Scholarship Guidebooks: The Good, the Bad, and the Best of the 21st Century

Oakley Montgomery / Find More Scholarships »

Sometimes Google search results for scholarships can be overwhelming at best. If you prefer looking at information directly in your hands rather than searching online and you are looking for a scholarship guidebook, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve made a list of the good, the bad, and the best scholarship guidebooks to help you make a decision before you purchase one. In this list you’ll find particular guidebooks that we have researched and reviewed for your convenience. It’s never any fun when you order a book online, it doesn’t turn out how you expected, and you have to return it. These guidebooks may be super helpful or not at all. Included in the list are good and bad reviews from people who have previously read the guidebooks. We want you to know what you are getting yourself into when you buy these extremely large and heavy books. 


The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2020: Billions of Dollars in Scholarships, Grants and Prizes

By: Gen and Kelly Tanabe

4.5 out of 5 with 189 customer ratings 

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  • The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2020 comprises billions of dollars’ worth of rewards. 
  • It is the number-one best selling scholarship guidebook.
  • The scholarships are not specific to particular colleges; they apply to anyone attending any school.
  • The scholarships are categorized by such topics as Humanities and Arts, Science, Membership, Race, Religion, etc. There is also an index in the back of the book to help you find what you are looking for. 
  • Also included are helpful tips for how to win a scholarship as well as how to know which scholarship is right for you. Some pieces of advice include how to write a great scholarship essay and what to write about.


Positive Review: Sunny Side of Life 5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Information January 2, 2020

We have a high school senior and we are determined to see him graduate from college debt free. I have read the entire intro to the book and it has helped tremendously, there are hundreds of scholarship opportunities in the book and valuable information for applying. My son is my first child who is graduating, so I am out of my element as for what I need to do and how to help my son, this book is helping navigate the process. Even if he only gets one scholarship because of the book, it will make the purchase worth it. I highly recommend this book to any parent or high school junior or senior.


Negative Review: DP from CA 1.0 out of 5 stars Very old copy August 13, 2019

Although it says The Ultimate Guide 2020, I am sure it is a very old copy. Do they just change covers? The pages are so old that you cannot use it without sneezing 5 times per page. I am sure the content is as old as well. I will be returning it soon. Hope there is a better copy somewhere out there.


My Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars March 10, 2020

First of all, the Ultimate Scholarship Book 2020 is big. I brought it with me to a coffee shop and had to pull another table next to mine in order to look at it properly. And if I wanted to learn more about some of the scholarships, I had to type in a web address, which kind of defeated much of the purpose of the physical book. One way that the book integrated with the internet, however, is through the companion site Here, you are able to type in the scholarship code as referenced in the book and get directed to more information. 

One grievance I have is that the book claims to offer scholarships for anyone regardless of the school they attend, but I found that to be false. Some of them are exclusive to specific colleges.  I also found that the web addresses they gave did not lead you directly to the scholarship. Some of the deadlines were not correct either. Most scholarship applications are online so it doesn’t really make sense to me to have this huge printed book telling you where to apply for scholarships on the internet. That said, I do think this book is a helpful place to start. There are some great opportunities listed, and there are so many resources to look through that it helps you get an idea of what to look for. 


Scholarship, Grants, and Prizes 2020 , 24th Edition

By: Peterson’s

4.3 out of 5 with 10 customer ratings

  • Scholarship, Grants, and Prizes 2020 has over a million privately funded scholarships to choose from with billions of dollars’ worth of rewards.
  • This book gives you a great table of contents and an index to help you find what you are looking for. They separate the scholarships into such categories as Arts, Finance, Geology, Social Services, Philosophy, etc. It also separates scholarships by state to help you with your search. 
  • Within this book are detailed profiles for each scholarship so that you know what you are applying for. 
  • It includes useful tips for how to write a great scholarship essay. 
  • Also included are many different strategies for how to win scholarships, how to know what scholarships are right for you, and how to use your resources to your advantage. 


Positive Review: Scott Lanin  5.0 out of 5 stars useful and well organized January 11, 2020

Useful and well organized


Negative Review: MnYsMom 2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing January 26, 2020

Many entries are outdated and not just from last year. Some are going back to offers from 2016 and 2017. Wish the editors had spent a little more time reviewing. Some of the scholarship offers seem like scams or ways to get your child’s photo. Some contacts for scholarships are listed in European Slavik countries and some require you to submit a fee. You should never have to pay a fee to apply for a scholarship and a photograph should not be required until after the scholarship has been awarded. Poor editing and due diligence for what should be a helpful guide to scholarships.


My Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars March 10, 2020

Scholarships, Grants, and Prizes 2020 is HUGE. I’ve never held a book this big and this heavy. While there are so many scholarships and categories, the book takes up unnecessary space by listing the same scholarship in multiple categories. Because of the way it is set up, it makes it difficult to see where certain categories begin and end. Throughout the scholarship pages, it becomes confusing when they repeat scholarships in certain sections but only include the name of it and leave you with a “see page 123” for the original posting of it. In some cases there are pages of these types of repeat listings. I also found that the web addresses associated with each scholarship does not directly lead to the scholarship, but rather the homepage of the scholarship’s donor.
What I like about this book is that it includes the eligibility requirements for each scholarship, saving you time by making it easy to know which ones aren’t worth the extra attention. The beginning also has 10 short articles with helpful tips about how to win scholarships. But that only takes up about 30 pages. The other 1000 are filled up with scholarship information. 

Paying for College, 2020 Edition: Everything You Need to Maximize Financial Aid and Afford College (College Admissions Guides) 

By: The Princeton Review and Kalman Chany

4.5 out of 5 with 2 customer ratings 

  • This book doesn’t list any scholarships, but it does come with many different tips to help you navigate paying for college.
  • Its tips include how to fill out the FAFSA, how to maximize your financial aid eligibility, and how to handle funding for certain life circumstances, specifically in separated families.


Positive Review: Canoegreg 5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the read October 25, 2019

I really appreciate the info that is in the book. As a divorced parent, I found it invaluable to help me know what was needed to do and what my options were.


Average Review: Paul Allaer 4.0 out of 5 stars Hands-on advice and super-practical assessment regarding college financial aid October 3, 2019

Paying For College: Everything You Need to Maximize Financial Aid and Afford College (2020 Edition)” (2019 publication; 356 pages) is the latest edition of the book that a few years ago was published as “Paying For College Without Going Broke”. In the book’s opening, the authors observe that “You might think that the families who receive the most financial aid would be the families with the most need. In fact, this is not necessarily true. … Financial aid strategy is for everyone. Whether you are just getting by or reasonably well off, you still want to maximize your aid eligibility.” In the “Long Term Strategy” chapter, the authors remind us of the formidable financial mountain that will needed to be climbed by anyone wishing to send their kids to college. If your school’s tuition, room and board is $50,208, it will be $70,823 in a mere 10 years, and the cost rises an average of 3.5% a year (compounded yearly, of course).


My Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars March 10, 2020

Thankfully, this is an average-sized book, unlike the previous ones mentioned. Its tips are extremely helpful with an understanding of where you are on your college journey. Within this book, there are tips on applying for scholarships and going to college in general. The first article, for instance, says, “If this is so good for me, why does it feel so bad?” I think that’s a perfect worry that a lot of students face: If college is so great, why does it cost so much? The book continues by helping you wrap your head around the process of going to college and why it is so worthwhile. It then goes on to help you take control of your situation and what might be the most beneficial financial route for you to take. The book also shows you sample forms that you might have to fill out, giving you a headstart to avoid stress. Another great aspect of the book is that it comes with supplemental online content as well. All you need to do is plug in your book’s code, and you’ll have access to even more free and helpful content. 


The Scholarship System: 6 Simple Steps on How to Win Scholarships and Financial Aid 

By: Jocelyn Marie Paonita and Adam Carroll

4.1 out of 5 with 78 customer ratings

  • This book gives you tips for how to manage your scholarships, giving you “six simple steps on how to win college scholarships and secure financial aid.” 
  • There are no scholarship profiles in this book, but rather helpful tips for how to find and search for them. 
  • It includes tactics and testimonials that can help you in your search for finding the right scholarships to match your needs. 
  • It comes with a free audiobook and “Action Guide.”


Positive Review: Anne S. Hohenemser 5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars October 19, 2015

Useful book for a granddaughter preparing for college admission


Negative Review: CHP 1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing new May 19, 2017

Very disappointed. It’s hyped to tell you where to find scholarships. What a waste of money. Let me ruin the end for you, use a book of scholarships or goggle, that is what she said. Not helpful at all. Nothing new here.


My Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars March 10, 2020

I was able to download the Action Guide as well as the complete audiobook without actually purchasing the book! You aren’t required to put in a certain code from the book to gain access to them. The Action Guide includes a checklist for you when applying for scholarships. It comes with an outline for your personal statement as well as one for a thank-you letter if you were to win one of the scholarships. The book also comes with a step-by-step process on how you should go about looking for and applying to scholarships.


Confessions of a Scholarship Winner: The Secrets That Helped Me Win $500,000 in Free Money for College- How You Can Too! 

By: Kristina Ellis

4.2 out of 5 stars with 231 ratings

  • Confessions of a Scholarship Winner is written from the perspective of a former college student. She gives you tips on how to win with personal narratives of how she earned her scholarship money. According to the title page, she won around $500,000!
  • The book gives you tips on how to find the best scholarship for you and how to determine what to apply for.
  • Having done her own scholarship interviews, she gives tips and hints for how to conduct a successful scholarship interview. 
  • The narrative style makes the book feel more personable and the scholarship process less intimidating.


Positive Review: Indira Rampersad 5.0 out of 5 stars Written From A Powerful Teen Perspective (not from an adult…) February 20, 2015

I read this book a second time and this is what I conclude: This book was not truly written for parents, it was written by a 24 yr old college graduate woman who beat the odds while attending high school, and made it through an awesome college! The reality is that to get into college you need great grades, not just good, and a more meaningful life (except if you are recruited by a technology company or you have super wealthy parents with college connections).She shares that top colleges/universities want a package deal. They want to recruit someone who is academically inclined (AP courses, Honor Roll), has over come some setback (family, emotional, academic via financial/emotional, environmental and i.e… abuse, alcohol, divorce, etc), and that is willing to go the extra mile (had a meaningful job, volunteered after school, baby sat siblings, did chores, help with household upkeep, comforted a parent because they were depressed, and any experience that a kid today is going through…they have a long list on us…) to learn and acquire knowledge. She correctly states that colleges want meaningful applicants and not those that tout old ideas. The thing about this book is that it was truly written for a 14-15 yr old and not for parents that are currently searching for grants. It is a meaningless task if your child does not have the required portfolio and this book may have arrived a little late… If I had read this book at 15, I would have probably been influenced to excel to the next level. I would have known that I needed to do much more than just get great grades, and would have participated more meaningfully in the community. The problem is the many poor urban and rural high school kids will never get to read this book…


Negative Review: J Estrada 1.0 out of 5 stars No Confession Here…..Most Parents Already Know the Basic Info in the Book January 8, 2017

This book is more of an autobiography than a resource guide. Her own story is very inspiring on how she overcame bad odds and was driven to succeed, however the book only provides a couple, if any, basic tips for scholarships. Most of the information is already known and can be found on the internet. I would not have bought this book had I known she won two junior Olympic gold medals, crowned Miss Jr Teen, and Miss Indiana Teen USA. I feel those grand titles had a lot to do with winning most of those scholarships. Basically, she states students need to get involved with the community by volunteering, been an outstanding member of the community, have good grades, join clubs, have good resume, good relationship with your teachers , get recommendation letters, and a great essay. I just saved you $12.


How to Go to College Almost for 

By Ben Kaplan

3.5 out of 5 with 107 customer ratings

  • How to Go to College Almost for Free includes secrets about how to score scholarship money with an understanding of what’s best for you.
  • The author, having won enough scholarship money to go to school almost for free, wrote this book to help others do the same. 
  • With the book, you have access to more online information with FAQs and additional information to help you through your process. 


Positive Review: krc18 5.0 out of 5 stars I’m amazed at how much I didn’t know! July 19, 2008

Being the first person in my immediate and extended family to go to college, I had no one there to pave the way to college for me–I especially had no one to guide me through the entire world of financial aid. I am now going to be a college sophomore in the fall, and I wish more than anything I would have had this book in high school! There is so much information I did not know about the entire world of financial aid that would have come in handy before I ever attended college! Even now, I am learning so much from this book that seem like such simple ideas but that I would have never thought of! This book is incredibly organized and very informative. I am going to recommend it to many of my closest friends. [Not everyone though…I want an edge in winning scholarships! :-)]


Negative Review: Scott W. Johnson 1.0 out of 5 stars This book is a scam. It constantly references things … July 26, 2014

This book is a scam. It constantly references things available on his “free” website. However, you have to get permission to access the site. I sent numerous requests for permission. It has been over 6 weeks and I have still not been granted access. The only thing I get from trying to register is a message stating I can get reduced access for “only $99”. What is most infuriating is that the author discusses how to get more info on his website while also stating to be “cautious” of sites that require payment. Supposedly the author studied Economics at Harvard; one would think he would have learned more sophisticated ways of earning a living.


The Financial Aid Handbook: Getting the Education You Want for the Price You Can Afford 

By: Carol Stack

4.7 out of 5 with 32 customer ratings

  • The Financial Aid Handbook explores the many myths that people report about paying for college, including all the things that cause you to stress about student loans, financial aid, etc. 
  • Not only does the book clarify the different forms of financial aid, but it also provides guidance for how to cope with student debt after graduation.


Positive Review: Caitlin McNally 5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book on the Subject November 19, 2015

I worked in the student loan industry and this book contains a long overdue message. Do not overpay for college. Colleges are BUSINESSES. Unless money is no object, the days of education for the sake of education are over. Remember, no admission officer in history has ever said “this college is too expensive given your means” or “did you know you can get the same thing from Better Value University for half the price?” This book contains tons of well written advice from people who know what they’re talking about. Listen to them.


Negative Review: Eduardo W 3.0 out of 5 stars Useful but unnecessarily long. They copy-pasted some parts. December 22, 2017

On page 130 you will find the title “How will you know what the top 25 percent of the class is” and on page 148 you will find exactly the same title with exactly the same information! So they clearly used a copy-paste approach throughout the book to make it as long as possible and sell it for $17 instead of $6. To be fair, the book has some useful information, but it could have been 75% shorter.


Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents 

By: Zac Bissonnett

4.2 out of 5 with 170 customer ratings

  • Unique to all the others, Debt-Free U approaches student loans with skill. The author explains that student loans are not a necessary evil and that it’s possible to get a “champagne degree on a beer budget.” He even describes how you don’t necessarily need scholarships to help you pay for college. 
  • Included are helpful tips for graduate programs as well, admitting that many graduate schools accept students with “non-elite bachelor degrees.” Much of the book is all about debunking common misconceptions.


Positive Review: Paul Castro 5.0 out of 5 stars I did not think I was going to like this book March 15, 2018

I did not think I was going to like this book. I’ve been in education for over 20 years and I found that I had plenty to learn about the entire college selection admission process. With a daughter about to start college in 15 months, I found this to be an eye-opener. The book is easy to read and filled with stats and stories. Though at times, the author’s personality is a bit much, the value of the info more than makes up for it. That same personality probably also makes the book more entertaining for those my daughter’s age. This should be required reading for parents and students in high school (the earlier the better). It might cure some people of their misunderstanding of the student financial aid industry and how different it is today from when I was in college in the early 90’s.


Negative Review: Ramen Noodles 1.0 out of 5 stars Very little useful information December 14, 2012

I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. However, it has some major problems. First, if you are thinking of purchasing this book to find some magical way to reduce your tuition expenses, this book will not show you the way. The only thing the author recommends is to go to a community college for your first two years and then transfer to an affordable in-state school. Oh, and he says you should work a part-time job during school, too. That’s about it. Wow! What amazing advice! (Not)

Another problem that I have with this book is that the author makes the (laughable) argument that it really doesn’t matter what you major in…as long as it’s something you are passionate about. He even goes so far as to state that potential employers will value your communication skills if you major in theater. Seriously, it’s really in the book. The author himself is an art history major. Okay, I’ll cut him a bit of slack on this one. He did write the book while still in college and hadn’t had very much real world experience yet. He’ll learn soon enough when he tries to get a job with his art history degree (useless).  Yet another problem I have with this book is that he devotes an entire chapter on purchasing real estate in college towns to rent out. Huh? Is this a real estate book or a book on lowering your tuition bills?


All of these scholarship guidebooks give great insight into the college process. Whether they give you advice on how to use scholarships or a suggestion to ditch scholarships and find another way, the more insight you have will allow you to make smart, informed decisions. Discover what you need to fulfill your dream of affording a college education!


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