How to ensure your child has a shot at college even if you're not wealthy

The college admissions scandal is a reminder that the wealthy can often pay to get the help the average family can't afford - even the kind of help that won't get them indicted.

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But college admissions experts in North Carolina told ABC11 that similar services are available here for free.

The key, according to April Query with the College Foundation of North Carolina, is knowing where to find those services and getting an early start on utilizing them.

And it starts during a student's freshman year in high school.

"Working with their school counselor or college advisor with picking the right classes in high school..making sure they're challenging themselves in good areas," Query told ABC11.

She noted that school counselor and college advisors are available at almost all public and private schools at no charge.

And she said when it comes to tutoring for classes or even college entrance exams and essays, it too can be found for free.

"They're going to find some links to some resources on You can just go to YouTube and Google some math problems and you're going to have someone go through and help you. All these are free resources. We all need to take advantage of these versus just running out and hiring someone to help us through these processes."

And Query noted that there's one way to beef up a college resume that money can't buy - extracurricular activities.

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She cautions that when it comes to that, quality is better than quantity.

"They're trying to look at students to see what they did in high school that's the best predictor of what they'll do in college. So they're looking for students that have done extracurricular activities and held leadership positions," she said. "And they're usually looking for quality over quantity. And when I work with admissions counselors these are the exact words that they use, 'We would rather have a student who's done a couple of things that they've been highly involved with, they've taken a leadership position, they're running volunteer activities.' You know whatever it is that shows them that they'll mimic these same behaviors on a college campus versus dabbling here and there."

Query said anger over the revelation that some of the wealthy and powerful get special favoritism should be used as motivation for parents and students to get an early start on planning and paying for college.

"I definitely don't want students and parents get discouraged saying, 'Oh, well we can't do this. We can't afford this certain thing to help our student.' There are so many of us that are first-generation college students that didn't have any resources like that and we were able to succeed. You just have to ask for help because there's a lot of free resources," she said.
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