15 No-Cost, Low-Cost College Planning Resources A College Planners Picks

I did the unthinkable. I actually asked a professional college planner how I could get around hiring a college planner. To be more precise, I asked Jona Jacobson with JJ College Admission Advising for advice for families who can’t afford to hire an independent college admissions consultant. Hey, we all come at this college thing from different walks and different pocketbooks.

As Jacobson points out, there are many great books and websites available to college-bound students, and their families. Check out Jacobson’s favorite low-cost, no-cost college planning resources.

This is not a sponsored post, though it does contain affiliate links to books that will hopefully help on your family’s college journey.

Jona Jacobsons top picks for college planning books

1. The College Solution by Lynn O’Shaughnessy is particularly good at focusing in on the financial issues of paying for college.

2. Admission Matters by Sally P. Springer has all-around great information on how the college application process works these days and how to prepare and get through it.

3. College Match by Steven Antonoff. When it comes to the college search process, helping students with self-reflection and figuring out how they can find colleges that are a good-fit for them is an important part of the process. College Match has a lot of wisdom intermingled with some very helpful questionnaires—all of which give students insight into their own needs and preferences. The book then leads students to take those preferences and use them to figure out what they want in a college.

4. Fiske Guide to Colleges is a good basic book with nuts and bolts information about a variety of colleges. The Best 378 Collegesby Princeton Review is also a good resource, however, students need to know what they want in a college in order to use  these books effectively.

5. Cool Colleges by Donald Asher is a resource that shines light on a number of colleges that are distinctive in a variety of ways. Many of the schools are not on as many student’s radars as they probably should be.  It is a very worthwhile read, especially if a student is trying to find good-fit colleges that are not the ones all their peers are applying to.

6. Colleges that Change Lives Loren Pope focuses on a number of small liberal arts colleges that the author believes to be distinctive for the way they really make a difference for students.

7. America’s Best Colleges for B Students by Tamra B. Orr is on the list because many students are, in fact, B students and may want to look for colleges or universities where they are likely to thrive.  That is something that is difficult to glean simply from the GPA and standardized test averages available through a number of resources.

8. Meeting College Costs is a good and very short book published by the College Board. It helps families figure out how financial aid works and how to complete the financial aid applications.

Jona Jacobson favorite college planning websites

The Internet offers an overwhelming amount of college planning resources. Below are a few helpful websites to get you started.

1. Fastweb is a great place to search for colleges and scholarships, and to understand college costs in general.

2. There are tons of search engines for researching colleges. I recommend CampusExplorer, CollegeView and College Confidential.

3. Another aspect of choosing colleges is the college visit.  If students cannot get to a college for an actual visit, or in order to narrow down the options to make a list of where students would like to go in person, here are a few websites that offer online virtual tours and video tours: YoUniversitytv, CampusTours and eCampus Tours.

4. College Week Live offers online college fairs—which is a great way to get to speak to admissions officers from colleges and to hear information about the colleges without having to get to the college at a time when they offer an info session.

Finally, there are a number of good resources on Twitter that can help students and parents keep up with news and updates in the world of college admissions.  Following the admissions offices of colleges, the student is interested in would be one place to start.