Mr. Ferguson is not the first author to chronicle the horrors of the SATs, the runaway cost of elite universities or the mysteries of the admissions process. But having taken what his subtitle calls "One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College," he has succeeded in pulling the whole thing together through a single family's experience, enriched by much authorial homework. 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.'")
"Crazy U" is compulsively readable, unusually vivid—and thoroughly dispiriting, even though the author's son ends up doing just fine. Approaching the subject with genial savagery, Mr. Ferguson begins his journey by attending a meeting between a college consultant and a roomful of well-heeled Connecticut moms. The consultant charges—better sit down for this—$40,000 to shepherd a single kid through the admissions process and so naturally works only with, as her assistant says, "high net-worth individuals."
Let me tell you a few things about Andy Ferguson’s new book Crazy U: it’s well-researched, insightful, thought-provoking, and sometimes hysterically funny. He’s good on everything: college admissions standards, evaluation of candidates, financial aid, you name it. And he links the themes together in sometimes unexpected ways.