Expert tips on getting into college, navigating 'politics' in admissions process

After the college admissions scandal, parents and students wonder how to make themselves stand out.

PORTLAND, Maine — In the wake of a college admissions scandal out of an FBI investigation that found parents were spending enormous sums of money to fabricate test scores and athletic credentials, recently enrolled college students and their families are frustrated.

"You're not going to get anything from it if you don't work for it yourself," said Destiny Reed, a freshman at the University of Southern Maine, and the first in her family to go to college. "It's not right at all. It's disappointing that students are getting away with it."

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College admissions consultant Kim LaBrecque with College Solutions said college is a business, and that wealth plays a role in a student's likelihood to get into a school.

"Colleges are more inclined to admit a student who will come and fully fund an education as opposed to student where they're going to have to give them a lot of grant money," said LaBrecque.

However, she says money is not always a substitute for merit.

"Many colleges read between the lines. They know the student that wrote their essay versus a parent who wrote their essay," said LaBrecque.

WATCH: Full interview with college admissions consultant Kim LaBrecque

LaBrecque said colleges are businesses, and have to decide whom to admit, in part based on "demonstrated interest," a vague-sounding phrase that indicates how likely a student might be to attend the school if he or she gets in.

Demonstrated interest includes whether a student visits the school or if he or she requests and goes through an interview.

A 2017 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling found nearly 17 percent of four-year colleges view demonstrated interest as having "considerable importance" in admissions decisions, and another 33.3 percent see it as having "moderate importance." 

She advises families who can afford to pay for college without need-based aid to do so, but said that not all families have to pay the full price of admission (but you'll have to pay for her services to learn more).