Blogs - 107/109 - Merit Educational Consultants

Did you know that there’s an easy way to make sure that you’re taking the best classes to get into a UC?

When guidance counselors are responsible for hundreds of students, it’s no surprise that many high school students miss important opportunities to take classes that are required (or highly desirable) to get into a UC or selective college. I’ve seen this often. Now everyone — not just the lucky ones who can afford private college advisors — can make sure their transcripts will make them eligible to get into the top UC’s. Most public high schools in California have access to the Transcript Evaluation Service (TES) tool.

Finally, equal opportunity for all Californians!

April 14, 2015

Make Sure You’re Taking the Right Classes!

Did you know that there’s an easy way to make sure that you’re taking the best classes to get into a UC?

When guidance counselors are responsible for hundreds of students, it’s no surprise that many high school students miss important opportunities to take classes that are required (or highly desirable) to get into a UC or selective college. I’ve seen this often. Now everyone — not just the lucky ones who can afford private college advisors — can make sure their transcripts will make them eligible to get into the top UC’s. Most public high schools in California have access to the Transcript Evaluation Service (TES) tool.

Finally, equal opportunity for all Californians!

April 14, 2015

Sew Organized!

First of all, let me just say that I am NOT a hoarder! I promise! I just NEED to save every square inch of fabric that I have left over from all of my sewing projects. THIS IS PERFECTLY NORMAL. Finding all that stuff again IS an issue, though. I used to keep everything in boxes, but you can only have so many boxes before they start burying your loved ones in box avalanches.   Realizing that I needed to address this problem BEFORE the Intervention happened, I decided to pull out those boxes in various places in my house, garage, and storage area to see what I ACTUALLY had. The goal was to somehow display all of the fabric and accessories so I could see everything at a glance and find what I needed immediately. And thus the SEWING CABINET was born.    I wanted everything in the SAME PLACE. That left only one option for me: I had to build a custom sewing cabinet to house all of my things.    Building cabinets is simple. It’s just like putting a jigsaw puzzle together only you need to figure out how big all of the pieces are going to be. And cut them. But it’s BETTER than jigsaw puzzles, because as far I know, you don’t use nail guns on jigsaw puzzles. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, though… (Click here for more details, including photos!)   Ok, WOOD: The good news is that ABX plywood comes in 3/4″ and 1/2″ sheets of 4 feet by 8 feet. So I needed to consider the length of every piece and subtract the width of the plywood (for each wall). Get the idea here? It’s basic math. So all of those times you’ve asked “When am I ever going to use math?”, the answer is NOW. NOW you need math.    ALSO: If you’re building your own sewing cabinet, you might want to make sure you can get your sewing cabinet into the room. We kind of had to take out the window in order to get the cabinet into the room. Not my best moment, and I don’t really recommend it. Learn from my mistakes: MEASURE YOUR DOORWAY. Or build it inside the room – whatever works for you!     After I laid out all of the pieces I needed for the cabinet, I started laying out the cut sheets of plywood. This helped me get the most out of each sheet of plywood and saved a lot of money. Once the pieces were cut, I started assembling it using my friend the nail gun. You can use wood screws and glue if you want, but a nail gun is better – so easy and fast! You can rent a nail gun and compressor at a tool rental shop, or you can use a screw gun or power drill and just screw the pieces together. You’ll need a helper to hold the wood for you as you nail or screw. Make sure you both wear eye protection though – you don’t want to get nails in your eyes.    I added doors to mine so I could conceal the contents behind closed doors and to give me extra surface areas to hang organizing units on. If YOU add doors, have your shelves end about 4″ shorter than the outer shell of the cabinet so there’s room for you to hang things on the door. All the cool kids are hanging things on their doors these days!    Opening the door to find my accessories visible and organized makes doing projects easier and fun. Have you done something similar with your sewing stuff? Send me photos!    
April 10, 2015

Chores are Learning Experiences

Parents often come to me with parenting issues, and I thought I’d heard everything. That is, until recently, when one of the parents told me that they didn’t give their child any chores or responsibilities at home. NONE. The rationale here was that they wanted to give their son the” optimum environment” to be successful in school. This kid was 9 years old, and didn’t have to take his dishes to the sink after a meal, make his bed, or even tie his own shoes

His mother told me that her son was so slow at everything and that she had to do everything for him, including tying his shoes in the morning because they would be late to school if she left it up to him! I had to bite my tongue and count to ten before I offered tips on helping him move a little quicker.

To assess the situation, I started to observe him in the classroom, on the playground, and on field trips. Mom was right about him taking an inordinate amount of time to put his shoes on.  The morning carpool would often be late because he would take a full 5 minutes to tie his shoelaces. I suggested to the driver of the carpool from school that she tell all of the students that the van would be leaving precisely at 3:00 pm each day — with or without students.

The following day, he almost missed the carpool. I told him the van would be leaving in 1 minute and he just ran, holding his shoes in his hands. The next day, he watched the clock and sprinted to the shoe cubby to get his shoes on. When the world stopped catering to his needs, he was briefly stressed out, but that passed quickly. Funny thing: he learned to tie his shoes quickly after that — in 20 seconds, not 5 minutes!

When his parents saw this remarkable change, they agreed to give him more personal responsibility at home. What’s amazing is that he started getting his homework done faster when he realized he had to do the dishes after dinner, and he ate breakfast quicker and got dressed for school in half the time. You know the old adage: if you need something done, ask a busy person to do it.  The same lesson holds true for kids. The sooner a child learns how to manage their time to accomplish their goals, the sooner they become independent and successful. So don’t think of them as chores, think of them as learning experiences.

April 9, 2015

Child Care: More Expensive Than College

I knew child care was expensive, but MORE than college? Yikes!

Families are spending 15% of their hard earned income just to send their kids to day care centers. That’s about a quarter of a MILLION DOLLARS to raise one child– and that doesn’t include college!  Sounds like it’s time to rethink the number of children we’re having…or the number of jobs…

April 8, 2015

Transfer from Community College to a UC in the Shortest Time

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what courses to take at a community college. This confusion VERY OFTEN leads to taking the wrong courses, which pushes out your graduation date, which costs you more money. College counselors usually recommend that students take their general education classes and courses that they’re interested in. This is WRONG! That’s an old school mindset — something people did when they had the luxury of “exploring majors” and “getting your feet wet” in college. If you want to get in and get out in 2 years so you can transfer as a junior and graduate with a degree in 4 years, you’ll need to do a bit of planning ahead. Here’s how:

First, lay out your 4-year plan using course requirements from the college you plan to get your degree from. Then, at your community college, take the prerequisites and lower-division courses required for your major at the 4-year college or university you plan to graduate from. This way, you’ll be better prepared to jump into the program with success AND the college will be more likely to admit you. Bottom line: if you’re required to take 5-6 lower divisions courses for your major, take them at your community college now.

Then, add in the general ed classes that your 4-year college requires for graduation. Don’t worry about what the community college requires because unless your goal is to get an AA degree, the community college’s requirements won’t help with your transfer college’s requirements. Remember, the goal here is to get credit for the 4 year college – NOT a degree from the community college. 

Some colleges like the California State Universities (CSU’s) or University of California system (UC’s) will accept the IGETC (general ed classes) from California Community Colleges (CCC). That means that if you complete all of the courses for the IGETC, then the CSU or UC campuses will not require that you take any general education courses once you transfer. This may not be the same for other private or public colleges, so check with the college you plan to graduate from to determine their policies. 

See? By spending some time planning ahead, you can save yourself a ton of time and a LOT of money!

April 8, 2015

Save Your Sanity Later: Start Organizing Your Photos NOW!

I have taken photos of everything since the beginning of time. I am not joking…being Japanese American, it’s kinda in my blood. Before digital photography, I put almost every picture into an actual photo album, and by the time I converted to digital, I had 125 photo albums. We’re not talking small albums, either – these are thick, heavy beasts, a single one of which could stun a yak. But now with cameras on your phone and everyone sharing photos on zillions of social media sites, how do you organize them all? It’s simple. USE A NAMING CONVENTION and ORGANIZE those photos!

Don’t make the mistake I did of not naming the photos with dates, events, and who’s in the pictures. This sounds like a lot of work but trust me, you’ll be glad you did it later. It only takes a few moments to label a set of photos shortly after you take them, but if you wait (and if you take a lot of photos), at some point you’ll have a huge, unmanageable pile of Mystery Photos that will seem insurmountable. My husband actually scanned every SINGLE album page (this was not an easy task on my part – the siren call of CSI is strong) and then I renamed the photos to make it super easy to find each one. I used (and love) Adobe Lightroom because editing and renaming groups of photos is fast and easy.

Here’s how I label photos: 2015 03 03 Debby’s Birthday Sean laughing

Now, instead of IMG_30203.JPG (which isn’t very helpful from an informational point of view), just LOOKING at the file gives us a ton of info: the date the photo was taken goes first, so they’re always in chronological order, then the event, like a birthday or vacation, and finally who’s actually in the photo. You can add something to help you remember something special about the photo too, which is helpful if you’ve got a series of photos of the same “scene”. If you have lots of people you feature regularly in your photos, you can use their abbreviations: 1985 01 07 Nicole Birthday RD SD JD Santa Cruz. Adding the location is also very helpful, especially if it’s somewhere special.

After you name your photos, create folders for every year, and then create a folder for every event. Name the folder the same way so it is always chronological.  For example, the folder name of that contains the photo 2015 03 03 Debby’s Birthday Sean Laughing would go into a folder named 2015 03 03 Debby’s Birthday. That makes it easy to peruse folders to find photos, and if you’re Lightroom-savvy, you can get Lightroom to handle the file naming, separating the events and exporting to the correct folders for you.

NOW, having done all of that, if you’re looking for photos of a particular person, you can search for them by name or initials.

The bottom line here is to get your photos organized BEFORE the sheer volume becomes overwhelming. This way, when you encounter a Life Event in the future (maybe someone’s getting married, and you need embarrassing pictures for a slideshow?), you can quickly and easily find what you’re looking for without losing your mind or wasting time.

April 6, 2015

Why You Should Tell Your Kids How Much Money You Make

It’s about time we address the financial family secret. My parents never told me how much they made so I just assumed I could spend until they told me to stop.

Pro Tip: Not a good idea!

While ignorance may seem like bliss to our little tykes, not knowing where they stand — what is okay to ask for, and what is not — can set them up to become entitled or spoiled. Nobody wants this, especially you. When your kid knows what you’ve budgeted for games or entertainment, they’ll learn how to prioritize their wish lists and take on weekend jobs to earn money to buy things. It takes you out of the line of fire and forces them to come up with a strategic plan. The way I see it: it’s a win-win situation.

[Source: New York Times]

April 3, 2015

Trick Your Family into Spring Cleaning!

Okay, I know this sounds impossible, but I actually got my kids (and husband!) to VOLUNTEER to spring clean my house! No, I didn’t bribe them, or threaten them.  This time. 🙂

So here’s how I did it:  I made a list of all of the things that needed spring cleaning: organizing closets, rearranging gardening supplies, cleaning out the fridge, cleaning windows – you get the idea. It felt good just to make the list of all the things I’d been wanting to clean and organize over the winter. Then, I called a family meeting on a Sunday morning and served up everyone’s favorite breakfast — huevos rancheros!

This wasn’t a “bribe”, exactly, but it helped when setting them up to volunteer for spring cleaning. I WAS PREPARED. I put up giant Post-it Notes on the walls and listed all of the individual things that needed to be cleaned. Instead of demanding that they participate, I started with a perk:  I told them that we would be hosting a party for family and friends in a month, and we needed to get our house and property in tip-top shape for our visitors. They were thrilled to hear about our future guests and we talked about fun things to do with them.  So far, so good. 

Then, I told them to write their names next to the tasks listed on the Post-it Notes. When they saw something that they hated doing — like cleaning toilets or washing out garbage cans, they jumped up to claim the things that they considered easier jobs.  What happened next was shocking. They actually signed up for EVERYTHING ON MY LIST! 

When they asked me why I didn’t sign up for anything, I told them that I’m responsible for making sure that they have all the cleaning supplies, organizational materials, and guidance they need.  Couldn’t believe it but they bought it! Phew! I didn’t need to nag about getting it done because they all knew the deadline — the weekend of our party!

And that’s how you get your family to VOLUNTEER to do chores!

April 3, 2015

New Study Detects Autism in the Placenta with 95% Accuracy

Abnormalities in the placenta can measure risks for developing autism. A Yale/UC Davis study shows that with over 95% accuracy, researchers can detect signs of autism by the number of trophoblast inclusions on the placenta at birth.  Why is this important to know?  With earlier diagnosis and treatment, the child will have the opportunity for effective intervention because the brain is most responsive to treatment during the first year of life. 

Very interesting research.

April 2, 2015

Admissions Committees Are Gaming Their Rankings

As if the college application process isn’t stressful enough, top colleges spam would-be hopefuls to apply to their colleges even after their official deadlines! They give these seniors false hopes that they might just get in with their less-than-stellar grades or SAT/ACT scores. That’s just plain cruel!  This year, a record number of colleges actually rolled back their deadlines and emailed thousands of students to encourage them to enroll after their deadlines had passed. What is this teaching our students who applied by the deadlines? RULES DON’T MATTER.

What is this saying about admissions ethics? By getting more students to apply (and pay between $50-$75 for each application — DO THE MATH!), it lowers the college’s acceptance rate — something that U.S. News and World Report uses to rank the colleges. I’d love to see the colleges cough up some stats on how many of these “late deadline submissions” are actually accepted. My guess is that the number would be even closer to zero than their “official” acceptance rate.