It is important for your family to determine what you can reasonably afford and make sure you are exploring colleges that fit within those financial parameters. Doing well academically (SAT, ACT and in classes) and being active pre-college will go a very long way toward maximizing your financial aid package. To understand whether you’re getting the best deal, do a side-by-side comparison to see how much each school is offering and what your net cost (what you have to pay in the end) will be. This usually means subtracting the scholarships and grants from the total cost of attendance. If your package is not meeting family expectations, get creative by patching together dollars to make the financial ends meet. You can reach out to local community organizations, honor societies and even search for quirky scholarships around a hobby or special interest. Also connect with current college students at the school you want to attend, because they usually have the best advice based on their experience and what they wish they would have known before they arrived. Never eliminate the dream of education because of lack of financial resources but make sure you don’t get too deep in debt that it will create stress and inhibit your ability to be successful after you graduate.