Blogs - 97/98 - Merit Educational Consultants

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.

 
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.

 
April 1, 2015

Algebra 2, Community College and You

Great news, community college students! As of now, liberal arts majors can get through community college in 2 years instead of 4 or 5! Whew! Until now, UC’s required all community college students to complete Algebra 2 before transferring, which often meant that non-math savvy students would have to take 2-3 remedial math classes just to take the college-level Algebra 2 course. 

That often translated to 3 semesters of math BEFORE they could even attempt Algebra 2. And even then, some students had to retake this course several times before passing with a C- or better! In California, about 75% of community college students take remedial math classes before they can take college-level Algebra 2, and only about 10% actually transfer to a 4-year college. So glad this will be a thing of the past – I’ve watched really bright kids forgo college because they knew they’d never pass Algebra 2. 

And of course, there’s the question “WHEN WILL I EVER NEED ALGEBRA 2 IN REAL LIFE”?  If I had a nickel every time I’ve been asked that, I’d have X nickels! <–MATH JOKE

Read on for details!

 

Several community colleges are now offering Statway courses, which are 2-semester classes that cover basic algebra and statistics.  So, for liberal arts or other non-math/science majors, you only need to take 2 semesters of super-easy math classes.  Hooray!

Start your research engines! Find a community college that offers Statway classes and organize your 4-year plan. Plan out what classes you need to transfer to your #1 college. Check out their eligibility requirements AND the lower-division courses required for your major.  [Note: Many colleges (like the UC’s) expect that you’ll transfer in with all of the same classes that your peers will have taken during their freshmen and sophomore years.  That way, you will start your junior year prepared just like the other students.] By the time you complete the Statway courses, more colleges will be accepting them! If your college offers Statway courses, let me know in the comments!

April 1, 2015

Making Seafood Sausage!

I’m trying something a little different today…I’m not ONLY going to talk about kids and college here!  There will also be food!  

In this instance, the subject is seafood sausage. If you’d like recipes or more details, please let me know in the comments, but for now, click the title of this post or “Read more” below to see some photos of Operation Seafood Sausage:

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March 31, 2015

“Everyone Wins” is a Philosophy for Failure

Did you know that there are parents out there who will stop a game between a group of kids before the game is over? Who would do this? People who don’t want their kids to experience failure. Which is pretty much the best way I can think of to guarantee future failure.

I mean, what lesson is being taught by stopping a game before the end? That mom or dad will always stop anything bad from happening to you? If you lose sometimes, doesn’t that make winning even sweeter? There are so many lessons that are lost when helicopter parents (hovering protectively over their children and micromanaging their lives) attempt to shield their kids from the normal things that happen in everyday life.

What are they thinking? Competition fires up the adrenaline, gets the wheels turning upstairs and gets kids to strategize and to work as a team. THESE are vital life skills. 

What happens to the artist who enters the real world of advertising and loses an account because she’d never had any real constructive feedback and always assumed her first draft was perfect? I know it’s emotionally difficult to see your child in a challenging situation…your mama (or daddy) bear instinct wants to make nice and create a safe place for your baby to live. But you ALSO don’t want to set your child up for future failure in school, in a job, or in a relationship.

In addition to the harm it does to children, the “everyone wins” strategy can have a very real impact on the parents who practice it. For example, after college, “boomerang grads” end up moving back in with (you guessed it!) mom and dad for a “few years” until they “get back on their feet” and find jobs. And how much luck do you think that boomerang grad will have finding a job interviewer who is going to hire ALL the applicants just so none of them will feel sad? 

So unless you want your kids to move back in with you, start preparing them for life now. Of course, this does NOT mean you should go out of your way to expose your kid to failure; just let it happen naturally, and help them deal with it constructively when it inevitably happens. Let them start developing critical thinking strategies and master negotiations and competition skills as they develop other personal characteristics. POP THAT BUBBLE and let them experience defeat and overcome obstacles. They’ll thank you for it when they’re able to maneuver through tough situations later. 

March 27, 2015

Today’s Schools: Too Much Pressure & Too Few Safety Valves

I shared an article yesterday written by Carolyn Walworth, a Palo Alto High junior. Something that wasn’t really covered in the article (but which is completely relevant to the current situation) is that there have been a number of student suicides in the Palo Alto area over the past few years. When teens start feeling like their only recourse is to jump in front of trains, we need stop to rethink what we, as a society, are doing to our students. Carolyn’s article shared her despair with the pressure of excessive homework (even during finals week when teachers are supposed to lay off homework) and the academic bullying towards students in the “dumb” math lane or the “late” readers (compared to the “early” readers). 

HUNDREDS of people have commented on Carolyn’s poignant article, but few offered viable solutions. 

We’ll never be able to stop people from labeling the various groups of students because we do need to group students with similar skills together in order to effectively teach them. Period. HOWEVER, the excessive homework part of the equation needs to be addressed.  Requiring students to take annotated notes for EVERY PARAGRAPH of EVERY CHAPTER is a waste of time  Seriously. Homework should engage the student in further learning — key word: ENGAGE. Rote, meaningless busy work contributes to late nights, lack of sleep, and too much stress.

Did you know that selective colleges expect students to take the most challenging courses their high schools offer?  So when high schools offer dozens of AP courses, and students are pressured to take 5 or 6 per year, that sets precedent for all students to take at least that many to compete for admission to highly-ranked colleges.  BUT, your child might have a better chance of getting into top colleges by going to a high school that offers just a few AP classes or limits the number of AP classes a student can take. This can STOP the insane spiral of students on autopilot just to keep up with the Joneses. Remember, colleges consider what your child does based on what is available to them at their school, which makes this a SCHOOL ISSUE.

So, what can you do?

Naturally, you can’t enroll your kid in the worst public school in the state and expect them to get into Stanford. Colleges are looking for students who are engaged and curious, not students who are burnt out and chasing the illusion of a college degree at a fancy schmancy institution. Students should engage in doing a project that they’re passionate about — something they want to do because it’s interesting and fun. Then, the project will give them talking points on their admissions essays and in their interviews, and most importantly, they’ll STAND OUT AMONG THEIR PEERS without taking 16 AP classes or becoming another incredibly sad statistic.

March 26, 2015

Stress and the Modern Student

I commend Carolyn Walworth for writing a revealing and courageous essay about her painful academic experience in the Palo Alto Unified School District. While I believe that both Paly and Gunn have excellent teachers and counselors, we need to rethink how many AP courses students should be allowed to take and offer students more engaging activities that allow them to explore their passions. Please take a few moments and read what she has to say.

(Photo copyright Carolyn Walworth)

 
March 25, 2015

Dirty Little Scholarship Secrets (And How To Avoid Them)

Did you know that colleges can actually take scholarship money away from students? It’s called DISPLACEMENT, it’s a common practice, it’s highly unethical, and it makes my blood boil more than just about anything else (except MAYBE Maury Povich). What’s worse is that they can take money they said they’d give to YOU and give it to someone else instead. The money you bring in from outside awards/scholarships DISPLACES (or replaces) any awards the school has said it would give you. And often, students don’t even realize this until very shortly before they start school, which can put them in a very difficult financial situation.

Here’s how it works: 

Let’s say that someone (like my daughter, for example), works hard to get a $20,000 outside scholarship to help pay for her VERY expensive education. One of the colleges she considered offered her $30,000 in financial aid. Tuition, room and board were $55,000 per year. So logically, she should have had to pay just $5,000 for her freshman year. Great, right? NOPE.

The school takes the money they said they’d give you and SUBTRACTS the amount you bring in “from outside”, which tosses the funds you would have received back in the pot/endowment/whatever. To add insult to injury, this particular school told her that the only way her outside scholarship would be applied toward her net cost AT ALL was if she earned OVER $30,000 in outside scholarships. In other words, she would have to MATCH what the college gave her in financial aid, and ONLY THEN would they apply a single dime toward her tuition bill. SO. SO. WRONG.

Colleges should not have the right to take a student’s promised funds and give it to another student. This discourages students from applying for outside scholarships and discourages philanthropists from awarding grant money to students in need.

BEFORE you accept admission on May 1st, PLEASE check with the financial aid department to make sure your scholarships/outside aid will actually be applied to your tuition bottom line! Fortunately, not all colleges work this way – make sure yours doesn’t! College is expensive enough!

March 25, 2015

Child Care for Free? No, You’re Not Hallucinating (Part Two)

Alright, let’s get the math out of the way first: do you know how EXPENSIVE it is to hire a babysitter these days? It’s not like those nice 80’s movies where you can get the neighbor girl Tina to look after Little Billy for 4 hours, at the end of which you pay her $10 and hope her boyfriend Troy was at football practice all afternoon. No, today’s babysitters are sleek, efficient, expensive individuals with Linked In profiles who accept credit card payments via their website.

Just how bad is it? According to a recent Yahoo article, you can expect to pay somewhere between $13 (the average) and $16 (in San Francisco) per hour for a babysitter. That doesn’t count tips, annual raises or the obligatory background check (seriously, don’t cheap out on the background check). So that’s $13 per hour. You’re going out to dinner as well? Tack on another $50. Catching a movie after? Shell out another $40. Popcorn and snacks? Listen to the sad wailing of another $15 leaving your wallet. Oh, and you decided to watch the most recent 3 hour 7th part of your favorite trilogy? That’s at least 5 hours of solid babysitting time, which brings our total to a whopping $170 plus tip. WHO CAN AFFORD TO PAY THAT??

Spending that kind of money can take the thrill out of even the most romantic of plans. With pressure to save for college tuition for 2 kids AND my own retirement (not to mention having some money to enjoy LIVING), I had to come up with a creative way to give my girls great care without having to resort to putting a stocking over my head and holding up the local chapter of the 1%.

After a few sleepless nights, I came up with what I think is a fabulous way to get free child care – I would STOP SPENDING MONEY I DIDN’T HAVE, and set something up myself. All I did was invite 2-3 kids to join my girls for a preschool program during the time I worked or needed child care. I hired a wonderful caregiver/teacher, laid out an engaging program, bought educational games and art supplies, and HOT DIGGITY, my child care was covered! Cost to me? ZERO. The tuition the other kids paid covered all of my expenses.

In fact, I kind of love this idea so much I wrote a book about it. It goes into a ton of detail and has forms and graphs and charts and everything you’d need. That said, it’s not the right solution for everyone.

Another great way to lessen the pain of paying for child care is to gather a group of parents you know and trust who have kids the same age as yours, and take turns watching each other’s kids. No money need change hands, and you can all work out a schedule that works best for you!

Have you done something like this, or know others who’ve done something similar? Let me know in the comments below!

March 24, 2015

Child Care for Free? No, You’re Not Hallucinating (Part One)

One of the biggest shocks to new parents is just how much being a parent COSTS. Forget all the furniture, the car seats, the designer diaper bags, the “Kiss Me, I’ve Been Changed Recently” onesie, all of it. Childcare is one of if not THE biggest cost. You will literally need 2 full incomes to support this ONE expense, and it’ll be at the expense of other things you like, like eating nice food or driving something OTHER than a lime green Gremlin with one orange door.

Unless you’re one of the lucky ones with a mom who is available 24/7 to help take care of your babies so you can work or to give you a break, you’re probably struggling with the rising cost of childcare and after-school programs. I have two things to say to you: One, you are not alone, and Two, there is a way to get child care for free, and I’m going to tell you how to do it. 

So what’s a parent to do? STOP COMPROMISING, and start looking at child care from a different perspective. Instead of looking at the child care problem from a consumer perspective, look at it from a PROVIDER perspective. Rather than searching for the perfect (and perfectly elusive) child care program, I started a program for my girls right in MY home. This gave me COMPLETE control over my kids’ activities and I even got to select their teachers and their playmates. 

By setting up a child care program right in my home, my kids were able to :

  • Sleep in every morning (no more pitching a fit when I was running late)
  • Participate in activities (I got to choose what they did each day)
  • Use the materials and books I purchased (mother knows best!)
  • Take naps right in their own bedrooms

When they were sick, I was relieved that they could stay in bed and their care giver was there for them if I couldn’t stay home. And if I was running late, I simply made a call and didn’t have to pay late pick-up fees or penalties! Now here’s the FREE part: to get the program to pay for itself, I just enrolled a few other children in the program I set up for MY kids, and THEIR tuition paid for the teacher, curriculum, materials and other expenses. 

In other words, IT’S FREE! I didn’t stay home to teach, I hired a teacher to run the program while I went to work. It’s easy to do. 

That’s all for today, check back here tomorrow for Part Two, which includes some super fun facts and figures! Everyone loves math!

March 18, 2015

3 Things That Will Mess Your Kids Up (And How to Avoid Them)

From the minute I was pregnant, I immediately devoured every scrap of info I could get my hands on to see if my development was normal, and I did things like comparing my body to other pregnant mothers. Of course, everyone is different, so this was a fun little emotional rollercoaster: some days I was elated, others I was devastated, and the worst part is that I did it to myself, AND it’s very easy to transfer this sort of thinking to your kids. What I didn’t know then is that the way we talk to our kids will have a deep and direct impact on how they feel about themselves. We’re talking about self-esteem here.

SO! Let’s think about how we interact with our kids, and keep from screwing them up.  Here are 3 easy things you can avoid:

  1. Don’t label. When discussing their inappropriate behavior, don’t call them “bad” or “naughty little scamps”, just describe their “actions” and explain why their actions were wrong or bad. This can be super hard to do, because we’ve been programmed to label people based on their behavior. It’s easier to stop doing a specific thing (like tripping the neighbor boy Joey), but it’s much harder to stop being a “bad kid”. (Labels are bad, mmmkay?)
     
  2. Don’t compare. Unfortunately, this is how our brains work – we learn and communicate via comparison, and often the easiest comparison is to your other kids, or kids your kid knows. NOT GOOD. By comparing your child to another child, you’re setting them up for competition in a negative way. Nobody likes to hear that little Jessie got straight A’s or that Jason makes his bed every morning without being reminded. This just makes them hate Jessie or Jason, and the message you’re trying to convey is lost. Instead, try comparing their behavior to their own history. Bring up past examples of when THEY did well. By comparing them to themselves, they feel that you acknowledge that they are good kidsThen, all they need to do is change that one thing — they won’t be dealing with a constant battle to be better than someone else.
     
  3. Don’t lie. Kids are smart, they’ll pick up on fibs, no matter how “white” the lies might be. So don’t waste your time telling them that they probably didn’t mean to say that Jeni is ugly – kids are very literal – in their minds, she really is ugly! Don’t try to make them look better than they are because that just tells them they’re not living up to your expectations. This can cause lead to acting out or other, larger problems. If you catch yourself starting to fib, stop and simply ask your kid what he should do to fix the problem.  If they don’t know how to respond or they continue to defend their behavior, explain why that behavior isn’t ok.

See?  Easy!