Paying for college is tougher than ever. Every college planning expert's first words of advice are: Start early.
''As soon as the kid is born, or even before, it makes sense to begin thinking about it,'' said Doug Breithaupt, president of the College Planning Network in Seattle. ''The best thing is to begin working with a financial planner. It's not expensive to get professional help.''
But even if your savings fall a little, or a lot, short of the tuition goal, don't give up hope.
''We don't want parents and students just assuming they can't afford it and not applying,'' said Kay Lewis, financial aid director at the University of Washington. ''There are still aid programs available.''
High school seniors should start looking for scholarships and grants now. Apply broadly, experts say you never know what might come through. Deadline for some scholarship applications start in October and some go until May.
In January, the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid known by its tongue-twisting acronym, FAFSA will come out. This is the one-stop shopping application for government financial aid.
There are tons of online resources for students seeking financial aid, such as free searches for scholarships and grants. Here are a few sites to get you started:
Federal financial aid
State Higher Education Coord-inating Board
Northwest Education Loan Association's Center for Student Success
College Planning Network
Washington Dollars for Scholars
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