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Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy

3.21 of 5 stars 3.21  ·  rating details  ·  1,147 ratings  ·  217 reviews
A delightful and salacious debut novel about the frightful world of high school, SATs, the college essay, and the Common Application—and how getting in is getting in the way of growing up.

Tiger mothers, eat your hearts out. Anne the "application whisperer" is the golden ticket to success. Working one-on-one with burned-out, helicopter-parented kids, she can make Harvard a
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 27th 2013 by William Morrow (first published June 4th 2013)
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Why is it that anything written about college admissions both gets published and seems to sell? My two-star rating is generous; this book fails both as literature and as information about the US college admission process. I have to admit that after reading "Admission," I did not think anything worse could be written about college admissions, but Crawford has managed to "achieve" that.

As someone very familiar with college admissions, I am surprised by this book. (1) As described by Crawford, pare
A friend passed this book on to me, based, I guess, on the fact that I like first novels and that I went to a college something like the ones that most of the characters obsessed with in this book. But too much of Early Decisions came across to me as sort of dopey -- not very well characterized, full of coincidences and glaring moments of obviousness in the plot. I liked the author's skill at creating the kind of adolescent earnestness that makes up college-application essays. But I wish that cr ...more
I had a hard time with this book. I wanted to like it because it's an interesting subject. The story is about a young woman who helps high school seniors with the college application process - she helps edit the various essays they have to write for the Common Application - and she gets peripherally involved with their lives. Most of her clients are very wealthy Chicagoans who have unlimited money to spend and who don't really consider what their children want to do with their lives. One of her ...more
Kressel Housman
As of this writing, it’s two days till Pesach. I have a ton of cooking to do, not to mention some last touch-ups on cleaning, and yet I’ve done something utterly foolish and yet thoroughly pleasurable: I’ve let myself get addicted to a novel. I started it on Shabbos, continued through on Saturday till 1:00 in the morning, and when I woke up, instead of getting to my Pesach cleaning, I went right back to the novel until I finished it. And now, here I am, writing about it – though I made myself ge ...more
Usually when I read a book I identify with a character,and their journey is the through-line of my own life for the time it takes to read the book (and much longer in the case of the greats...I'm still living with Scout Finch's story in my bones...). Anyway, with this book, I had the odd and slightly disturbing experience of identifying with the main character (a private tutor for college applicants), the absolutely certifiable and ridiculous parents, and also the teenagers themselves. Oh, goodn ...more
Sometimes when I’ve read books created around a specialized vocation, I get bored with the tedium of work. Too much minutia about the day to day operations gets me down. I felt that Early Decision was appropriately balanced, but still dragged a bit for me in the execution of the plot. I never really connected with Anne, the beleagured protagonist, mostly because I was only told that she was good at her job, but never actually saw her excelling. In fact, her quarter-life crisis seems to come abou ...more
An interesting look into a world I had never considered -- that of a professional college application counselor. Annie was a top student who went to Princeton but washed out of her PhD program at University of Chicago. Now, unable to decide what to do with her life, she runs a small business, advising rich kids on how to prepare their applications for admissions to America's best schools.

Annie is so insightful about the teenage mind she should be a psychologist. She understands immediately why a
Lacy Crawford, the author drew from her experience as a college admissions counselor to give us a view of the upper mclass and upper middle class vie for a place at an Ivy League college for their child. These are the parents who have sought to enroll their child in the best preschool when they first find out that they are pregnant. They are the parents who have programmed their children's lives to include athletics, music, art, the theater, and volunteering. They have private lessons in all the ...more
Crawford certainly knows what she's writing about, and she knows how to craft a well-written sentence. Unfortunately, competent writing can't overcome a complete lack of connection with the characters. While its obvious that protagonist and "application whisperer" Anne has plenty of sympathy for the assorted college applicants that she counsels, it didn't translate into me as the reader actually caring about them. I similarly couldn't work up any real emotion regarding Anne herself. She is listl ...more
Don't bother. Had good potential but that lasted for the first couple chapters. Anne spent to much time clarifying how her career choice, college choice, boyfriend choices were the result of how others treated her. She took no responsibility for her own actions. Yet she wants to make these college bound kids own up to their lives. Found it slightly amusing and then just plain annoying.
Nancy Brady
Full disclosure: I received this book as a First Reads Goodreads giveaway, but this in no way affected my review.

Anne is a college admissions counselor. She helps high seniors write and polish their personal essays. In this calendar year (actually the months prior to and including early decision for admission to elite colleges), she has five students of different calibers whom she tries to help. Most vacillate between their hidden, true selves and what their parents desire for them. Yet, Anne sh
Caitlin Fitzgerald
Blah! I so rarely encounter a book that I cannot get into at all. This book was terribly bland and slow. The plot was unimpressive. I didn't have the highest of expectations for plot or characters, but I was still surprised that I found hardly anything in the book with which I'd struck a connection. I felt too much time was spent detailing things I didn't need much detail for. I'd rather know more about the students, Anne, Martin, her family. How is it that she's 27, living in her hometown, and ...more
Lian Dolan
Jun 04, 2014 Lian Dolan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents of high school kids in elite college mode
AHHH, don't make me do it, live through college admissions again. Okay, wait, when it's this well done, I can take it. If you have a high schooler or a college kid, you'll love/hate reliving the experience through the eyes of the main character, a college essay expert. Author Lacy Crawford knows her stuff, having done that work fro a decade. And she is pro-student. Her insights into parent/child relationships and the fragile adolescent ego can't be beat. The writing is wonderful and rich. The po ...more
 (Lightning City Book Reviews)
I picked up this book because my daughter is a high school Senior and we are in this exact situation, at the exact timeframe that this novel takes place in. So it was kind of an eye-opener for me. I saw myself in some of the parents in the novel - ick. I saw my daughter in an essay that one of the teenage characters writes. Because of these things, I find myself backing off 'selling' a University to her, and ask her what her first choice is. I try to tell her, "I know you are under a lot of stre ...more
Sheila DeChantal
Early Decision is a look into the world of college acceptance and the students applying as well as the parents prodding anxiously behind them, in many cases as though the decision of acceptance defines them as parents as well. Anne’s job comes with high expectations on her from all of the above.

I found Early Decision to be very interesting. I, myself did not take the college route, and sometimes really wish I would have. At the time of my own graduation, my mom had been raising me alone for year
As a mom of a freshman in college, I can still remember all the preparation it took and time spent to fill out college applications, scholarships, and visiting campuses. During that time, a friend mentioned hiring a person to fill out the applications for their son. It was a lot of money, and I thought it was a bit crazy.

Well, apparently, that is the norm!! This book moved at a great pace and highlights different families and the challenges they face, along with the “college whisperer” to make s
Nadine Keels
This book? Eeesh. It's entertaining. Maddening. Tragic. Infuriating. Unbelievable.


It says so much about, well, so much. And it says it well. I'm the first to admit that it's not my favorite thing to run across "F-bombs" when I'm reading a novel, but I just had to steamroll over them in this case, since Early Decision was posing good questions and making too many other thought-provoking points for me to lay it aside.

I was wondering if there'd be light at the end of this maddening and u

Here is what was going to happen: Anne was going to wake up one morning in full possession of the authority she needed to go out and start her life.

Anne Arlington hasn’t quite figured out what to do with her life, but while she figures it out she acts as a consultant to parents hoping their (mostly) spoiled, coddled and rich offspring make it into the Ivy League. Even Canadian readers will know that the Ivy League is comprised of eight schools considered, by reputation and name, to be academical
So I'm very lucky that I'm old enough to have avoided all this "frenzy." Although I'm also very lucky to have the parents I have, because they did not get in my way at all when it came to choosing a college. I loved the school I selected (Go Green!), and think it all turned out OK, but that's what the parents here don't seem to understand: regardless of where your son or daughter goes to school, it will all turn out OK. It's the first adult choice they need to make....let them grow up and make i ...more
I would think this novel would appeal only to a very specific audience, namely, people like me, a mother whose eldest child is finishing his junior year in high school and getting ready to apply to colleges this fall. I found the story engaging mainly because I have a child facing this right now, albeit sans an essay tutor.

While the teens in this story are nuanced, the parents are caricatures. There were some nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout the novel. I liked the teen who thought about a
The long paragraphs and chapters made this book difficult to read, along with the writing style -- which read too textbook at times. While the truth about the college application process is revealed, it's hard to root for spoiled brats. I'm certainly not looking forward to the process with my kids, and I know it'll be different and in some respects, easier, than when I applied. Good thing I'm an English major and journalist, and will be able to help with their essays instead of hiring a counselo ...more
Goke Akinniranye
"A high school senior and her parents and the young woman they had hired, all party to the process that claimed to elevate young people and offer them the world, but instead taught them to commodity their gifts, bury their struggles, deny curiosity, and murder whimsy."

I had a tepid reaction to this book. The character of Anne was fleshed out and layered, but many of the other characters, particularly the students, were flat archetypes. The prose was discursive and self-serving, filled with the s
Mary Lynn
Very interesting commentary on the admissions process for top colleges. Made me happy to be old and not have to go through it! Not a lighthearted book, I'd recommend only to people who are interested in the subject matter as the story line isn't compelling enough to stick with unless you get sucked in by the whole admissions process. Well written though, kind of sad. Glad it had an epilogue which I always love and was really necessary I thought.
I would almost rate this 5 stars. I won this – not kidding – in a Goodreads giveaway (apparently officially called Goodreads First Reads). I have been reading a lot of non-fiction books lately about college admissions. College applications are several years in the future for my kids, which makes these books less stressful. From the cover, the description and reviews written by other readers, I expected some variety of chick lit or self-satisfied insider tell-all. I was hoping it would be more en ...more
Alison Singh Gee
I saw this at the South Pasadena Library, home base for many a Tiger mother. I had to read it. I didn't know what to make of the narrative at the start -- it felt a bit too much like memoir to read as fiction. But then the characters and the plot took on their own life. The book was unusual, unpredictable and engaging. And the "early decision" frenzy felt all-too real.
I chose this book because it involves education and the preparation for students as they apply for college. I am a former teacher from an elite independent school and knew well of the hoops that students needed to jump through in the process of completing THE college application. The author does a good job of portraying the worst of the parents but unfortunately not the best as there are at least an equal amount of each. She successfully describes the torment that the students go through as they ...more
Wow, the lengths some rich people go to to get what they want no matter the cost to their family and others.

Wow, some of those kids are so spoiled too!! One boy comparing Winnetka to a prison. Thank God a couple of kids woke up towards the end.

$5,000 was definitely not enough for this woman to charge for what she put up with. Ugh.
Leslie Lindsay
For debut author Lacy Crawford, EARLY DECISION is a knock-out. Every parent about to send their 18-year old off to the ivory columns needs to read this. I'd even recommend it for those just out of school, that twenty-something "quarter crisis" we've all heard so much about in the last 10+ years or so.

EARLY DECISION is based on the author's actual life; that is, *she* was the one who was the college admission counselor/tutor to these privileged kids of the Gold Coast(Chicagoaland, IL), taking th
Julie - Book Hooked Blog
I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the quality of Crawford's writing. It's exactly what I look for in contemporary fiction: smart, funny, full of lovable and believable characters, and a plot that carries the reader along. I loved that Crawford avoided many of the tropes frequently found in this kind of book, particularly in the area of romance. It was a treat to read a book with a female main character who focuses on herself and doesn't wind up meeting someone cute and quirk
Laura McNeal
What better time to read a satire of the college application process than while I have two boys on the verge of college applications? I admit with some shame that I found myself reading it like a primer--are there tips here? could this book be a canny way to get advice that normally costs $5,000? is that really the best way to coax a good essay out of a teenager--but I also found myself plunging ahead with genuine interest. I did care what happened to each applicant, especially to Hunter, and I ...more
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For fifteen years Lacy Crawford served as a highly discreet independent college admissions counselor to the children of powerful clients in cities such as New York, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and London. Her “day jobs” included serving as senior editor at Narrative Magazine and director of the Burberry Foundation. Educated at Princeton and the University of Chicago, Lacy lives in ...more
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“the list was a smoke screen: ten applications would be made on the pretense of this being a meritocratic process. But the first-choice school would have opened a file on the child once his PSATs were posted. The result was already assured. For Anne, much of the work lay in managing these lists. How to carve, from the great shared dream of college destiny, a range to fairly suit each child? And how then to help bring round the parents, in their bafflement and their shame? More accurately, how to awaken these families from a fantasy that held colleges up bright and shining and implacably steady in character, to reveal each as just what it was—a living, breathing institution—struggling to serve young minds weaned on ambition and fear and heading into a job market that matched conscription to greed and made interns of all the rest? Take Middlebury: one thought immediately of all the blond kids with a green streak, the vegans, the skiers. Take the Ivies: the Euro kids wanted Brown. Jews, Yale or Penn. WASPs wanted Princeton. Cold athletes Dartmouth. Hot athletes, Stanford. Cornell was big and seemed possible but Ithaca was a high price to pay. Columbia for the city kids. Everyone wanted Harvard, if only to say they got in. Then the cult schools. Tufts, Georgetown, Duke. Big” 0 likes
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