Most families sending a child to college seek financial aid, says James Scannell, a vice president who oversees admissions and financial aid at the University of Rochester.

But Scannell doesn't recommend hiring an independent financial aid counselor."There are counselors who promise that for a fee of $500, they'll find $5,000 in financial aid," he says. "Then they tell you about the Guaranteed Student Loan program, the Supplemental Higher Education Loan Financing program, and the Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students program. But the financial aid officer at the school your child is interested in will tell you about all these resources too - at no cost to the family."