Crazy U, or, Getting Your Kid Into College: Author Q&A
Back then you selected your reach and safety schools, filled out the applications, wrote an essay, dropped it in the mail and hoped for the best. Today it's like trying out for the Olympics -- after so diligently researching and preparing, let alone being in possession of excellent credentials, even the cream of the crop seems to get rejected.
ParentDish spoke with Andrew Ferguson, author of "Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course on Getting His Kid Into College," about the 18-month process that nearly put him over the edge. Following is an edited version of that conversation.
ParentDish: What is the college application process like today?
Andrew Ferguson: You get pulled in five or six different directions at once. It's sort of like if you're trying to buy a luxury good that you can't really afford, where there are so many different kinds on offer and everybody is trying to pretend that theirs is completely unique, and by implication the other guy's luxury goods aren't as good as theirs.
AF: I discovered this iron law of nature called the Principle of Constant Contradiction where if you're seeking advice about college admissions, for every piece of advice you get, within a week you will get a totally opposite piece that cancels it out.
PD: Sounds exasperating.
AF: It's especially bad on the Web. Somebody on College Confidential or [similar] bulletin boards will write, "You know, you really ought to give flowers to your counselor who writes your recommendation," and then someone writes, "No! That would be a bribe!" Meanwhile they're all people who have Internet names like PuppyWuppy and LoveSavage69. So you, as a parent, are thinking, "OK. Which is the crank? Is PuppyWuppy crazier than LoveSavage69?"
PD: Everything seems so arbitrary. How can a parent stay sane?
AF: That's why I wrote the book the way I did, which is as a story rather than as a long series of tips. The thing that really gets you through, and this sounds slightly sentimental, is your bond with your kid. In a way, you're both doing this for each other.
PD: How long did it take you to figure that one out?
AF: The ultimate piece of advice I give people, which sounds so banal is, "Relax. Believe it or not, just relax." There's nothing more infuriating than telling someone who's nervous to "relax." It could really send you around the bend. If I had a dime for every time somebody told me to relax in this process I could afford my son's tuition bill.
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.