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Start by checking FastWeb.com and CollegeBoard.com. Then ask around at any organizations or professional groups you belong to, which often offer money for scholarships. If you have a job, your employer may offer tuition reimbursement if your studies are related to your work.

Your financial aid application is very mathematical, crunching numbers about your income and assets to come up with what's called your expected contribution, or how much the government thinks you can comfortably afford to pay. But the part of the process when colleges devise a financial aid package for you is very human.

"Most college financial aid forms have a blank space for you to describe anything that they should take into consideration. That's where you can explain your personal situation, including a layoff in your family," Gen says. Because financial aid counselors tend to be numbers-oriented, back up your case with statements and stubs—it will help make your case.

What to do if you think you might be laid off
Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.

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