Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Review: Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College by Andrew Ferguson

I agree, it's a little strange for someone with no children to read a book about the anxiety a parent goes through with their child's college application process, but I've always found colleges fascinating, and I nearly became a high school guidance counselor, precisely so I could help teens with this task. I also have 4 cousins in this mode currently, with one just headed off last week to college. I had recommended this book to my cousin who has a daughter who is a high school senior and another junior, and I thought I should probably read it if I'm going to recommend it.

It's fun and light and a short, fast read. I do strongly recommend it for the parents of high schoolers, although others who are simply interested should enjoy it as well. It doesn't give a ton of advice, except some really basics: let your kid do the work him/herself, don't hover too much, try to calm down, understand that as torturous and baffling as this process is, it's what we've got so we need to deal with it. One of the only bits of practical advice was so useful that it merits being called out. Mr. Ferguson got conflicting information about his son's teacher recommendations, and wasn't sure if he should be handing teachers a packet with a resume, sample answers, detailed additional information, a gift, and so on, or not. He felt the gift before the recommendation felt more like a bribe than a thank-you (I agree), but the rest seemed practical, if overbearing. So should you do it or not? He asked around some more, he went onto a website that was super-unhelpful in so many ways (defined Too Much Advice), debated with his son and wife, and in the end his son simply asked his teachers if they'd like more information. Wow. What a simple solution to such an anxiety-provoking question. And I think that advice is what parents need to keep in mind in this process. Don't overthink it. (And for the record, the teachers said no.)

A funny note: it wasn't until the very end - by which I mean the acknowledgements AFTER the end of the book itself - that I noticed I'd never learned the name of Mr. Ferguson's son. He really pulled that off quite well. I appreciate him wanting to maintain his son's anonymity, although it was very, very easy for me to figure out what Big State University really is (the University of Virginia for those of you who, like me, hate loose ends).

Overall, I think this book is indispensable for any worried parents. It will reassure you that your worries are not alone, that your children aren't unusually lazy, that the process is get-through-able, and yes this is all completely insane (and no, you can't do anything about that.) And it will get you off your kid's back for a few hours.

I bought this book at a Border's GOOB sale.


Carolyn Abiad said...

I'm not sure any book can convince me that my kids are not unusually lazy, but I might need to pick this one up sometime in the no-so-distant future. :)

christa @ mental foodie said...

We don't have any kids either. I haven't read this one, but out of curiosity, I read Acceptance: A Legendary Guidance Counselor Helps Seven Kids Find the Right Colleges---And Find Themselves by Dave Marcus. I didn't go to college in the US (tho was here as an exchange student one year), so had no idea the college application process here is so complicated! So this book was quite interesting to me. I enjoyed his writing also. I think you'll enjoy this too especially if you had wanted to be a Guidance Counselor! If we ever have kids, I would want them to have a Guidance Counselor like so!