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New Book Gives Insider View of Frenzied College Application Process

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Lacy Crawford once charged $7,500 to help college students gain entry to some of the country’s top schools. Now she’s sharing (some of) her secrets.  

As a private college admissions counselor, Crawford was hired by wealthy families hoping to ensure their child admission to top-tier universities. But it may surprise you that she doesn’t believe getting into a top school is the be-all end-all.

In fact, the whole process is so fraught with unnecessary drama, poor judgment and (at times) accidental hilarity that Crawford turned her experiences into a novel. "Early Decision" hits shelves on August 27.

Any parent or high school senior knows that applying to college can be overwhelming and exhausting — especially for families who spend years grooming their children to be perfect applicants.

That’s were Crawford would come in.  For a $7,500 fee, she made herself available to her clients 24 hours a day, helping them narrow down their list of schools and polish the perfect personal statement. Her impressive track record was often attributed to improving students' essays, and parents eventually began to (discreetly) seek her services.

What makes a good college essay, you ask? "Authenticity. Clarity. Energy," Crawford says.

Perhaps more important, Crawford points out, is picking a school for the right reasons.

While she says to "absolutely do you best to get into the best school you can," she says more emphasis should be placed on picking a school where the student would actually want to spend four years.

Crawford worries that some parents get too caught up in the prestige and reputation that comes with a name-brand school and not nearly enough consideration is placed on whether or not the student would actually be happy there.

"If you are packaging a child in order to get them into school instead of developing their own interests, then you’re just turning the knife," she says.

While Crawford’s experience was focused mainly on the wealthy families that could afford to spend nearly a year’s tuition before the child ever sets foot on campus, she would often find herself having to bring expectations back down to reality.

"I do remind them what an incredible luxury it is to be able to sweat the admissions race at the top schools," Crawford says. "The number of kids vying for Middlebury is very small compared to the number of kids just trying to make their way into the world.”

For all those anxious students and parents out there, take this one piece of advice from this former insider: Keep the bigger picture in mind.

“There are literally a million ways to make a life,” she says. "Whether you go to the college of your dreams or you don’t go to college at all.”