Book Review: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Financial Aid for College (Second Edition)

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You don’t have to be a complete idiot to need a little guidance in matters of finding and securing money for college. But just in case you are, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Financial Aid for College is the perfect roadmap to the financial aid process. (And it works pretty well for the rest of us, too!)

What it is. This book is the second (and newest) edition from David Rye, M.B.A. and a great resource for parents, high school students, or anyone wanting to be sure they have all their college money bases covered. Like most “Idiot” books, the layout is simple, the info relevant, and the value adequate. Even if you’ve been around the college block a time or two, there is probably something new you could take away from this read.

How it reads. Written in language you can understand, the guide starts from scratch with defining college aid and lets you know there is plenty out there – if you qualify. In addition to the basics and not-so-basics of getting college money, there is a super foundation for determining where and how to go to college (as these choices can keep the initial costs down.) Cool little side notes, action plans, and FYI’s make this a candidate for “skimming” for just what you need.

What it covers. There’s more to this book than the FAFSA, and it can sit as a handy shelf-reference long after that first-year application process. Topics include:

  • What is financial aid?
  • What is the best college for me?
  • How do I use a college savings plan?
  • What’s a grant? What’s a loan?
  • What special minority, ethnic, field-related, and associative funds are available to me?
  • What’s a financial aid package?
  • Can I negotiate a better offer?
  • What are some cost-cutting strategies?

All the extras. In addition to going into detail on the above questions, there is a up-to-date appendix that provides a glossary for terms, current financial aid resources, and a state-by-state listing of aid.

You don’t have to be clueless or just starting out to benefit from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Financial Aid for College.  Some valid and unique discussions had me really thinking ahead to plans for my own children’s college funding.  If you’re not completely up on junior fellowships, cooperative educations, merit-based scholarship myths, 529 plans, or why more expensive may actually be cheaper, this may be a great read for you or a prospective college student. 


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Guest's picture

Financial Aid is one of those massive, swirling black clouds hanging over our heads this time of year, but it doesn't have to be that scary. Read this book, talk to your child's school counselor and other parents who have been through the process and you'll be ok. We just went through it and it turns out that the most expensive college my son applied to didn't cost us any more out-of-pocket than the state schools.

Good advice - thanks for this review!

Guest's picture

I'd just like to second that more expensive schools are not as scary as they seem. I'm about to graduate (one more week, ack!) from a private university which had a slightly frightening price tag, but I received so much in the way of grants and scholarships, that only about half of it had to be covered by loans, so it worked out to about the same as an in-state school. And I know I got a much better education here than I could have in a state school.

Small class sizes (my smallest class was three people, my largest, an extremely rare 60), one on one attention with your professors (not TA's), which equals out to glowing recommendations letters and the sort of individual attention that is worth more than any price.

I'd like to check out this guide for getting ready to pay for graduate school, thanks for the review!

Guest's picture
Brenda Helverson

Another way to deal with the high costs of college is to give up the idea that you are going to finish in 4 years by decreasing your course load and getting a part-time job. At smaller colleges, a course may only be offered every other year, and this increases the possibility of scheduling a course that might be blocked out by taking a normal full schedule. You also have more time for interaction with your Profs if you aren't juggling so many classes and may enjoy better grades.

My undrgrad college had a 4-year EE program that required 16-18 hours per Quarter. It was brutal. As a 5-year student, I had a lot more time to appreciate my courses and to enjoy college life.