Can you believe it? Your child is almost off to college. You may have saved for this important moment, but the road ahead could still be unclear. What are your financial options to help pay for tuition? Use these tips to improve how you pay for your child’s future.

Take advantage of your 529 plan.

If you have money in a 529 plan for your child, it’s typically better to use it before taking out a loan. Withdrawals are federally income tax-free and penalty-free as long as they are used for qualified education expenses.

Fill out FAFSA to explore financial aid and student loans.

With the rising cost of tuition, covering all college expenses may be too difficult. Grants and loans may help you cover the gap. Get started by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Keep in mind that certain loans are available only to those with financial need, and remember that loans are paid back with interest. Federal and private loans typically have different features, so it's important to know who you will be getting your loan from in addition to the terms of the loan.

Pursue scholarships and grants.

These financial aid options fall under gift aid, meaning the money doesn’t need to be paid back. While appealing, full scholarships are rare. However, don’t forget about smaller scholarships, which can help reduce the amount you borrow. Some scholarships and grants are need-based, and some are merit-based, so your children may be eligible no matter your financial situation.

Consider a work-study program.

If your child is able to work, consider the federal work-study program, which provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students. How much you receive depends on your school and your financial need, but the average award was $1,847 in 2020. This likely won't cover the majority of college expenses, but like smaller scholarships, it can help reduce the overall cost of school.