Ensure that your child submits strong, winning applications
The college application process can be overwhelming. That’s why we guide students through the entire process to ensure that they select the best-fit colleges, improve GPAs and SAT/ACT scores, find their voices as they write essays and personal statements, and understand how to build their portfolios.
When students understand what they need to do and how to accomplish it, their dreams become their future.
And, Merit college advisors are there – as little or as much as you need them - to make sure they get in!
To learn how to ensure that your child get in!
College and Career Selection
At 17 years old, most students have barely explored the many careers available to them, yet they will soon be grappling with this major decision. Merit College Advisors guide students as they explore options to find their niche.
We use career/vocational and personality tests to select potential careers—often times careers the students hadn’t previously considered. During this process, students choose colleges based on the majors and unique programs offered. While name-brand colleges are popular, comparing departments, programs, and faculty between the colleges will help students narrow their list of colleges for the right reasons.
When students select their final list of colleges, every college on their list has something dynamic to offer based on their degree goals. This is the ideal way to select colleges.
Don't get sold on beautiful architecture and landscapes. Choosing the best-fit college is about finding programs within possible majors and discovering professors, research projects, and unique opportunities offered to students in specific areas.
By visiting college campuses, students can talk current upperclassmen to get the truth about getting into popular classes, graduating in 4 years, and the trend for the major and department. These are the important factors when evaluating colleges -- it's not their Olympic-size swimming pool or their concert halls.
After taking the walking tour and attending the information session, get a bite to eat on campus where the students eat. Listen to conversations and observe student interactions to get a feel for the college. Visit the dorms -- even if the tour didn't include them -- to see what the real dorm rooms and bathrooms look like when they're not cleaned up for the tours. Check the schedule of classes and sit in on a class.
Take lots of pictures and keep them organized with your notes -- after visiting several campuses, they'll all begin to blend together in your memory. And, remember to sign in at the admissions office so they know you visited!
Applications, Planning, Essays & Interviews
Even the best students get overwhelmed during the college and scholarship application process. Their schedules are filled with homework, test prep, and extracurricular activities, and come senior year when they add college selection, personal statements and essays, letters of recommendation, portfolios, interviews, and application forms, most students struggle to meet these deadlines.
Merit College Advisors guide students through the entire process. We help them make smart choices about their extracurricular activities so they have more time to do the projects that matter.
To avoid the 11th-hour crises, students use the Merit Planner to block off time to complete each task for college applications as well as homework, SAT/ACT prep, sports, and social activities. Merit College Advisors guide students through the entire college application process to ensure that every application represents the best qualities of the students -- so they get in!
Imagine reading thousands of application essays each year? After the hundredth essay about team-building filled with over-used cliches, college admissions committees are glazing over and skimming them out of sheer boredom. To write compelling and winning essays, students need to spark their interest by demonstrating what they can bring to the incoming freshman class. Admissions officers are looking for students who will thrive at their colleges and become part of their alumni -- someone they will proudly call their own.
Choosing essay topics can be difficult. At 17 or 18 years old, many students struggle to find topics that will highlight their strengths without bragging. Our Merit College Advisors work closely with students to identify several topics that will illustrate their unique qualities. We help organize detailed outlines and strategize about tones before the student begins writing. Then, throughout the entire writing process, we guide and teach good writing mechanics and grammar as we edit each essay. Students tell us that they often learn more English grammar while writing their college essays than they do in English classes at school!
Although we guide students, we insist that they write their own essays. When they're ready to submit their applications, their essays will dazzle admissions committees.
Many private colleges offer interviews to get to know the applicants, and for some students, these interviews can be the tipping point to getting accepted.
The interview starts when the student walks in the door. First impressions, confidence, and eye contact speak volumes. After walking in and giving a good strong handshake, the student will be off to a nice start to the interview.
Merit College Advisors guide students as they prepare their resumes, create websites, and organize portfolios. We help students by discussing interesting talking points and ice breakers. Students do mock interviews to become familiar with the protocol and to practice their closing statements. By being prepared, students will conduct interviews with confidence and make a positive impression.
Recommendation Letters & Resume
High school teachers write hundreds of letters of recommendation each year, and most use form-letter templates. In order to receive outstanding letters of recommendation from teachers, give them a comprehensive resume that features your projects, volunteer work, jobs, sports, musical instruments, clubs, and personal interests. This will give the teachers talking points and details that they can include in the letter that they write.
Interesting resumes include photos to help illustrate student accomplishments, and they're longer than one page. The goal is to give the recommenders more information about the student so they can validate extracurricular activities and express enthusiasm about the student beyond the classroom.
Merit College Advisors coach students as they prepare their resumes and formal cover letters. Strong letters of recommendation are important to securing admissions at the most competitive universities.
Students who apply to art, music, or dance colleges submit portfolios that feature their artistic talents. Each college sets requirements for the collection of work and stipulates the electronic media used for submission. Merit College Advisors help students select pieces and advise on how to best display their talents.
All students can bolster their college applications by compiling portfolios that chronicle their accomplishments. Include awards, certificates, publications, articles (newspaper), interviews (radio/TV on DVD), art projects, and letters of recommendation. Take these portfolios to interviews to give college admissions officers and alumni a comprehensive overview.
As students build their portfolios, they take pride in their successes, which encourages them to reach their potential.
Merit College Advisors coach students on how to build these portfolios and share them during college interviews.
Tutoring & Test-Taking Skills
Tutoring in all academic subjects
Whether students need help catching up or seek to build mastery, students respond well to our one-on-one personalized attention and support. Often, their learning accelerates so quickly that they make up to 3 years’ academic growth in a single year!
Merit tutors are personally selected to work with students based on their academic background, teaching style, and personality. We offer tutoring in all academic subject areas for K-12th grades. Call us as soon as you suspect that your child needs help so we can quickly build both skills and confidence to improve semester grades.
In most cases, we work with your child in the comfort of your home at a time that is convenient for you.
Individual SAT/ACT tutoring
The new SATs and ACTs are rigorous, and students need test-taking tips and a solid academic foundation to ace them.
Merit's one-on-one personalized tutoring helps prepare students to ace the SAT and ACT exams. We select tutors who understand how to present concepts in a manner that works well for your child. We also support international students as they get ready to take the TOEFL/IELST exams.
Unlike other test preparation programs, we avoid quick fixes and instead focus on skills that will improve not only test-taking in the near future, but for a lifetime. Students often improve their scores by over 150 points and many students reach their goals of receiving perfect scores.
Merit SAT/ACT tutors meet with students at your home or a convenient location at a time that works around your busy schedule.
Learn test-taking strategies
Do your children struggle on tests, even though they understand the material and do well on homework? Parents often claim that their children are simply "not good test-takers."
To solve the poor test-taker syndrome, we find that student test scores increase when they learn new concepts over several days -- not the night before an exam. With busy extracurricular activities, piles of homework, and plenty of distractions, what students really need is to block off time to do all of the tasks (studying, homework, projects) so they can learn and retain the concepts over a 4-day period.
At Merit, we teach students how to organize a solid study plan to prepare for and ace tests. Instead of cramming, students study for at least four-consecutive days prior to the test. We give them specific plans for what to study and for how long. This study plan ensures that the students really learn and remember the material so they can apply what they’ve learned to even the most difficult questions.
In learning how to study for tests, the students actually become good time management organizers. We use the Merit Planner to enter in due dates, test dates, and appointments. The students learn how to use their Merit Planner to block off time for studying, homework, and project tasks, and they still have time to have fun with friends or to relax with family. These skills will help them succeed in future college, career, and parenthood.
Do your children have difficulty allocating enough time to do a good job on projects or prepare for tests? Does it seem like they're juggling too many deadlines and responsibilities, and not working to their potential?
The Merit Planner may be the solution. Other planners just don’t cut it because there isn't enough space to block off time to do tasks and most don't have equal space for evenings and weekends.
The Merit Academic Planner is more powerful. It breaks down days into 30-minute intervals (from 6:00 am to midnight) so they can block off just the right amount of time for classes, homework, studying, eating, and extracurriculars. Since we need our evenings and weekends to complete many tasks, our planner is divided into 7 equal days.
Merit College Advisors guide students as they enter deadlines for tests and projects as well as college application deadlines. By entering when they'll do each facet of the tasks required to meet due dates, the students no longer face 11-hour crises because they understand what needs to be done and how to reach their goals.
When college students spend years immersed in a course of study only to find—often too late—that they’ve chosen the wrong career path, changing majors requires more years in college -- and more college tuition. There are many reasons for this big misstep. Most often, students relied on stereotypes and myths about their chosen careers without having real experiences working in the field. In high school, students should intern in a variety of professions to find the best career path for themselves.
Merit’s one-of-a-kind internship program introduces students to dozens of professions. By interning in different fields throughout high school, students have the opportunity to explore new career paths before they select their colleges and start the undergraduate degrees. Merit’s internship program allows students to see for themselves whether or not they enjoy the work involved. This is not to be confused with shadowing a professional. Shadowing offers a glorified snapshot of a profession in a one-day event. Instead, semester-long internships expose students to the real work involved -- the good and the bad.
These professional internships help students see past the stereotyped images of careers so they can make smart decisions about their future profession before selecting a college.
4 -Year Plan
When a bachelor’s degree costs more than a new house, completing a college degree in 4 years is a financial necessity for most families. Today, many college students take over four years to graduate simply because they forgot to take required prerequisite courses or didn’t understand general education and major/minor requirements. Colleges have slashed budgets, sometimes offering courses just once a year or even every other year. This can set back graduation by a semester or more. That’s why it is important to have a 4-year plan before starting college.
After May 1st when students have been accepted to their colleges, Merit College Advisors lay out their 4-year plans for college. We select all courses including necessary prerequisites, determine which classes can satisfy multiple requirements, consult with department advisors, set up internships, and consider graduate school pathways. With this comprehensive roadmap, students have a solid understanding of their pathway specialities through college. And parents will be able to support and guide them when they register for classes each term. This will save tens of thousands of dollars, so they get in, and get out on time!
"I have been working with Merit since I was in middle school. They helped me decide what classes to take in high school in order for me to have a strong college application by the time I was a senior.
Now, I have graduated from UC Berkeley. I think what makes Merit special is that they have many clients, but always make time to check in with you and answer your questions. When I was in high school, I had many questions about classes, extracurriculars, and of course, many different colleges, and they are extremely knowledgeable about all of these topics. They also make observations about what you may and may not like about certain universities, which you wouldn't know from reading a college brochure or even visiting the campus.Another thing that makes Merit special is their emphasis on doing a project in high school to stand out in college admissions. I worked on a project called Kids4Hydrogen under Merit's guidance, which I wrote about for my private school applications. Writing about Kids4Hydrogen helped me stand out and get accepted to schools like USC.
If you want to go to a great university, Merit can get you there, but of course, you have to put in your side of the work also."
“Merit has been the best investment we ever made. Our son goes to a private school with specialized college counseling but Susan takes it to a whole different level. She inspires our son to study and improve his grades -- something that has been a challenge for my husband and me. My son is working on an exciting app for EMS that he considers a privilege to do with Merit college advisors. This has created a positive change in our son both academically and personally.”
"After conferring with my parents during this spring break, we have come to a decision of attending UIUC for college. I think based on the courses offered at the college, its reputable name, and my increased interest business this past year, I believe UIUC is the perfect fit for me. I want to thank you for helping me make this decisions; your constant support throughout this whole college application has been amazing and I cannot thank you enough. I committed this morning, and when clicked that confirm button, I remembered all the hard work I had done to get to this amazing moment, especially during this last year working with you. I believe with all the advice and support you have given me this past year and a half has really motivated me to succeed in college and use your advice to get through it as smoothly as possible. Again, I want to thank you for all of your support for me this past year and a half, and I will be forever grateful for it. I will definitely keep in touch to let you know how the college experience is going and confer with you if I have any difficulties.
While Merit Academy’s SAT classes helped me get into Morehouse College, I credit Susan D’Arcy’s 4-year college plan with setting me up for success. I recall sitting with Susan the summer before my freshman year, researching Morehouse graduation requirements. Since I wasn’t sure if I wanted to major in Business Administration or Business Marketing, Susan crafted two variations of my 4-year college plan. The first two years of both plans were the same, allowing me to seamlessly choose either major.
Fast forward through my college years, I recall always feeling confident that I had a game plan. Each semester I would consult my 4-year plan and quickly sign up for my classes. Meanwhile my friends were stressing out, combing through the catalog, trying to figure out which classes they needed. They often told me how jealous they were that I had a “cheat sheet” for college success. Thanks to Susan D’Arcy’s 4-year plan, I graduated Cum Laude from Morehouse College in exactly four years!