If your child is very close to college age, and you've got very little saved, don't despair. Junior isn't doomed to a life of flipping burgers. There are several things you can do to improve your situation.
For starters, Junior might delay going to college for one or more years. If the idea of working for a bit right out of high school appeals to him, it can be a smart move. Both he and you can save money for college as he works. Plus, he'll gain experience -- and might appreciate a college education a bit more.
Also, consider having Junior focus on less-expensive schools, such as in-state public universities, which tend to charge much less for tuition. Local schools have additional benefits, such as extra scholarship opportunities and reduced travel costs to and from school. Another option is for Junior to attend a community college for the first year, before transferring to a bigger and more-expensive school for his last years. Another new possibility is online courses, many of which are cheaper than classroom courses yet will transfer to major universities.
But these options might not even be necessary. Start looking into scholarships. You don't always have to be a genius to earn them -- some are meant for violin-playing Lithuanian-Americans and others for lifeguards with family ties to some association or organization. Some are simply for students from a particular state who want to study a particular subject. There's a wide range. Check out these scholarship info sites: FinAid,The College Board, FastWeb,College Scholarships, College-Scholarships (with a hyphen!), and Wired Scholar.
Finally, consider loans. As long as you don't end up borrowing too much, this is an effective way to finance schooling. (Though they are not to be taken lightly, as explained in this article.) For more info on loans for college, click over to: Sallie Mae, Student Loan, eStudentLoan, and the U.S. Department of Education.
We offer more tips on this topic in our Paying for College center and on our Paying for College discussion board. And check out Robert Brokamp's well-regarded book, too: The Motley Fool's Guide to Paying for School.