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The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price

Book Description

The College Solution helps readers look beyond over-hyped admission rankings to discover schools that offer a quality education at affordable prices. Taking the guesswork out of saving and finding money for college, this is a practical and insightful must-have guide for every parent!”

—Jaye J. Fenderson, Seventeen’s College Columnist and Author, Seventeen’s Guide to Getting into College

“This book is a must read in an era of rising tuition and falling admission rates. O’Shaughnessy offers good advice with blessed clarity and brevity.”

—Jay Mathews, Washington Post Education Writer and Columnist

“I would recommend any parent of a college-bound student read The College Solution.”

—Kal Chany, Author, The Princeton Review’s Paying for College Without Going Broke

The College Solution goes beyond other guidebooks in providing an abundance of information about how to afford college, in addition to how to approach the selection process by putting the student first.”

—Martha “Marty” O’Connell, Executive Director, Colleges That Change Lives

“Lynn O’Shaughnessy always focuses on what’s in the consumer’s best interest, telling families how to save money and avoid making costly mistakes.”

—Mark Kantrowitz, Publisher, and Author, FastWeb College Gold

“An antidote to the hype and hysteria about getting in and paying for college! O’Shaughnessy has produced an excellent overview that demystifies the college planning process for students and families.”

—Barmak Nassirian, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers

For millions of families, the college planning experience has become extremely stressful. And, unless your child is an elite student in the academic top 1%, most books on the subject won’t help you.

Now, however, there’s a college guide for everyone. In The College Solution, top personal finance journalist Lynn O’Shaughnessy presents an easy-to-use roadmap to finding the right college program (not just the most hyped) and dramatically reducing the cost of college, too.

Forget the rankings! Discover what really matters: the quality and value of the programs your child wants and deserves.

O’Shaughnessy uncovers “industry secrets” on how colleges actually parcel out financial aid—and how even “average” students can maximize their share. Learn how to send your kids to expensive private schools for virtually the cost of an in-state public college...and how promising students can pay significantly less than the “sticker price” even at the best state universities.

No other book offers this much practical guidance on choosing a college...and no other book will save you as much money!

•  Secrets your school’s guidance counselor doesn’t know yet

The surprising ways colleges have changed how they do business

•  Get every dime of financial aid that’s out there for you

Be a “fly on the wall” inside the college financial aid office

•  U.S. News & World Report: clueless about your child

Beyond one-size-fits-all rankings: finding the right program for your teenager

• The best bargains in higher education

Overlooked academic choices that just might be perfect for you

Table of Contents

  1. Copyright
  2. Praise for The College Solution
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. About the Author
  5. Foreword
  6. Introduction
  7. Capturing Financial Aid
    1. Where Is the $$$?
      1. Follow the Money Trail
    2. Looking for Cash in the Right Places
      1. Answering the Financial Aid Question
    3. Using Financial Aid Tools
      1. Federal Versus Institutional Methodology
      2. Getting the Results
    4. Financial Aid in the Real World
    5. A Peek Inside a Financial Aid Office
    6. Winning the Financial Aid Lottery
    7. Maximizing Financial Aid
    8. Maximizing Financial Aid, Part II
    9. Appealing the Verdict
  8. Capturing Tuition Discounts
    1. The Race for Cash
    2. The Inside Scoop on Merit Money
    3. Academic Freebies
    4. Creating a Buzz
    5. Playing the Gender Card
  9. Finding Great Academic Fits
    1. The Hidden Truth
    2. The Knock Against U.S. News & World Report
      1. What’s Wrong with the Rankings?
      2. An Alternative
    3. The Rankings Antidote
      1. Cracking the Secrecy
      2. Hidden Gems
      3. Using the NSSE Survey
      4. Asking the Right Questions
      5. Naming Names
    4. Research Made Easy
      1. The Education Trust (
      2. College Navigator (
      3. U-CAN, or University & College Accountability Network
      4. Common Data Set
    5. Grading Academic Departments
      1. Research Nuts and Bolts
    6. Grading Academic Departments, Part II
    7. The Value of Undergraduate Research
    8. Grading Professors
      1. The Value of Online Ratings
  10. Overlooked Academic Choices
    1. Stop Hyperventilating
    2. The Allure of Liberal Arts Colleges
    3. What Makes Public Liberal Arts Colleges Special
    4. Teaching Versus Research
    5. Learning in a Crowd
      1. Schools with Learning Communities
  11. Exploring Community Colleges
    1. Considering a Community College
    2. Why Community Colleges Are Popular
      1. Hottest Community College Careers
      2. Dorm Life and Community Colleges
    3. Is Your Local Community College Any Good?
      1. Rankings and Community Colleges
      2. Best 30 Community Colleges
    4. Getting Credit for Your Work
  12. College Admission Nuts & Bolts
    1. Knowing When to Do What
      1. Freshman Year
      2. Sophomore Year
      3. Junior Year
      4. Senior Year
    2. Grading College Counselors
      1. Why You Might Want a Lifeline
      2. Independent College Counselors
      3. Finding a College Counselor
      4. The Cost of Advice
      5. High School Counselors
    3. Ditching the SAT
    4. Writing Your Way into College
    5. Visiting Campuses
    6. Acing the College Interview
    7. Getting In at the Last Minute
  13. College Diversity
    1. Diversity Blueprint
      1. Graduation Rates
      2. Look Beyond the Names
      3. Looking Beyond the Obvious
  14. Economizing for College
    1. Shrinking the College Tab
    2. Shrinking the College Tab, Part II
    3. Freebies and Best Buys
      1. Working Colleges
      2. Blue Light Specials
      3. Graduation Guarantees
    4. Capturing Private Scholarships
      1. Finding Private Scholarships
  15. Navigating the Student Loan Maze
    1. The Student Loan Fiasco
    2. Student Loan Primer
    3. Disappearing Discounts
    4. Private Loan Perils
    5. Default Debacles
  16. Maximizing College Accounts
    1. A 529 Primer
      1. 529 Backgrounder
      2. 529 Nuts and Bolts
      3. Advisors Versus Do-It-Yourself
      4. Check the Costs
      5. Top 529 Funds
      6. Prepaid 529 Plan
    2. College Investing Cheat Sheet
      1. T. Rowe Price Model Portfolios
      2. Vanguard’s Model Portfolios
    3. The Perils of Cashing Out College Accounts
      1. 529 Plans That Bite
      2. Financial Aid
    4. Grading Financial Advisers
      1. 529 Plan Assistance
      2. Financial Planners and Education Advice
  17. The Folks Back Home
    1. Parents Behaving Badly
      1. Parent Checklist
    2. Getting Grandma to Help
    3. The College Solution Cheat Sheet
      1. Capturing Financial Aid
      2. Capturing Tuition Discounts
      3. Finding Great Academic Fits
      4. Overlooked Academic Choices
      5. Exploring Community Colleges
      6. College Admission Nuts and Bolts
      7. College Diversity
      8. Economizing for College
      9. Navigating the Student Loan Maze
      10. Maximizing College Accounts
      11. The Folks Back Home
    4. Resource Guide
      1. Academic Accreditation Agencies
      2. Academic Quality
      3. Canadian Schools
      4. College Advisors
      5. College Applications
      6. Community Colleges
      7. Financial Aid
      8. Financial Aid Applications
      9. 529 Plans
      10. Graduation Rates
      11. Higher Education Press Coverage & Trends
      12. Interviews
      13. Learning Communities
      14. Minorities and Colleges
      15. Private Colleges and Universities
      16. Researching Schools
      17. SAT/ACT Preparation
      18. Scholarships
      19. Student Loans
      20. Teacher Evaluations
      21. Text Books
      22. Undergraduate Research
      23. Working Colleges