Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Early Decision: A Novel

Early Decision: A Novel

3.6 2
by Lacy Crawford

In Early Decision, debut novelist Lacy Crawford draws on 15 years of experience traveling the world as a highly sought-after private college counselor to illuminate the madness of college admissions.

Working one-on-one with Tiger-mothered, burned-out kids, Anne “the application whisperer” can make Harvard a reality. Early Decision


In Early Decision, debut novelist Lacy Crawford draws on 15 years of experience traveling the world as a highly sought-after private college counselor to illuminate the madness of college admissions.

Working one-on-one with Tiger-mothered, burned-out kids, Anne “the application whisperer” can make Harvard a reality. Early Decision follows five students over one autumn as Anne helps them craft their college essays, cram for the SATs, and perfect the Common Application. It seems their entire future is on the line—and it is. Though not because of Princeton and Yale. It’s because the process, warped as it is by money, connections, competition, and parental mania, threatens to crush their independence just as adulthood begins.

Whether you want to get in or just get out, with wit and heart, Early Decision explodes the secrets of the college admissions race.

Editorial Reviews

“this novel about kids caught up in the admissions rat race is wise and completely engrossing.”
“Early Decision is 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.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Overbearing moms and dads scheming to secure their kid a place at Harvard will find it more helpful than any nonfiction book on the market... everyone else can enjoy Early Decision for what it is: a sweetly sharp modern-day comedy of manners about the brutally competitive college-admissions ordeal.”
Wendy Corsi Staub
“I picked it up the November of my firstborn’s senior year and found it impossible to put down. A fascinating and relatable read for anyone who’s ever been through the college application process, gone through it with a child-or anticipates doing so.”
Chicago Tribune
“By focusing on the essay-writing process, Crawford explores how we find our own stories—and suggests that a successful campaign depends on revision.”
“Savvy...the hearts of the students beat a true, steady rhythm throughout the novel.”
Ann Beattie
“A book that should get some serious discussions going. Like other dramas, it’s sometimes a comedy... an insider’s view, projected not from the eyes but from the heart.”
The Daily Beast
How did we go from regular old college admissions to seven ‘early action’ applications and 11 personal essays? Former private college counselor Lacy Crawford, author of ‘Early Decision,’ breaks down the craziness…
The Atlantic Wire
“A wickedly fast-paced testament to the hysterical arms race for prestige that college admissions has become.”
College Admissions Counselor Anonymous
“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Lacy Crawford’s Early Decision hits the nail squarely on the head. WOW. I loved the book and can honestly say that it is all true.”
Debbie Stier
“Lacy Crawford portrays the admissions arms race with wit, sympathy, and candor. A great read for anyone with an interest in the college admissions process.”
Carol Edgarian
“a winning, insightful, tender and ultimately redemptive tale”
October Book of the Month Redbook.com
“At times hilarious, at times soul-crushingly sad, and unfailingly astute and well-written, Early Decision will leave you super-satisfied.”
Publishers Weekly
This entertaining tale of upper class parents and adolescent learning curves points a keen eye at the college application process and the agony and ecstasy of getting that acceptance letter. Twenty-seven-year-old Anne with her polished Princeton background has somehow fallen into the college essay coaching business and is quite proficient. Enter Margaret and Gideon Blanchard and their daughter Sadie who has been groomed from birth to attend Duke as a legacy. Anne sets to help Sadie polish her essays and in the process they discover each other's strengths and weaknesses. Anne is dealing with an unruly upstairs neighbor who hates her dog and may be stealing her newspaper, a philandering actor boyfriend, and her own unfinished aspirations, while her students deal with their sexuality, finding their voice, and escaping their parents' expectations and jealousies. Wealth and privilege are in no way major indicators of who gets in where, and sometimes they hold the perfect student back, but with the right help and support, such as Anne supplies, those students find their way despite themselves. Sprinkled with tips for writers—"it isn't so much about editing as it is about aligning execution to intention," essays in various forms of re-write, and a very satisfying twist at the end, the reader is lead through a long, dark supervised High School hallway and off to the freedom of the great lawn. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
A struggling young tutor tries to find her destiny among the children of privilege in this cutting peek at the vicious world of college applications. Based largely on personal experience, Crawford's debut novel explores the rarefied world of Anne, a bright but world-weary English major who has fallen into the unusual trade of "Application Whisperer," helping affluent Chicago high school students tweak their personal essays and nail their college applications. Anne is also wrestling with her personal identity, unsure of her own talents, ambitions and security. The novel focuses on Anne's students, all of whom are blandly unique in their own way. There's a hunky young tennis player who only wants to run with the wild horses in Montana, the wealthy daughter of an Ivy League university trustee and a gay theater buff afraid to confront his aggressive father. The ringer in this exclusive club is Cristina, a Guatemalan illegal immigrant whose brilliance belies her origins. "She was helpless to reframe eighteen years of parenting and generations longer of expectations," Crawford writes of Anne. "She was just a custodian of fate, as she pictured herself now, an orderly, shuffling alongside these kids. Perhaps offering them a bon mot. Sending them through the next set of doors, and turning back each spring to where the new kids were waiting." And while the children are all well-characterized, their parents are portrayed with enough delicious malice to flirt with satire. To ratchet up the personal drama, Crawford tosses in Martin, a vain but ambitious young actor whose boyfriend status seems like a fleeting afterthought, and a nasty upstairs neighbor who plots to unravel Anne's perilous residency in her building. Crawford delivers a palpable sense of pathos into this absurdly complex process, but non-parents and other parties immune to the cult of the Tiger Mother may find trolling through adolescent essays a bit laborious. Much like The Nanny Diaries--sincere and readable.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

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 of Narrative magazine and director of the Burberry Foundation. Educated at Princeton and the University of Chicago, Crawford lives in California with her husband and two children.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Early Decision 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
camilledimaio More than 1 year ago
“Early Decision” intrigued me because my oldest daughter is a high school sophomore, and I know that the dreaded college applications are just around the corner. I expected this book to be a bit of fluff in which I might learn a thing or two about the process, and walk away entertained. Pleasantly, perhaps, the novel was much meatier than I anticipated, but like a gristly steak, I walked away not totally satisfied. The author, Lacy Crawford, spent many years counseling teens on submitting their applications, and her protagonist, Anne, does the same. The book follows her work with a handful of particular students, mostly wealthy and Ivy-League-bound. Kudos to Anne, via Lacy, for really trying to explore what gave the teens their individual voice, and for eschewing what the parents automatically expected. Beyond that, however, Anne was not a compelling character, as her relationship was weak and depressing, her interactions with her neighbors and family were thin, and she moped about the story directionless. Really, I didn’t walk away finding a reason to cheer her on. I was more enthusiastic about some of her students. Crawford did have many detailed stories to tell, but I got the impression that they were largely drawn from her real-life experiences, and that if there were a follow-up, unrelated novel, she might have challenges thinking up unique material. Add to this one chapter that was a full NINETY pages long, I can say that I’m glad I read the book, but it won't be a repeat.
sneps More than 1 year ago
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 sure the student has the best opportunity to go to the best university. This book isn’t a “how-to”, rather it shows the extents families will go for their child to remain a legacy in the family, the pressures the students face, and the way it can potentially bring a family closer, or break them further apart. I found it most interesting the relationships and family dynamics that Anne sees, as she spends more time with her students and family secrets are exposed and the pressures each one faces. It’s not a depressing book by any means, but it’s a somber look at what families expect from their children, even when their child may have a different idea of what they want for their future. I love how Anne is able to bring out the best in each of the students she works with and the trust she works hard at establishing. Anne has her own share of struggles and a relationship that is long distance, which puts pressure on her work and her own goals. Anne is a young woman, who didn’t set out to be a college coach. She taught at school and helped her students with their college essays, which slowly morphed into her coaching other kids because of the huge success she had with her former students. About a year ago, I read the book, Accelerated by Bronwen Hruska. Reading Lacy Crawford’s book made me think of the students from Accelerated, and I pictured them and their parents as the ones seeking help from Anne. I know…these books have nothing to do with the other, but I could see a natural extension of it all. Overall, I loved this book! Again, there aren’t any huge secrets that are revealed in the book. However, I loved the essays because it showed what each student was thinking, their writing ability, and how Anne was able to pull more from her students when she read the essays. I loved this book and any parent who has dealt with college admissions, has a child in school, or is simply a reader who loves books about family secrets, family relationships, and the pressure of today’s society, will all enjoy this fantastic read!