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Win the Financial Aid Tug of War

Believe it or not, you do have some pull in the college cash and financial aid struggle. While you may not be able to control the factors that make up your EFC (that's the Estimated Family Contribution, the figure that determines how financial aid worthy you are), there are some things you can do to cut college costs. In fact, says Dr. Herm Davis, author of College Financial Aid for Dummies (IDG Books, 1999), many money saving strategies only require minor changes in lifestyle. Take a look for yourself:

Get a study head-start in high school. By being an advanced placement afficionado you can earn between three and six credits per aced exam (depending on your choice schools). As you know, acquiring even one college credit ahead of time can save you hundreds.

Keep up your study pace in college, too. Time is money - it's true. If you make the transition to college successfully, try taking an extra class, and register for summer and/or winter sessions. Just think of what you could do with a year's tuition if you graduate early.

Don't overlook state, city, and community colleges. A great education does not necessarily require Ivy-clad walls. Look into lower-cost, local options before you sign off on the loan dotted line.

Cash in on your expertise. You've been temping for a computer company for two years, why should you have to take the Intro to Computer Literacy pre-requisite? You shouldn't. Many colleges offer competency exams that will exempt those who demonstrate their knowledge from 101 courses. Additionally, you may be a candidate for College-Level examination Programs (CLEP), which are exams given by the College Board (the SAT people).

Pitch in what you can. Where does all your money go, you wonder? If you have no idea, make an active decision now to monitor and cut down on your spending. Setting aside even a few bucks a week can come in handy when those expenses start to stack up.