Research scholarships and discuss the education cost of your child’s career goals at the start of high school.

Conduct a Back-to-School Checkup for College Savings

Frankly assess a student’s scholarship potential as high school starts to help plan college savings.

Research scholarships and discuss the education cost of your child’s career goals at the start of high school.
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4. Evaluate the educational costs of career goals: Visit with high school counselors in the beginning of a student's freshman year to start thinking about college options, she says. Counselors can help assess children's academic and career goals to determine which schools are a good match. 

Woessner weighs career goals heavily, especially in regard to filling in savings and scholarship gaps with student loans. 

"If a student wants to pursue a career in social work, I'm not going to encourage attending a college where they'll leave with a lot of debt," she says. However, a strong candidate for an engineering degree can afford to borrow a little bit more based on future earning potential in the field. 

Paying for college involves a balance of free money, including scholarships and grants, family savings and student loans, Levison says. To acquire more of the first two and avoid the latter, don't wait until a student's senior year to plan college funding, she says. 

Trying to fund your education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for College center.