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Book Review:: Debt-Free U by Zac Bissonnette

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was reading Debt-Free U by Zac Bissonnette and that I’d do a review of it soon. Well, the wait is over and here’s my review…
Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents
I will definitely have all of my children read this book as they are preparing for adult life. I say “preparing for adult life” because I think this book has value even for those who are not going to college. I don’t think that everyone needs to go to college in order to be a productive member of society. I know I am probably in the minority in this, but I do believe that there are many opportunities that don’t require a “college” education. That being said, I do believe that everyone should be learning and growing during their adult years. Our learning doesn’t start or stop in a school setting.

This book is written in a very easy to read style. It seems to be geared toward families who “should” be able to send their child to college and so feel an enormous amount of pressure to take out loans, get second mortgages or put retirement investing on hold. If you are in a situation where your live near the poverty level, some of this information on financial aid may not apply to you. However, no matter your situation, this book gives enough information that you can look at all the scenarios and decide which is best for you.

I love some of the research he’s done on graduates from private and public colleges, for instance only 3 of the top 20 CEO’s from Fortune 500 companies went to “elite” schools. He also has charts on colleges where students graduate with the most debt and with the least. It appears to be more important what you do with your degree than where you got your degree.

The book has some practical advice on picking a college and classes. Advice that has the “college will be what you make of it” ring to it. At every college there will be partiers and if that’s what you want to do, you will find them. And at every college, there will be people who are serious about studying and if you are serious about your studies, you will find like minded people to hang out with. In every college there will be professors you like and ones you don’t. There will be classes you like and ones you don’t.

This leads him to advise that visiting a prospective college campus is a waste of time and money. In theory I agree, and yet, even after reading this book, we went to visit a college 8 hours away. I think that there is value in visiting a campus if the program is somewhat specialized. For instance, in alot of art schools you do not have the traditional MWF and TTH classes and you pick and chose what classes you take. There are some schools where your first semester you take this “class” that lasts from 8am-4pm M-TH with a lunch break. It’s one thing to sit through a class with an instructor you can’t stand for 3 hours a week, and it’s another thing to do it for almost 30 hours a week. I can also see where visiting a campus would be beneficial to a student who is nervous about going to college, or a student who is going to be playing sports, or you decide that it is needed for whatever reason. However, before you go, read Chapter 3 so you don’t get sucked in to anything you will regret later.

I really liked the chapter on how to make any school and Ivy League school, I think any student going to college should read this chapter. He also makes a case for the large public school over the small private school and he makes a good case for community colleges.

In case you haven’t already figured it out, I really liked the book. I think the fact that Zac Bissonnette was only 21 when he wrote this book (and in college) gives him a unique perspective on the subject. I also think my teenagers will receive the information better than they would if a middle aged “expert” wrote the book.

So what about you, know of any other good books on preparing for college? If so, leave your suggestion in the comments.

Thanks for sharing with your friends!