divulge it, other than to say “somewhere below ‘lobotomy patient’ but above ‘Phillies fan.’ “)

. . . A series of enervating campus visits is marked by interchangeably chirpy undergraduate tour guides united by their ability to walk backward while extolling the school’s a capella groups and reassuring parents about the high priority placed on security. On a swing through New England, the Fergusons narrowly miss Dartmouth’s Second Annual Campus Sex Screening, a supposedly health-promoting event where, the flyers promised, “sexperts” would be giving “free demonstrations!” and the party favors included dental dams, glow-in-the-dark condoms and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Mr. Ferguson muses: “I may be showing my age, but back when I was a college student we didn’t need free ice cream to get us to come to a sex demonstration.”

The Washington Post reviewer, whose daughter is waiting to hear from colleges,  is rooting for Dad.

There’s the son telling his high school counselor that in college he wants to major in beer and paint his chest in the school colors at football games, prompting Dad to snap later: “It’ll be a big help when he writes your recommendation.”

Then there’s Dad handing his procrastinator a book on successful college essays and watching the boy vacantly turn it 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 here’s Dad encountering a mother who gloats that she and her daughter worked three solid months on the essays every day after school, plus weekends. “We did three months of work too,” he tells her, “in twelve days.”

My review:  This really is a great read for college-crazed parents and those about to enter the fray. It’s all 12 years behind me now, but I remember the craziness.

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  1. I need to order it today. My son is a junior and his college acceptance is just about all that I think about, day and night.

  2. CarolineSF says:

    My son is very happy in college and it’s a great experience for him academically and otherwise — but now I am really questioning the value in the big picture, while meanwhile planning the spring break college tour with my 11th-grade daughter.

    Now it’s, “OK, we’ll be flying into O’Hare, renting a car, and heading for Grinnell and Knox — do you want to see the University of Chicago when we first arrive or before we fly home? Oh, and you know this is really total BS, don’t you?”

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Robert –

    You must chill. College is his worry. Not yours.

  4. tim-10-ber says:

    Having two in college now the biggest concern was meeting the deadlines…it is truly not that big of a deal…know what your kids are interested in, what type of school they are interested in (large, small, urban, rural, suburban, etc), the requirements…does your child qualify or not? If yes or it is close…go for it. Maybe prep one more time to take the SAT or ACT…then start filling out the apps (the common app is so, so, so nice) and meet the deadlines. Find a stretch school, a couple of schools that would be the best fit and the safety net school. Then sit back and watch the acceptances come in. Once they are received…go visit the priority schools one more time for the student to decide which is the best fit…you will know it, too. Enjoy….