The key trade-off is tax advantages vs. flexibility in how you spend the money.
Brokerage accounts "don't care" what you spend the money on, but you'll pay tax on your investment gains. (Ordinary income tax on some investments, capital gains tax on other investments, but you're still paying tax.)
529 plans and Coverdell savings accounts give awesome tax advantages, but only if you're ready to spend the money on education. And there are penalties and tax if you don't.
To learn more about your options to save for college, visit our interactive AboveBoard College Savings Guide.
To think through how to put college savings in the context of your other goals in life, check out our interactive AboveBoard Financial Action Plan.