Next to buying a house, planning for college expenses can be one of the biggest financial projects that parents and their children undertake. Four years of college costs tens of thousands of dollars, and it is increasingly easy to break into the hundreds-of-thousands range, especially for advanced degrees. Parents, you've probably wondered just how you can manage to send your child to the college or university that he or she has dreamed about and earned the right to attend.


Photo courtesy Duke Photography

We all hear horror stories about how much college costs now and -- even worse -- how much it will cost in 10 or 20 years. Regardless of what you've heard, it's not too late to find a way to make paying for college manageable -- not easy, but manageable. Paying for college is a family affair -- parents and students work together to make college affordable. Obviously, the earlier you start, the easier it will be. However, it's never too late to make a difference.

There are three basic ways to pay for college. You can pay for it before your child enrolls, while he or she is enrolled in college or after graduation. Many people use a combination of the three. Think of the wide range of options as a smorgasbord from which you select the approaches that fit your family's payment strategy. In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we'll examine how you can use college financial aid -- from scholarships to work/study jobs to student loans -- to help pay for that all-important education. Let's start planning!