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College budget tips: Part I: Tuition

Whether you're in college, thinking about going back or have kids in college, we all know the pain of the high costs. I decided to share some advice with a series of budgeting tips. Part One is the biggest challenge, and it is tuition.

Apply for federal aid. The first thing to do when financially planning for college is filling out the FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid). After filling it out completely, you will get a report back from your school indicating if you qualify for any grants, federal loans (with lower interest rates) or work-study (jobs at your school that are granted to candidates that qualify).

Consider your options. Before making a final decision on your school, consider your other options. Would taking your general education classes at a community college and transferring to another school later be an option? In most cases, that could save a lot of money. Would living at home be an option? If you're living at home rent free, chances are you can save upwards of $40,000 before college is over.

Meet with you school's financial department.After you choose your school, a financial adviser at your school can help you plan what will be the cost of attendance and help you figure out how you are going to pay. Ask about different payment options, additional loans, scholarships offered by the school and work aid programs.

Look for outside scholarships. Besides scholarships your school may offer, there are thousands of dollars worth of scholarship money that goes unused every year. Websites like Fastweb allow you search for scholarships you may qualify for.

Meet with an academic adviser. Regularly meet with an adviser throughout college to avoid taking classes that you don't need for your degree. Before starting, consider your major carefully so you don't end up wasting time and money by taking classes that won't help you graduate. And of course: Pass your classes!

Enroll in U-promise: Enrolling in U-promise takes a percentage of what you spend at certain stores and applies it towards your tuition.

Start saving now for your tuition! Stay tuned for the next part in my college budget tip series...

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