WAIPAHU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's not just getting into college that's hard.
"Every parent wants to know, 'How are we going to pay for school'?" says Waipahu High School college counselor Lisa Scudder.
Scudder says that every year, students and parents struggle with how they'll cover tuition and fees.
It's an intimidating process, and the price tags are daunting.
According to an annual survey conducted by the College Board, the nonprofit behind the SAT, average in-state tuition at four-year public universities was $9,410 this year.
The average out-of-state tuition was $23,893, and tuition at a private, non-profit university sets students back $35,405.
Scudder says some of the first questions parents ask themselves is: Do they have any money set aside for college? And, can they help their child pay?
She says the key to getting ahead is seeking the answers to those questions early -- and looking at the all the options when it comes to sources of funding, including loans, grants and scholarships.
Additionally, students can take action in high school to save on college costs.
Waipahu senior Diana Castaneda already has some college credits under her belt.
"When I looked at the chart to get my associates degree, it said like 60 credits, so I guess I'm a third of the way there," she said.
She'll be heading to the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the fall.
Classmate Asia Fereti also earned college credits in high school.
"I believe I saved over $5,000, including the books here and classes," she said. Fereti will attend Leeward Community College.
Scudder also recommends applying to a number of different types of school to see which ones offer the best fit. Considerations should include cost, comfort and academics.
Waipahu High student Sydney Millerd said she looked into mainland colleges, but the cost was too high.
"There's no way my family would be able to afford it, as well as paying for airfare going back and forth, paying for the holidays and what not," she said.
Instead, she'll dorm at UH-Manoa.
Scholarships can knock down tuition significantly. When applying, Scudder says, the more, the better.
Loans are helpful as well, but experts warn against taking on too much debt.
So when should students start planning for how they'll pay for college?
Scudder suggests students get serious in their junior year. "By senior year," she said. "I'm constantly in their face, bothering them, emailing them," she said.