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Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,644 ratings  ·  277 reviews
...part Gossip Girl, part Dead Poets Society, and entirely addictive! A brilliant, satirical peek at the families of privilege behind the Ivy Curtain, this book made me laugh out loud.” — Kevin Kwan, New York Times bestselling author of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy

In Early Decision, Lacy Crawford draws on 15 years of experience traveling the United States as a highly sou
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 27th 2013 by William Morrow (first published June 4th 2013)
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3.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,644 ratings  ·  277 reviews

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Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Kressel Housman
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education, fiction
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
Nov 04, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Aug 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: own-a-copy, kindle
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
Sep 18, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 12, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Nov 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This is crazy, but I believe people will do anything to get their children into in the right school. I've heard stories of moms working really hard to get their little prodigies into the right pre-school. I had just heard a podcast of "This American Life" about this same thing. Ira Glass was interviewing college counselors.

I loved this book, it was very well written and I really like Anne. I loved the way she handled all the different parents and their demands. This is a really great book, I hig
Sep 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
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.
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to. There are several semi-interwoven storylines about the high school students Anne shepherds through the application process - but what ties them all together and elevates the book is the story about Anne. Like her charges, she is struggling with what to do next in her life, balancing the expectations of others with her own barely-discernible desires. I found myself riveted by the lyrical writing and wry humor, unwilling to put the book down until ...more
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
Lian Dolan
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Caitlin Fitzgerald
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Mary Lynn
Sep 01, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Alison Singh Gee
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 01, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Carol Hannon
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I chose this book because I am a fan of college admission novels. Competition is always more difficult on the east coast in comparison with what our three children went through coming from Arizona and getting into fine universities. This book did not disappoint.
Melissa Roth
Aug 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
Some interesting insights into the college admissions process but could have done without the main character's boring love life
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
Char Sowers
Oct 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Keyna Houston
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Prior to reading this, I read some of the reviews, most of which were lukewarm at best. Now that I'm finished, I'm reminded of why I usually don't read reviews (of anything). I'm not sure what struck the naysayers as negative about this book -- although some seemed to indicated some kind of expectation that it was supposed to be a nonfiction intro to the world of college admissions instead of a novel -- but I really enjoyed it. I found Crawford's characters to be true and quite well-drawn, espec ...more
Mary Pagones
I work for a private college consultant and the author is spot-on about certain odd things that pop up in this funny little industry. Like fathers who interview writers helping with their kids' college essays like the poor writers wanted jobs at investment banks; parents ripping apart perfectly- crafted essays days before the due date to insert clumsily adult words and inappropriate childhood reminiscences; and the personal questions directed at the writer about "why are you doing this with your ...more
Janet Jenkins
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Usually, I rate books 3 stars as "I enjoyed it, but easily forgettable". I rated this book 4 stars because I found myself thinking about certain issues raised. This book visited a time in my past where wondering and worrying about college admissions was an important part of being a mom. This book mentions The Common Application which is new to me and the Essay. I liked how the author explained how the main character honed the essays from the students to get to their true voice. I felt badly for ...more
Natalie Keating
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Decent story overall about the college admissions process in the United States. I'm glad someone else (this author) realizes how absolutely ridiculous it is. I went through it myself approximately ten (!) years ago and I think it's only become worse since. All of the characters were very vivid and well-drawn. I liked Anne, the protagonist, a lot, and I felt bad for a lot of the students she worked with because their parents were way too intense about the entire thing. I wish I could make the cha ...more
Steph DiMartino
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
OK, so I started this book with pretty low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised. As we watch the college admissions scandal involving rich celebrities, this book became more relevant, even as it was predicable, spotlighting the inequities in the system. But I thought the writing was solid and the protagonist likable in her flaws. It helped that I spent 25 years as a secondary English teacher who, every fall, sat with kids in agony over their application essays while I was also their teacher ...more
Laura Pavlides
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If your child is soon applying to college, get this book! This is the book I would have written about the process. In one way, a manual, in another, a cautionary tale. LOVED it. Real, introspective, revealing; a la The Breakfast Club (the movie) tempered with a knowing grown-up's eye who has just been through it herself from both sides. The writer expertly straddles the line between the somewhat clueless and removed adults to the eager yet rightly suspicious applicants. A salve to families going ...more
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Times sure have changed since I applied to college! Lacy Crawford weaves a satisfying tale of university admissions where the best and brightest are often at the mercy of their parents and philanthropists with ulterior motives. It was a peek into an interesting, if fraught, process where no one says what they mean but they expect complete satisfaction, even if they don't know what that means.

I listened to this as an audio book, which was read beautifully by Erin Moon. She made the text come ali
Kelly Kenny
2017 Reading Challenge: A Book with a protagonist with your occupation

Check! Kind of...

Not too many stories with School counselors as the protagonist so this was as close as it gets. It was OK, not great. Just glad to be through it. I think it was readable for me because I have background knowledge with college apps, but still found myself confused at times with the plot line. Also glad I work with a more normal population of students on their college apps, because if I had to deal with any of
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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
“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” 1 likes
“someone’s house before or” 0 likes
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