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December 7, 2017

Did You Know That Some Colleges Are Slashing Tuition To Recruit Students?

Who would have believed that some colleges are desperately seeking students when you hear about how Stanford has a 4.8% acceptance rate, which is lower than Harvard’s 5.4%? Yup!  There are over 2,800 public colleges, and over 1,200 private colleges in the US. Only the top colleges are ridiculously selective.  Eight private colleges just announced that they are slashing tuition for next fall (2018-2019). Reducing college tuition is called “tuition reset.”

Although you might think that this tuition reset attracts and helps financially struggling families, it actually does the opposite.  Students who would be entitled to financial aid (grant and loans), only receive less financial aid so the actual amount they pay is about the same.  ARGH.  And guess what?  The wealthy students are the only ones who actually pay less with tuition reset.  Because these students wouldn’t get financial aid anyway, the discounted tuition rate means that they pay less for college.

So tuition reset is really just a marketing ploy that benefits the wealthy.  It moves the college into the limelight bringing more applicants; and to make up for the decrease in tuition revenues, many colleges are increasing their enrollment.  In my book, that may lead to lower academic standards with increased class sizes and fewer professors.


December 7, 2017

Does Location Matter When Choosing A College?

You’ve heard that LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION is everything in real estate and retail business, but did you know that location is also a key factor in choosing the right college?  Yup! I’ve been advising students to choose a college that’s located in a vibrant city where they can intern in top companies – possibly for their future employer. Going to college in cities where they can explore the industry and make vital contacts adds a bonus to the mix when choosing colleges.

According to Stanford’s Chetty and coauthor Brown University economist John Friedman, students who attend college in New York City, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Fayetteville (Ark), El Paso, and San Antonio, increase their after-college earning salaries by as much as 15%.

In other words, you don’t want to study business marketing in a rural community or animal sciences in a metropolitan city.  It’s really just common sense.


December 7, 2017

Dirty Little Scholarship Secrets

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 Donald Trump). 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 THENwould 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!

December 7, 2017

3 Things You Need To Do To Secure Financial Aid For Your College Student

If your child will be starting college in the fall of 2018, it’s time to get ready for the financial aid process.  The 2018-2019 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens on October 1st.  For financial aid it’s first come, first served! So, sharpen your pencils and do the following 3 things:

  1. Get your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID
  2. Get your 2016 Tax Records and Social Security Numbers
  3. Complete your FAFSA before March 2, 2018

Students who qualify for the California Dream Act (CADAA) and the Chafee Grant for Foster Youth can attend the free Cash for College workshops in California.  Sign up for the 100+ workshops to learn more about moneys available.

In order to receive scholarship funds, you need to complete the FAFSA and indicate which colleges you’re applying to.  After the colleges receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) from your FAFSA application, they will calculate your financial need and create scholarship/loan offers if your child receives an admissions offer. Good luck!

December 7, 2017

Who Needs To Take the SAT 2 Subject Test?

It used to be that college-bound students took the SAT 1 or ACT to demonstrate that they had the reading, writing, and math foundation to be successful in college, and they took the SAT 2 Subject tests to demonstrate their specific skills in academic subjects.  While most colleges still require the SAT 1 or ACT today, very few colleges now require the SAT 2 Subject Tests.

If you happen to be strong in a particular subject area and you’re applying to competitive colleges, take the SAT 2 Subject Tests and submit them with your other scores.  It might help you get in.  But, if you’re not a good test taker or you aren’t ready for any of the subject tests, then skip them.

Check with the colleges on your list to make sure you don’t need the SAT 2 scores.  In California, UCs don’t require SAT 2 Subject Test but they do recommend them for freshman applicants majoring in competitive majors like engineering, biology, chemistry, or physics.  Here are the UC recommendations:

Chemistry: Math Level 2 and science test (same as major)
Engineering: Math Level 2 and Physics

Engineering: Math Level 2 and Physics
Computer Science and Engineering: Math Level 2 and Physics
Pharmaceutical Science: Math Level 2, Biology M and/or Chemistry
Physical Sciences: Math Level 2
Public Health Sciences: Biology E, Biology M, and/or Chemistry
Public Health Policy: Biology E, Biology M, and/or World History

Los Angeles:
Engineering: Math Level 2 and Physics
Applied Sciences: Math Level 2 and a science test closely related to the major

Natural and Agricultural Sciences: Math Level 2 and Chemistry or Physics
Engineering: Math Level 2 and Chemistry or Physics

San Diego:
Engineering: Math Level 2 and Physics
Physical Sciences: Math Level 2 and a science closely related to major

Santa Barbara:
Engineering: Math Level 2
Mathematics: Math Level 2
Physics: Math Level 2 and Physics
Biology: Biology
Chemistry and Biochemistry: Chemistry
Computer Sciences: Math Level 2

December 7, 2017

Sept 30th Is The Deadline for UC TAG!

Transfer students who attend California community colleges and hope to transfer to UCs need to get their Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) application in before September 30th.

Six UC campuses offer an admission guarantee for junior transfer applicants (Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz).  Simply complete the online UC TAG application at  Use the useful Transfer Admission Planner (TAP) to help you get organized.

If you need help, just ask a Merit College Advisor at info@!

December 7, 2017

Grammar Is Often Your First Impression

So, who cares about grammar and correct word choice? Surprisingly, many people. Writing is often your introduction – to a college admissions officer, potential employer, or future partner. Using vocabulary incorrectly, misspelling words, or forgetting an apostrophe can give the impression that you have limited education and/or intelligence (sorry, but it’s true!).

Even if you consider yourself a good writer, check out these common grammar mistakes (from Inc Magazine’s Christina DesMarais, “43 Embarrassing Grammar Mistakes Even Smart People Make”).  Learn these 37 most common (even among great writers) mistakes so you can communicate clearly and prevent an embarrassing faux pas.

  • First-come, first-serve
    It should actually be “served.” Without the d, the phrase above suggests that the first individual who arrives will be the one who serves everyone, which is not the idiom’s intent.
  • I could care less
    Think about this one for a minute. The way it’s written above suggests you possess care which still could be allocated to the situation in question. “I couldn’t care less” is correct because it communicates that “I have no more care to give.”
  • Irregardless
    This is not a word. It’s simply “regardless,” as in “Regardless of what you think about grammar, you’ll look silly if you use it incorrectly.”
  • “I” as the last word in a sentence.
    This mistake is remarkably common, yet a correct example would be “Karlee talked with Brandon and me.” The trick to getting this one straight is to take the other person’s name out of the sentence and see if your personal pronoun choice still sounds right. “Karlee talked with I” is awkward and incorrect.
  • “Me” as the first word in a sentence.
    I hear people saying things such as “Me and Brandon met at Starbucks this morning” all the
    time, even though it’s always wrong. “Brandon and I met at Starbucks this morning” is correct.
  • Shoe-in
    “Shoo-in” is what you really want to write when you’re trying to say that someone is a sure winner. It’s because when you “shoo” something you’re urging it in a certain direction.
  • Emigrated to
    Emigrate” and “from” always go together, as do “immigrate” and “to.” To emigrate is to come from somewhere, and to immigrate is to go to somewhere. “Colin emigrated from Ireland to the United States” means the same as “Colin immigrated to the United States from Ireland.”
  • Overuse of apostrophes
    These little guys are ubiquitously misused. Apostrophes indicate one of two things: possession or letters missing, as in “Sara’s iPad” and “it’s” for “it is” (second i missing). They don’t belong on plurals. “FAQs,” for example, should not have an apostrophe. Also, people often make a mistake with their own last name. If you want to refer to your family but don’t want to list everyone’s first name write “The Johnsons” not “The Johnson’s.” Another big one: Decades should not have apostrophes. For example, “1980s” is correct but “1980’s” is not.
  • Prostrate cancer
    This one is a simple spelling mistake resulting from an extra r. “Prostrate” actually means to lie face down. The “prostate” gland is a part of the male reproductive anatomy.
  • Slight of hand
    A “slight” is an insult, whereas “sleight” indicates dexterity or cunning. It’s why “sleight of hand” is commonly used in the world of magic and illusion.
  • Honed in
    Just know that to “home in” on something means to move toward a goal, such as “The missile homed in on its target.” To “hone” is to sharpen.
  • Baited breath
    When I think about bait, worms and lures come to mind. The first word should actually be “bated,” which stems from the verb “abate,” meaning to stop or lessen. So, if you’re trying to say that someone is holding his breath, you can see that “bated breath” makes the most sense.
  • Piece of mind
    If you want to share what you’re thinking with someone, this could work if you add “my” before “mind.” But if you’re trying to indicate tranquility, then spell it “peace.”
  • Wet your appetite
    “Whet” means to sharpen or stimulate. As such, the latter spelling is more appropriate.
  • Make due
    “Due” means “owed,” and that’s not the intent with this idiom. “Make do” is the proper way to say that you’re going to get along with what you have.
  • Do diligence
    “Due diligence” is the proper business and legal term. It means you will investigate an individual or company before signing a contract.
  • Peaked my interest
    To pique means to arouse, so the correct phrase is “piqued my interest,” meaning that my interest was stimulated. While the incorrect way it’s written in the heading may suggest that someone’s interest was taken to a high level, it’s still wrong.
  • Must of, should of, would of, and could of
    All those ofs should be “have.” The proper versions were corrupted by contractions such as “must’ve.”
  • ll the sudden
    Whether you say “all of a sudden” or “all of the sudden,” the preposition “of” must be involved either way. But if you’re really trying to say “suddenly,” just do.
  • All the sudden
    Whether you say “all of a sudden” or “all of the sudden,” the preposition “of” must be involved either way. But if you’re really trying to say “suddenly,” just do.
  • Worse comes to worse
    “Worse comes to worst,”–note the t–is better because it indicates something has degraded from one negative plane to the lowest possible.
  • Unthaw
    Even though people use this word as a verb all the time, the best way to “un-thaw” something would be to put it in the freezer. Is freezing what you mean, or thawing?
  • Hot water heater
    If anything, it’s a cold water heater. Just use “water heater.”
  • Boldface lie
    “Bald-face” means shameless or showing no guilt. When a person tells a bald-faced lie, they are openly lying. An acceptable variant of this phrase is a “barefaced lie.”
  • Chock it up
    The correct version–“chalk it up”– comes from keeping score on a chalkboard.
  • Through the ringer
    The incorrect example above is missing a w. A wringer is an old-fashioned mechanism which presses water out of clothes being washed by hand, a process indicative of giving someone a hard time.
  • Subject and pronoun disagreement.
    This one is subject to debate, but here’s my two cents. Take the sentence, “A person who smokes damages their lungs.” See anything wrong there? You should. “A person” is–obviously–one person. But “their” is a word you would use if you were referring to more than one person. Correct sentences could either read:

    1. “People who smoke damage their lungs.”
    2. read more

  • December 7, 2017

    Why College Students Are Becoming Interested In Becoming Lawyers

    The number of students who took the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) increased by nearly 20% this year. That’s the biggest jump in over 15 years. So why the sudden interest in law?


    As students have watched the Trump administration flagrantly misuse the law since January 2017, these students are starting to see the necessity for laws. Hmm. So whether or not you’re wanting more government, we are going to have more lawyers in the future. I think environmental law is going to be a booming industry soon.

    December 7, 2017

    International Students Aren’t Always Full Pay

    Until recently, international students always paid full fare for their privilege to attend American colleges and universities. But that is changing because colleges are seeking those higher-caliber international students. To be competitive, colleges are offering scholarships to attract those top-notch students from abroad.

    At public colleges, there’s been a bit of a backlash from in-state families because legislatures and constituents want public colleges to cater to the taxpayers who finance these institutions. Makes sense. So some public colleges offer modest non-need based scholarships to students they hope will matriculate to their colleges. These students receive scholarship dollars to offset the out-of-state tuition fees, but they rarely ever get a full ride (all tuition and housing fees). That’s reserved for well-deserving in-state students!

    Private colleges, on the other hand, have more leeway to offer scholarships because their institutions don’t rely on public funds from taxpayers. So they don’t deal with politics the way public colleges do. If the college really wants a particular student, they now offer scholarships – even full rides – to sweeten the offer. That’s just like they do to entice American students to attend their colleges.

    By giving scholarships to international students, it helps create a more global community of students who learn to work together as they prepare to solve major issues that we face as a civilization.

    December 7, 2017

    Don’t Ignore the PSAT!

    It can help with college scholarships and admissions.  Here’s how:

    Everyone thinks the PSAT is just a preliminary “SAT” that colleges don’t see, and subsequently, they neither prep for it nor take it seriously.  BIG MISTAKE!  The PSAT is actually also the NMSQT, National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which is the only way you can qualify to be a National Merit Scholar. Out of the 1.5 million students who take the PSAT each year, 34,000 students are commended and 16,000 become semifinalists.  Of these 16,000 semifinalists, 15,000 go on to become Merit Scholars.  These scholars win $2,500 scholarships or corporate/college scholarship awards.  And this is just for taking the PSAT!  Easy peasy.

    Being recognized as a recipient of the Merit Scholarship Award is highly regarded by college admissions committees.  When my daughter Nicole won this award, she received a full-scholarship offering from colleges that she didn’t even apply to!  Colleges get ahold of these Merit Scholars and actively pursue them as they recruit students each year.

    My recommendation: Take PSAT practice tests so you become familiar with the test process.  Work on improving your scores by completing each section within the given time allotment.  Review math concepts that you may have forgotten over the summer.  READ, READ, READ.  The best way to improve the tricky reading comprehension and grammar sections is to simply read every day.

    You can start taking the PSAT in 9th grade.  Your “real” PSAT score is calculated in 11th grade, so by starting early, you get 2 chances to prepare.  Just think — this is probably one of the easiest scholarships to apply for — No essays! No interviews!.  And if you score in the top 4%, colleges will be knocking on your door!