Farmington, MI— It doesn’t matter where you start, but where you finish that counts. Aubrey Perry heard this often from her father, Marc Perry, growing up. But those words didn’t really “click” until embarking on her senior year in high school.
Aubrey Perry was pretty much like any other high school kid. She loved to have fun, laugh a lot, go to the mall and the movies with her friends, listen to music and her favorite pastime – tweeting and texting her friends.
Always a good student and active in the varsity Pom team at school, Perry realized that in order to go to her “dream” school, she’d have to do more.
“The summer between my junior and senior year, I really got serious. Though I was in the National Honor Society and The Link Crew, I knew that if I wanted to go to a major university like Michigan State, I’d have to start participating in the type of activities that matter to admissions directors – and especially scholarship selection committees,” said Perry.
In NHS and Link Perry did some community service and leadership activities, but her Pom practices kept her from doing more. “When I found out that getting accepted into college was very competitive – and so expensive, I made up my mind to do whatever it took to get where I wanted to go. My parents told me that if I wanted to go away to school, I had to find my own scholarships because they didn’t have money for a college career like Michigan State.”
Because Perry’s parents had been entrepreneurs, over the years they had to invest back in their businesses. But as the economy turned down, they had to file for bankruptcy and lost a lot their investments – including savings for college tuition.
“It was a very sobering and emotional conversation when my parents told me that there was no money saved for college. That day, I made up my mind that it’s not too late to go after my dreams. I put full focus on winning scholarships,” said Perry.
A lot of middle-class families are in the same situation. According to Money.CNN.com, the middle class are too wealthy to get student aid, yet too poor to afford college. The reason why is the problem with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Many families don’t qualify for financial aid because the application just gages the current tax return information and calculates an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number. “My parents who are working jobs now but because of the bankruptcies and other expenses, we’re trying to play catch up – and did not have the EFC number the FAFAS said they should have,” said Perry.
The average middle-class family saves about $19,584 for college per child, according to the report by the College Savings Plans Network. The cost of room and board and in-state tuition is about $100,000 over four years.
Perry worked hard and was awarded several scholarships that totaled about $17,000. “I applied to over 100 scholarships – and won fourteen,” said Perry. My first scholarship I won was $75 and the largest scholarship I won was $5,000. Those scholarships for $25,000 a year are really hard to get because they’re the ones everyone hears about. But, I researched and applied to any and every scholarship I qualified for no matter how small – because it adds up.”
The Rainbow PUSH Excel/ GM Scholarship was the last scholarship she won. Perry will be awarded the Scholarship on October 13 at the Detroit Automotive Project luncheon where she will meet Rev. Jesse Jackson and the other scholar. “I had to submit a video about myself, interview an executive about the auto industry in Detroit and submit recommendation letters, transcripts and a resume,” said Perry. “It was intense.”
Perry, who is a freshman attending Michigan State University, wants to get into the Eli Broad School of Business and study marketing. She chronicled her scholarship journey on her blog at www.aubreymperry.blogspot.com. Since she only won $17,000 in scholarships, she had to take out a student loan to pay for the balance not covered this year. Michigan State University is about $22,450 a year for tuition and housing. “Next year I plan to get a good summer internship and apply again for more scholarships. I have faith that it’ll all work out,” concluded Perry.