Students scramble to find money for top choice schools

DETROIT – Overwhelming is how Lori White describes life for her family now that 17-year-old Brittany is knee-deep into planning for what’s next after high school. Brittany, a senior at Harrison High School in Farmington Hills, Mich., has narrowed down her choices and sent or will soon send applications to seven universities, including Michigan State (her top choice in-state) and Howard University in D.C. (her No. 1 choice overall).

Guided by her parents, Lori White, 44, of Detroit, and Vincent White, 44, of Farmington Hills, Brittany has followed the recommended route to acceptance: good grades and involvement in extra curricular activities, including being editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper, working on the yearbook staff and playing varsity basketball.

Now comes the next phase: finding the money to pay for college.

If families haven’t already begun, now’s the time to hunt for scholarships and fill out the most important form for securing college money, the FAFSA form. The acronym stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid.”

Families like the Whites are scrambling to get their paperwork together to meet the deadlines recommended by many universities – March 1 in Michigan.

The federal deadline for the class of 2007 isn’t until July 2, but most officials say the sooner the better.

Finding scholarships and applying for aid can seem a daunting task for already busy families, as Lori White can tell you.

“It is overwhelming,” says White, who also has a son, Bryant, 14, and a daughter, Blair, 6.

“I’m excited for her, even though I know senior year also means she’ll soon be going away. But all the applications – for colleges and for financial aid – all the information you have to get and give is draining. It’s almost like applying for a mortgage.”

Vincent White, an assistant manager in automotive sales for BorgWarner in Auburn Hills, Mich., says he’s fairly confident that prudent savings and wise investments have netted enough to cover Brittany’s first couple years of college, especially if she opts to stay in-state.

White himself had to return to Detroit after two years at Michigan State University because he didn’t have enough money to finish. He wanted it different for his children.

He eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from William Tyndale College, but he vowed one day he’d earn his coveted MSU degree. He earned a master’s in business from MSU in 2004.