Unlike most students, paying for college without colossal debt was no problem for Zac Bissonnette, author of the new book Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching Off My Parents. His main problem? Being too good-looking.
"The publisher said, 'The problem with this book is that it doesn't say anywhere in the title that you wrote it. It looks like it's just some model on the cover,'" Bissonnette said. "And I don't know how to say this without sounding like a douche bag, but the art director was like, 'If you were ugly, you wouldn't need that subtitle.'" (More on this quandary later.)
Bissonnette, 21, is a senior at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst and is majoring in art history. Now, you may be thinking, "What could he possibly know about money? He looks like the newest cast member on Gossip Girl or something. I want to hear this advice from Suze Orman, please. Suze?" But in actuality, Debt-Free U is an incredibly handy guide in navigating the tumultuous seas of college.
Other gems include not relying heavily on financial aid or scholarships, not going to a private college and just how bonkers college rankings are. Not to mention the two -- count 'em, two -- references to the Bennifer mega-flop Gigli.
Bissonnette's conversational tone makes the book very accessible and even --dare I say-- fun. In fact, so much so that it's easy to forget how much research was actually put into it.
Look, the subtitle (How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching Off My Parents) doesn't help. As it was pointed out earlier, it's merely there to remind you the book wasn't written by a 40-year-old and, while it suggests an autobiographical narrative, Bissonnette said Debt-Free U is about 90 percent research, most of which he did while still in high school.
"No one needs to believe my opinion on any of this and no shit, you shouldn't believe anyone's opinion on this," Bissonnette said. "You should look at the information and decide for yourself, There's a book about 40 colleges that change lives or something that had a student at a college who had a great experience. Well, I could have interviewed students at every one of those colleges who hated it and written a book called 40 Colleges That Suck. You can tell whatever story you want with anecdotes."
This is true, and while Bissonnette definitely shies away from over--sharing personal experiences, anecdotes about friends are rampant. You know, the whole "I know a girl who..." and "This friend of mine did..." But in spite of this, the pragmatic and anti-romanticized view of college in Debt-Free U is the big "a-ha" moment of the book -- and it is quite refreshing.
"I think there's a problem in thinking that college has to be the best four years of your life," Bissonnette said. "Well, if the best four years of your life puts you in so much debt that you can't pursue the career that you want, you can't have a family, you can't buy a house, then that's the worst four years of your life."
While you definitely won't be able to follow every single piece of advice and save the more than $100,000 the back cover touts, the numerous take-aways make this book a worthwhile read. Whether you're a B-average junior in high school trying to figure out where to apply or a junior in college with nothing in savings, wondering how to finance the second half of your undergrad degree, it'd sure be nice if you sent Bissonnette a muffin basket with all that extra money you'll have lying around.
MORE: Read Zac's take on how student debt will ruin your life and watch him talk about his book on the Today Show.