Reviews for Crazy U

Luther Spoehr of Brown University writes in the Providence Journal:

Journalist Andrew Ferguson, senior editor at the Weekly Standard and author of “Land of Lincoln,” has written a perfect book: it makes you laugh and makes you think. His two-year “crash course” ends with his son entering college, but getting there is both all and none of the fun.

Ferguson’s tale is a case study of “college mania,” an affliction of the upper-middle class that, he admits, is a ritual born of affluence that he and his family are lucky to have. At the same time, the frenzied scramble to get into a selective college seems utterly irrational, not to mention absurd, sadistic, masochistic, and exhausting. As an anthropological “participant/observer,” Ferguson strikes just the right wry, skeptical, often hilarious, notes.

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Peter Shawn Taylor in Macleans magazine:

“Regardless of cross-border differences, however, Ferguson is a witty writer worth reading for his talent alone. Describing the university brochures sent to his son, he says they “were printed on paper so thick and voluptuous they might have been mistaken for the leaves of a rubber plant—you didn’t know whether to read them or slurp them like a giraffe.” There’s plenty to slurp here.”

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From Dwight Garner, writing for the New York Times:

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.”

Mr. Ferguson is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, and he’s a valiant guide through this emotional territory. He’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 — to name the first two white-suited writers who come to mind — and also to Dave Barry (who I suspect wears Dockers).

From Steven Levingston writing for the Washington Post:

Ferguson cuts through the muddle to elevate the discussion and deliver some powerful big-picture analysis. We learn the tortured history of the SAT and how it has become “the most passionately controversial element in the world of college admissions.” We get a stark portrait of the one-way trend in college costs. Ferguson recalls that his annual tuition bill in 1978 at the small liberal-arts college he attended was $5,100. Adjusted for inflation, his price tag today would be $16,500 – far below the $40,000 his alma mater now charges. He combs over College Board handouts explaining how to pay for school and is repeatedly reminded that $143 billion in financial aid awaits students. He wonders for all of us: “Maybe it’s good news that $143 billion was available for aid. But isn’t it bad news that we need the $143 billion in the first place?”

It may seem strange to say that a book so full of heartache is a pleasure to read, but Ferguson’s storytelling is irresistible. You root for the obsessive, well-meaning dad and his lackadaisical son, and you laugh out loud over their college-app tug of war. 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.”

From Jenna Johnson in the Washington Post:

“I found “Crazy U” absolutely fascinating — although one of my friends pointed out that it’s “fascinating ” and not “terrifying” because we aren’t the parents of high school kids. Yet bringing the book to brunch Sunday morning launched our group into a long, complicated discussion about admissions, how financial aid is decided, if colleges really do take a holistic look at applicants or if they just look at test scores, and if it’s worth taking out more student loan debt to get a master’s degree simply because everyone in D.C. has one. Ferguson’s book has been getting glowing reviews…”

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“Parenting” columnist Kim Painter in USA Today:

“Parents who are most feverish about getting their kids into selective schools — the ones compiling resumes, hiring consultants and launching SAT game plans for eighth-graders — could use a chill pill. Ferguson’s funny and informative memoir, the story of a dad sucked in by the craziness even as he examines its origins, may help.”

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