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Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy

Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy

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by Lacy Crawford

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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

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.)
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.”
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.”
“Here’s an engrossing novel that no parent of college-bound teens will be able to resist...Crawford nails the anxiety of a selection process gone crazy and counsels parents to do the hardest thing of all: back off.”
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…
“Savvy...the hearts of the students beat a true, steady rhythm throughout the novel.”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.
Carol Edgarian
“a winning, insightful, tender and ultimately redemptive tale”
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.”
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.”
The Atlantic Wire
“A wickedly fast-paced testament to the hysterical arms race for prestige that college admissions has become.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(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.

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Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy 0 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
DanePaul More than 1 year ago
Early Decision is an amazing piece of work. It shines a light on the behind the curtain college application process that is both interesting and informative.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jmcgarry More than 1 year ago
I got this free in a radio station giveaway. This brought back some memories. I thought back to my application, trying to write the right essay to get in. Of course, that was 30 years ago, before the Common Application. Unlike the students in this book, my parents never paid for me to have someone help me. They did it themselves, or had some relatives help. The book reads like a fictionalization of real events. You feel for the students. In the book, they have so much pressure placed on the students to get into the right school. Most of this is from the parents, where it's an Ivy League school, their alma mater, or nothing. The author used to counsel students in real life, so she knows from experience. As far as Anne is concerned (the counselor in the book), I wonder how much of her character was bssed on the author's personal life. I know it was nerve-wracking waiting for the final decision. Back then, you knew by the size of the envelope. If it was a fat envelope, you were in. If it was a thin envelope, you were either waitlisted or rejected. I could at some level feel with the students as they heard whether they got in or not. It also shows the pressure Anne was under, on the one hand wanting the students to explore, but on the other realizing that the parents signed her paychecks. Overall, a good book. FYI, I took a big chance. I only applied to one school--Notre Dame. I graduated in 1986. GO IRISH!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BrynBB More than 1 year ago
Having worked in admission at a prestigious prep school, I can empathize with the applicants described in this book. The desperation of parents is palpable while frequently their children are uninterested in the process which only increases the parents' frustration. This book should be read by every parent facing the intricacies of admission, whether to prep school or college. Lacy Crawford speaks from experience and imparts the wisdom gained from viewing first-hand the admission process with humor and empathy. Highly recommended.
NBMinneapois More than 1 year ago
author provides an interesting perspective on the college admissions process. The length that wealthy parents can and will go to help their kids get into schools that may or may not be the right place ....this would be an eye opener to any parent willing to accept that they might be a little over involved. Also points out what a real 'crap shoot' the process is. The pressure on today's kids and families is over the top...always one more thing these kids have to do from preschool to graduation and beyond. Building a resume and hoping they get it right. Glad my last one is almost through college...but then there is the grad school process. I would recommend this to parents of high schoolers that are wondering how critical the competition game really is in the college admissions process.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting exploration of a college coach's attempt to find the true goals of her student/clients The villains are trite and the author drops the ball at the end
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Intersting tale of a super smart woman who takes up the career of college application councelor after her own future stalls. I'd never even heard of this job but it's entertaining to watch Annie shepherd a group of teenagers thru the process of breaking the apron strings while taking their first step into adulthood.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
readergirllp More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting look at the lengths some kids and their families will go to to get into their college of choice. I was fascinated with the subject and wish she had included even more examples.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely loved this book. Not only was it an excellent expose on the undergraduate admissions game but it was also a true anthem for women in their twenties.