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Bitch or Brag about college Admissions

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Belinda S. March 10, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Just read about Crazy U today and have already ordered it from Amazon. By the time I get it next week, my son’s college future may already be decided This whole college admissions process has been majorly stressful, and I am hoping that Crazy U will help me laugh at the situation, when right now all I want to do is cry! Our kids are told all through high school that they have to be well-rounded — excellent academics, lots of extracurriculars, community service, leadership, etc. — in order to get into the college of their choice. But what do you tell them when they do all that and still aren’t admitted? My son applied to 4 colleges. He’s been accepted at 3 and was deferred by the one he really wants to attend. He finds out on March 18th whether he is admitted or not. If he isn’t, there will be a brief period of disappointment . . . and then he’ll move on to his 2nd choice and I’m sure in the long run will be just as happy. I’m so glad I only have one child because I don’t think I could go through this again!


2 John Donovan March 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Absolutely loved the book-it was timely as our son is a Senior in high school and we have been through the entire process which you lay out so well in your tome. Unfortunately, after reviewing the offers of aid he has recently received from various colleges(our EFc from the FAFSA AND cSS made me want to SMP ASAP) I got out the abacus and found out that the cost of his education will approach the GDP of most undeveloped countries in the world, and as is the case with those countries, no guarantees of success are attached to this new mortgage. consequently, I had to read your book at the local bookstore as my family will now have to live like paupers so our darling issue can party likes it’s 1999 for four years!!


3 Michael Terrence March 31, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Scene: Quaint New England town near Prestigious Prep Fall 2010-house party
Players: Me, the wife, hostess and Skippy the college bound wonder

Beautiful fall, early evening neighborhood soiree, about 30 guests-mid 40’s. early 50’s WASP. Wife and I getting the grand tour of estate with hostess…in one room 3 large tables with dozens of college catalogues. The following dialogue ensues:

Me: Wow, that is a lot of college propaganda (wife looks at me disapprovingly).

Hostess: (forced smile) Yes we call this our War Room; we are beginning the search for our colleges.(emphasis on “we” and ‘our”)

Me: That is an interesting name, but the neighborhood seems kind of quiet to require a local ” war room”, doesn’t it? Ha ha (does not elicit any reaction from hostess or wife)

Hostess: We have organized the schools in geographic, academic and multicultural groups so Skippy can review them with us-he is so interested in and engaged. For instance did you know that Scatter University has 53 percent of it’s classes taught by TA’s.

(To myself): The only TA’s I was interested in at college were the T’s and A’s!

Wife: With look of feigned interest on visage “Really?”

Hostess: Now looking like chipmunk on benzadrine “oh yes, we have everything broken down for each college”

Me:” Sort of like genus, species, phyllum huh?”

Wife and Hostess: Quizzical, non-reactive looks from both followed by wife’s “cut the crap” eyes

Scene: Kitchen 20 minutes later, Skippy stumbles in and heads directly for the Sub- Zero emptying half it’s contents to make a snack.

Me: “Hey Skippy, your Mom tells me you are deep into the college search process.”

Skippy: “Not really Mr. T, my parents spend more time hold up in the War Room than they do with us. My mom says they are obsessed, but in a good way”

Me:” Well she certainly seems dedicated to the task.”

Skippy:” Yeah, a helluva lot more than I am. I told her with my grades I will never get into most of those schools, don’t waste the money on the application fees, give it to me so I can buy some beer for me and my friends when I go to Knucklehead U, ha ha ha.”

Wife: “Well good luck Skippy we need to get going.”

Me: “We do?”

Wife: “Get my coat”

Fade into the happy couple departing the home with Wife indicating we will probably not be invited back.

Me: “Good”


4 Janis Allen April 7, 2011 at 6:15 am

Ummm…I’m just a mom, who found Andrew Ferguson’s story incredibly moving and accurate. I have a college freshman son now, but I also have an 8th grade son — I still need all of the help that I can get!
Our college stories are much too long to post here (HELLLOOOO–visited 26 colleges — what was I THINKING!?!?)
I just love the insight (and normalcy) you bring to the college admissions process. THANK YOU for the wonderful story you laid upon our laps!!!!!


5 Tom Matecki April 13, 2011 at 5:14 pm

I’m the father of a high school junior going through the college hunt. I love this book. It’s funny, informative and incredibly well written. AF perfectly captures the culture of the hyper-competitive college mating game engaged in by the modern American meritocracy. My only problem is that I’ve burst into hysterical laughter in public place while reading it.


6 MaryBeth Alix April 18, 2011 at 1:11 am

My husband and I are watching Andrew Ferguson on C-Span and really enjoying it. We have three children, three college graduates. We live in Massachusetts. My husband graduated from Uconn, I from Brant University. Our son is a graduate of Fairfield University, and a daughter has graduated from URI and another from Stockbridge School at UMass.

The FAFSA form still conjures nightmares. The college tours were a necessary evil. When the potential student wants to buy a sweatshirt at the bookstore, you know you have found the winner.

Our URI graduate knew after visiting schools on her brother’s tours that she did not want to go to a school with white bricks. She was interested in archeology and URI came up as a school offering that program. We live just over the RI border so we went the week before Thanksgiving for a visit. She loved the school. It was the year 2000 and they were offering the presidential scholarship. She felt she would never get one, but applied and by Jan 15th was accepted with the scholarship. She felt guilty as her friends were stressing out for the next three months and she was all set. She ended up graduating Magna cum Laude with a degree in history and is successfully working.

Our youngest daughter loved flowers and loved projects and really was not interested in college. The Stockbridge School at UMass was a perfect fit for her. She met the love her life there, he owns a successful landscaping business. She is working at a bank and working on a business degree on the bank’s dime.

Like I said when they wanted to buy the school sweatshirt you knew you had a winner. The Fairfield sweatshirt was funny. Think about it, what are the school letters.


7 Going crazy Mom April 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Thank you for writing the only sane book out there about college admissions process. I know I should have studied marketing or product placement so that I’d know how to package my kid. (ha, ha…) Thankfully, we still live in the land of opportunity, and people, regardless of what school they graduated, always has a chance to do well and contribute. I say those who bought into the whole craziness (and that’s just about everyone I meet) are wasting the precious few years for their teenager’s life pursuing a game of futility.


8 Linda April 27, 2011 at 5:53 am

Like many of these readers I have just undergone the college process with my senior daughter. Personally, I spent more than two and one half years doing this process, and don’t know how people who work full time can handle it. I have a library full of books which I am sending out to my friends who have Juniors and Sophomores. Your book was recommended to me by my father who heard a review and said “this sounds just like you.” I tried to check it out from out local library, but I am behind fourteen other people wanting to read it. I am so glad that someone has written this book. I have said to my family so many times, I would like to publish a six page pamphlet with the most important information I discovered completely on my own, without the help of any counselor, college, or consultant. Every high school parent should be given this information walking in the door to high school if their child is remotely entertaining the notion of going to college. I have heard the stories of the local consultants who in fact did sucessfully help unlikely students connect with colleges that all leave us scratching our heads. But, I am happy to say that by shear luck, with digging around on our own, my daughter applied to 8 colleges including 2 private, 3 state universities, and 3 state colleges and was admitted to everyone. So believe it or not you might be able to save that money you are paying to some high priced consultant and apply it to your tuition. All the information you really need is out there… just have to narrow the odds. can’t wait to read this book…..I feel like I have found a kndred spirt……thousands of them in fact. What an insane process. My dad was recounting the days when he walked on the campus at Uc Berkeley and paid $8.00 a unit. can this actually be real in any life time?


9 Mark May 15, 2011 at 12:30 am

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though it brought back the anxiety from my own kids’ situations back in 2005 and 2009. They each had the joy of rolling the dice in Early Decision; be fortunate, Mr. Ferguson, that your son didn’t decide that there was only one school he’d like. One of the book’s highlights had to be the “vast differences” among all of the college tours. My daughter decided not to go to one school because she didn’t like the guide, who spoke with her back to us. Me: “Ok, hon. Whatever.”

Why you and your son chose to insult me, however, I don’t know.

Best wishes,
Penn Alum
Phillies fan


10 Greg May 31, 2011 at 5:43 am

Thank you for a hilarious, insightful, wonderfully cynical, always truthful and heartfelt book about the craziness that has become the college admissions process. Along with all of its insight, humor and pathos, the book gave me one admittedly tangential, arguably trivial, but still undeniably uplifting bonus: in this hyper-politicized world of ours, it’s so nice to know that a liberal (that would be me) and a conservative (Mr. Ferguson I believe) wholeheartedly and emphatically agree on something, namely, that getting your kid into college has become an unfathomable and neurosis-inducing experience. Thank you again for the great read.


11 cristina June 22, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Hi all,
I know you all are going to hate me, but I was one of the few parents not having to go through tours, essays, etc. We didn’t tour one college. My son knew what he wanted to do, he looked at what colleges around our area offered the courses he needed, and how they were ranked as far as his chosen field (linguistics), and he applied to 3 colleges. Was accepted to all, decided to stay in town for his freshman year (had a full ride here) and then transfer to his first choice. That didn’t go as easy as he thought, but in the end, he prevailed. He not only did all his essays without being pushed, but helped his friends by editing theirs, too.
The transfer was more of a problem than getting to college in the first place. And getting the colleges to recognize AP test scores, and getting one college to recognize the classes from the other, and the APs…maddening!
The only real nightmare was the FAFSA, and securing the financial aid he needed. This is one of the biggest swindles in the world! The product doesn’t justify the costs, not even close to justify it!


12 Barbara Vaughan July 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm

My daughter was asked at her Harvard interview what she would like as her epitaph. She responded, “I suppose R.I.P. wouldn’t suffice?” She didn’t get in, but I told her I would have admitted her on the basis of that quip alone.


13 Bonnie July 8, 2011 at 12:10 am

I enjoyed Crazy U very much. It was funny, touching, and kind of sad, I thought. I fear college has been oversold to us weary consumers. I hope Mr. Ferguson does a follow-up book on employment or lack thereof for college grads. So many grads I know personally and know of through second and third parties are not so much unemployed as underemployed. A lot of these underemployed grads went to high-priced schools and then ended up with jobs that didn’t even require a college degree. One example: working as a sportswear salesgirl in an upscale store at a mall in West Palm Beach, Fl.


14 Wendy Bell November 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Just finished reading Crazy U and I am so glad I read it after we are almost done with the college process. I am rebel enough to have bagged the whole process and told my daughter to do something better with herself than go to college. Andrew, you must have been shadowing me at every step for the past 6 months! Fantastic read, laugh out loud and informative.


15 Bill Brown March 12, 2012 at 9:23 pm

My daughter is a high school senior. I am reading this as penance for what I put her through! I have laughed out loud numerous times while reading the book. It is painfully accurate. I do appreciate that I am just one of many parents who have traveled the same road the same way.


16 Barbara corn May 4, 2012 at 6:52 pm

When I applied to I vy League schools in 1946 I grumbled at having to give up a whole Saturday to take the college Boards! No preps, no psats – and you weren’t told your scores! The schools had started the process to broaden their student body and include more candidates that legacies and friends of the alumni. Sadly the process has become so elitist oce again that neither I nor probably Michelle Obama would even consider going to such schools. And even worse, the parents have bought into this ridiculous process. I went through a very minor version of the process when my son applied to law school but All I did was write the check to accompany the application – he did the rest. The kids are being robbed of the experience of going on their own and coping with the consequences – in other words, with growing up.


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