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Saving for their child’s college tuition is a top priority for most parents, right up there with saving for retirement. However, tuition fees are frightfully expensive and saving for college is easier said than done. Just when it seems like things are going as planned, life often throws a curve-ball that can deplete your savings in no time.

Fortunately, even if you have not managed to save enough for college, there are a few financial strategies that you can employ to put your child through school.

1. Do Extensive Research On Scholarships

Scholarships are the number one source of free money for college-bound students. There are thousands of scholarships offered every year by colleges themselves as well as by private businesses, community groups, and non-profit organizations. Best of all, you don’t have to return any money that you win by way of scholarships.

It could take time to find all the scholarship opportunities that you are eligible for but whatever time you spend is well worth it as you could stumble upon several little-known opportunities that you could apply for. Scholarships are awarded for a wide range of reasons, from high grades and athletic talent to community involvement, expertise in a foreign language, being the first in your family to attend college, being above a certain height and much, much more.

If your college savings do not amount to much, scholarships should be the very first financial strategy you employ in your search for funds.

2. Apply for Grants

Grants are another source of free money. Like scholarships, they do not have to be repaid. However, they are slightly different from scholarships in that they are need-based and not merit-based.

Grants are determined based on the financial information that you provide on the FAFSA or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is mandatory in order to avail of any type of financial aid, from grants to loans. The best time to submit this form is anytime after Jan 1 to end of Feb for the academic year that you are applying to.

The college that you are attending will typically award you the most generous grant. After reading through your FAFSA application and determining how much your family can afford to pay towards your tuition, they try to fill in the gap by offering you a generous grant.

There are state grants too. The amount and eligibility for state grants vary from state to state so you will have to make enquiries.

3. Take A Look At Work-Study Jobs

Taking up a work-study job is one way to earn money towards your college tuition and reduce your overall debt. This can be especially important if you have had to take large loans because you did not have any college savings.

When you enroll in a work-study program, you will be able to take up a part-time job on or nearly campus, provided that you meet the eligibility requirements. Eligibility for work-study jobs depends on your finances and your school’s available funding. You need to have filled and submitted the FAFSA to qualify for work-study jobs.

4. Apply For Student Loans

Very few students enroll in college without taking student loans to cover the deficit in their savings. If you have no college savings, you might have to take a larger loan than the average student.

Use student loans as a last resort to fund your college education. Unlike scholarships and grants, you will have to pay back the premium and a considerably high rate of interest on whatever loans you take.