Synopses & Reviews
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,
“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.”
“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.”
“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
“A laugh-until-your-ribs-squeak book.”
“Compulsively readable, unusually vivid . . . The most darkly humorous aspect of this often hilarious book is its depiction of an admissions process that corrupts everything it touches.”
—Daniel Akst, The Wall Street Journal
“In Crazy U
, Ferguson is at his dazzling best, using humor and narrative as portals to very serious subjects. The book is both a hilarious chronicle of his 18-month ordeal helping his not-always-cooperative son apply to college and a devastating exposé of the buying and selling of higher education in America.”
—Christina Hoff Summers, National Review
"A laugh-until-your-ribs-squeak book."
Getting into college drives students to the brink of madness—and pushes their parents over the edge.Pummeled by peers, crazed by counselors, and addled by advice books, beloved writer Andrew Ferguson had come to believe that a single misstep in the race to college could wreck his sons future.Crazy U is his disarmingly candid and hilariously subversive chronicle of their familys journey through the admissions game, from the first color brochures landing in the mailbox to the waiting, waiting, waiting for a big envelope with the verdict. In this rollicking ride from the man Christopher Buckley has called “my all-time favorite writer,” Ferguson provides a pocket history of higher education in America, recounts the college ranking wars, and passes on the valuable tips hes picked up during his crash course. (Number 36: Dont apply for financial aid after midnight.) He also dares to ask: Why on earth does it all cost so much? Along the way, Fergusons relationship with his son grows, built from humor, loyalty, and more than a little shared anxiety. In launching his son into the world, this father may find a new place in it for himself.
Now in paperback: “Both a hilarious narrative and an incisive guide to the college admissions process….Ferguson’s storytelling is irresistible” (The Washington Post
Once a straightforward process, applying to college has evolved into a multi-year ordeal and spawned a multi-billion dollar cottage industry of freelance counselors, tutors, essay coaches, interview advisers, and political activists. In Crazy U, Ferguson spends time with the most sought-after private counselor, provides a pocket history of higher education in America, looks at the growth of the college marketing industry, and asks: Why the hell does college cost so much, and how can my kid get in?
Writing with humor and humility, Ferguson chronicles his perilous journey through this seemingly impenetrable, hall-of-mirrors process where, it seems, even the slightest misstep could derail his son’s future. Crazy U doesn’t divulge the secrets of getting accepted to a dream school, but it will help readers maintain a measure of sanity as they enter the trenches of college admissions.
About the Author
Andrew Ferguson, a senior editor at the Weekly Standard, is the author of Fools’ Names, Fools’ Faces, a collection of essays, and Land of Lincoln, named by the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune as a Favorite Book of the Year. Formerly a senior writer for the Washingtonian magazine, he has been a contributing editor to Time magazine, as well as a columnist for Fortune, TV Guide, Forbes FYI, National Review, Bloomberg News, and Commentary. He has also written for the New Yorker, New York magazine, the New Republic, the American Spectator, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other publications. In 1992, he was a White House speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush. He lives in suburban Washington, D.C., with his wife and two children.