College costs have risen exponentially, almost 200% in the last twenty years. This means that most families are unprepared to pay for college. Many turn to costly options such as expensive student loans, or pulling funds early out of retirement accounts, incurring taxes and penalties. Or they limit their school choices to less expensive in-state public schools, thus potentially missing out on a best-fit educational opportunity for their child (or children). Unfortunately, many families, especially middle and upper income families, feel resigned to paying full price. They either put off or give up other personal financial goals, such as retirement, paying off their house, or even taking a vacation. Yet, if these families learn how the financial aid system works, the types of aid available, and what action steps they can take, then they can send their children to their dream schools without sacrificing their retirement or taking unnecessary financial risk.