It's back to school time. If you have high school students, especially juniors or seniors, then you know how busy the next few months are going to be to get them ready for college: SAT/ACT exams, applications, essays, financial aid plans, choosing a school, waiting for the acceptance letter, deciding on a dorm or apartment and the hopeful hunt for scholarships. Paying for college can be a big hurdle for many families, especially during these tough economic times.

Here are the ABCs of making college a reality without breaking the bank:

A: Apply for scholarships

There are a ton of them out there, just waiting to be given away. There are a number of paid and free websites where you can find scholarship information. Talk to your high school counselors because they usually have drawers and files full of local organizations which offer money as well. Going back to school at an older age? Don't worry - you can qualify for many scholarships too.

There are a number of bizarre scholarships available, including ones for being tall, being left-handed and even drinking milk. Many scholarships require essays, so conquer the applications one day, one essay at a time. Some scholarships are funded by someone who had to overcome some kind of disability in life. Some promote certain products. There is a fun annual contest sponsored by Duct Tape where the company gives scholarships to high school students who create the best prom outfits out of duct tape.

B: Buy textbooks on sale

Textbooks are ridiculously expensive. Many students buy textbooksat a discount by shopping online. Your student can sell his books back when he's done.

C: Consider your career path

. If you're interested in military service, the US Army and Air Force offer a free college education with some after-graduation service required. Talk to your parents to see if their companies offer grants, loans or scholarships to employees or their families. Find out if your parents receive a special alumni discount from their alma maters.

D: Dorm living should be done only once

. It is great freshman year as you try to get adjusted to college life, but after that, living off campus is usually less expensive. You can offer to do yard or home maintenance to receive a discount on rent. Many duplexes and small homes in college towns are owned by "absentee" owners living out of state, so they'd be happy to have a hard-working student keep an eye on their property. Start your apartment search online. Invite your friends to join you and you could get a free month's rent or referral fee.

E: Eat for cheap

Brown bagging it is usually less expensive than any other way of dining, but students often get discount cards to eat on campus. Some campus food plans are pricey and restrictive, so be sure to check the fine print. Student ID cards can often save you money at local restaurants, theaters, museums and other venues, so be sure to carry it on you when you go out.

F: Federal Student Aid can save you money

Applications are long and obnoxious, but submitting a FAFSA is one of the best ways to save money on tuition. It can result in grants money, lower student loans or priority for the college student. Get started early to get through the red tape before the semester starts.

G: Get the best teachers

You will have the best learning experience by signing up for the best rated professors on campus. Reviews are posted by other students who had the teachers.

H: Have fun, but be smart

College can be a blast, but make sure you're going to graduate with a degree that will actually get you a job in the end. While a degree in underwater basket weaving would be fun, think about the end goal. Unfortunately, the world will only pay you what it thinks you're worth, how good you are at performing a service and how difficult it will be to replace you. Find your passion and specialty and then make yourself marketable.

For moms and dads who are just a bit envious of their children's opportunity to learn new things at school, you can find all kinds of free college courses online.

If anyone is interested in Entrepreneurship and learning more about what it takes to own or run a business, check out the podcasts from Stanford Universityand Harvard Business School.

Whether you or your children pursue higher education to improve career options or to enrich your lives, learning should be a life-long goal.

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