Blogs - Merit Educational Consultants

As we approach the end of fall semester, college students across the nation are pushing to extend the Pass/Fail grading system they all received last spring. But, most colleges aren’t allowing it. Each college has set up their pandemic grading protocols – albeit by the seat of their pants – to deal with student issues. Some colleges allow students to choose between grades and pass/fail, but the problem is WHEN they allow students to make this decision. If the students choose this at the beginning of the term, that would be more fair than allowing students to choose just before finals. In other words, if a student is not doing well in a class, should they be able to opt for a Pass instead of a C?

When students have pass/fail marks on their transcripts instead of grades, it doesn’t work to their benefit when it comes to grad school. Admissions officers are going to prefer a transcript with real grades to one that is riddled with passes or no-pass/fails. If students are really suffering because of COVID-related issues, they can always discuss their circumstances in an essay or interview.

Even at the high school level, most students are receiving grades this term. High school students face the same dilemma as college students when it comes to competing to get into selective colleges. If their transcript shows stellar grades, the students will be more likely to impress admissions officers than students with a transcript filled with passes. So if a student is getting all A’s in their classes, a transcript with passes will make them appear to be average A-C students. Not good.

Spring 2019 and Fall 2020 have already set students back because of the chaos that ensued during the transition to online classes last fall and the fact that online classes just don’t offer the same learning experience that face-to-face classes do. Students who get grades will do much better than students who get passes.

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December 2, 2020

Grades vs Pass/Fail; the Conversation Continues

As we approach the end of fall semester, college students across the nation are pushing to extend the Pass/Fail grading system they all received last spring. But, most colleges aren’t allowing it. Each college has set up their pandemic grading protocols – albeit by the seat of their pants – to deal with student issues. Some colleges allow students to choose between grades and pass/fail, but the problem is WHEN they allow students to make this decision. If the students choose this at the beginning of the term, that would be more fair than allowing students to choose just before finals. In other words, if a student is not doing well in a class, should they be able to opt for a Pass instead of a C?

When students have pass/fail marks on their transcripts instead of grades, it doesn’t work to their benefit when it comes to grad school. Admissions officers are going to prefer a transcript with real grades to one that is riddled with passes or no-pass/fails. If students are really suffering because of COVID-related issues, they can always discuss their circumstances in an essay or interview.

Even at the high school level, most students are receiving grades this term. High school students face the same dilemma as college students when it comes to competing to get into selective colleges. If their transcript shows stellar grades, the students will be more likely to impress admissions officers than students with a transcript filled with passes. So if a student is getting all A’s in their classes, a transcript with passes will make them appear to be average A-C students. Not good.

Spring 2019 and Fall 2020 have already set students back because of the chaos that ensued during the transition to online classes last fall and the fact that online classes just don’t offer the same learning experience that face-to-face classes do. Students who get grades will do much better than students who get passes.

Source

November 28, 2020

Thanksgiving outdoors on our redwood deck

Nicole and Brad joined us for Thanksgiving on our redwood deck. Separated by 10 feet, we sat at bistro tables in the oak grove. We just installed lanterns, string lights, and electricity so we could have our buffet warmers, heaters, and music. Instead of hosting a party for 15-40 people where we’re running around and leading activities, we got to talk and enjoy ourselves.

   

November 23, 2020

Home hardening: Removing all vegetation around my house

When the fire marshal and inspector told me that the wisteria and trumpet vines I have been meticulously training to climb the walls and railings of my house would act like a wick in a wildfire, I spent 2 weeks hand cutting down every plant within 5 feet of my house. It was oddly reassuring while it was really sad. What a crazy world we’re living in today.

November 23, 2020

More fun with costumes and dogs!

If you knew Nicole and Brad’s dog, Loki, you’d know that this shot was next to impossible to get. He doesn’t like wearing anything on his head and playing dress up for Nicole and me was not his idea of fun. But, Loki has a keen appreciation for his ball, and Nicole cleverly distracted him with it while I shot this picture of him wearing Nicole’s grad regalia.

November 23, 2020

Never ending projects for social distancing

To keep our bistro tables clean, I sewed covers. But my design didn’t work because rainwater pooled between the chairs. So, I made little rods to hold them up. Then the winds came and blew the covers completely off. So I added grommets and tied them down with wire. Simple pleasures.

November 23, 2020

Starting a new mushroom project

Getting ready to grow a variety of mushrooms. First I harvested shiitake spores from mushrooms I grew from a kit. Then I built 4 redwood planters and put chicken wire at the bottom to keep out the critters. Next I got a truckload of wood chips from Lewis Tree and coffee grinds from San Lorenzo. I collected compost from our garden. All ready to get started. Just waiting for the spores to arrive.

November 19, 2020

Male? Female? Genderqueer? Gender Fluid?

In this ever-changing world of gender identities and appropriate or respectful pronouns, the University of California system has set a new policy for UC-issued documents and information systems. It’s comforting to know that California’s 3rd largest employer has recognized and supports transgender rights.

All students, employees, alumni, retirees, vendors, medical center patients and others will now have the option to choose man, woman, or nonbinary gender identification options on official documents. The really big change is that they can choose a “lived” name or a preferred name that might be different from the legal name on their birth certificate. The legal name will be required but it will be kept confidential and not published.

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November 19, 2020

45 colleges offer “need-blind” admissions – that means no loans!

For those who think a college education is too expensive, here’s some good news. Some colleges like Grinnell College has just announced that they will eliminate college loans and replace them with grants – that’s free money that you don’t have to pay back!

Grinnell has an endowment of over $2 billion and they will make this offer to over 50% of their students who need financial aid. While it might appear that they’re doing that in response to COVID-19, they’re planning to keep this generous plan going forward.

There are about 45 colleges that are “need-blind” and offer enrollment to students who need financial support.

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November 19, 2020

How to prepare for your student’s return home for Thanksgiving and Winter Break

Remember back in March when we thought that the pandemic would be over in a few weeks? Navigating the speculation and forecasts were things we had not done in a 100 years. We heard about the upcoming “Second Wave” but probably didn’t believe it would really get worse – but it really did.

Most colleges continued online classes just like they did in the spring, and many of the few colleges that offered on-campus classes have rolled back to offer only online classes. Some of these colleges that had students on campus this fall are shuttering now or sending students home for Thanksgiving and continuing with online classes after the holiday until the end of the semester.

So how do parents deal with students returning home after being on campus or near campus? Here are some guidelines to protect family members at home as well as their students.

Pre-Trip Quarantine:
Students should quarantine immediately. That means that they should not hang out with any friends, go to classes, shop for food, eat out at restaurants, or socialize in bars. If it’s possible, they should get tested before they head home.

Transportation:
Driving is the safest form of transportation, especially if they fuel up and can make it home with one tank of gasoline or electric charge. Pack their food so they don’t need to stop to eat.

Those who are traveling long distances may need to take flights. While airlines claim they are providing social distancing, suggest that your student treat the planes like they’re COVID Central. They should use the restroom before getting on the plane, eat food they prepared themselves, purchase drinks at the airport (wipe down containers with sanitizers), wear a mask and shield for the entire flight, and wipe down all surfaces they touch with sanitizer.

Quarantine at Home:
Assume your child is infected and set up protocols BEFORE they arrive home. Save hugs and kisses for after the quarantine. Set your child up in a room where they can sleep and be separated from the rest of the family. That means eating meals in their room, wearing a mask in the house if they need to use other rooms, and carefully sterilizing all dishes, glasses, and utensils. Best to quarantine for at least 5 days. If possible, get tested before socializing with the immediate family members who live in the house.

While this may seem extreme, these measures are what’s needed to stop the spread of this deadly virus. This second wave is going to explode after Thanksgiving, and again after Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Protect yourself and your family by staying away from everyone who does not live in your house. The sooner we all do this, the sooner we can control the coronavirus and start living our lives in a more social way.

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November 11, 2020

New trend in college tuition rates

Colleges are getting the message that the skyrocketing cost of tuition hikes over the past 20-30 years are not sustainable. Students, and their families, are choosing colleges with lower tuition rates, and colleges are hearing this loud and clear. Several private colleges have cut their tuition up to 50% for 2021.

While it might seem that COVID-19 may be the cause for this sudden trend of reducing tuition, these talks were being discussed before the pandemic. When college tuition can cost upwards of $70,000 per year, many families are opting for more affordable options that allow them to plan for retirement, healthcare, and educating all of their children.

This is good news for students and families as they consider college options.

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