Paying for college is rarely easy. Ideally, it’s a longterm process of building and using a collection of savings, institutional aid, free money, and—if necessary—loans.

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But with so many avenues for financing your education, it’s often difficult to sort out what might work best for you, given your situation and time frame. Whether you’ll be moving into your dorm room in two months or you’re starting to save now for your toddler’s college education, here are four often-overlooked considerations that may lessen your financial burden:

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