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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.

College Degree without Drowning in Debt Reviewed

When I think about how much it will cost to send my kids to college, three words pop into my brain. Scholarships. Scholarships. Scholarships! Were you thinking the same thing? The Internet makes it easier for students to find scholarships. Unfortunately, the web also makes it easier for scammers to cheat students out of their time and money. That’s no fun.

I was excited to get a copy of Getting a College Degree without Drowning in Debt: How to Find Scholarships Online by Gyan Devi and Myrriah Lavin.

Keep reading to find out how you can get your free copy.

My two cents on College Degree without Drowning in Debt

The book has four major sections:

  • An overview that explains why scholarships are worth the trouble
  • A breakdown of what students need to jumpstart their scholarship hunt
  • An analysis of some of the best and worst scholarship websites and mobile apps
  • A primer on how to avoid scholarship scams

College Degree without Drowning in Debt was a quick, easy read. The information was practical and actionable. I liked how the authors challenge students to think of their scholarship search like their own home business. As scholarship entrepreneurs, students create a workspace, set a schedule, and enlist a team of people to help.

You may know first-generation college students are those students whose parents don’t have a college degree. But if you’re like me, you may not have realized that if one parent has a college degree and the other doesn’t, the student is still considered a first-generation college student. They can go after those first generation scholarships, too!

That’s just a small taste of the tips and tricks that I learned from reading this book.

Would you recommend to a friend?

I would recommend the book to any student who is serious about finding scholarships online. My recommendation comes with one caveat.

A good portion of the book is dedicated to the author’s analysis of scholarship websites and mobile apps. While its a great guide for avoiding scholarship scams, the detail of this section might slow down the scholarship hunter who needs to take quick action. Fortunately, the authors include a rating system to pinpoint the best websites. And which websites to avoid like an angry jellyfish.

Dont just take my word for it. Thanks to the authors, you can get a courtesy copy of Getting a College Degree without Drowning in Debt: How to Find Scholarships Online. Head over to Smashwords and use coupon code GU43W. The offer ends May 31st. After that, you can pick up a copy on Amazon.