Confused About the Actual Cost of Attending Your #1 College?

Confused by the financial aid award letters that you kids are receiving from the colleges?  You’re not alone.  30% of colleges do not give parents the correct net price to attend – leaving out the costs of textbooks or other costly expenses.

Colleges are supposed to provide a “Net-Price Calculator” so you can determine what your actual costs will be to attend each college.  But, these calculators are often buried on the college websites. Many colleges don’t include the full costs of attendance – making parents take out additional loans to bridge the gap. 

If you can’t find the Net-Price Calculator on your college’s website, go to  Simply enter the college name and click on “Show Results.” You’ll see the actual costs to attend the college.  Learn more by checking out this short video:

And if you’re still confused, call the financial aid department to ask questions.  That way, you’ll be able to choose the perfect college that you can afford!

60% of Students Graduate College Within 8 Years

For students at either community colleges or 4-year universities, a new study reports that 60% graduate within 8 years. This is just appalling. First of all, when people go to college, their lives are on hold because it’s difficult to hold a full-time job, start a family, or save money. So spreading a 4-year bachelor’s degree to 8 years is a waste of time, which results in 40% drop out rate.

The problem is that these students don’t have a plan when they start.  College counselors help them select their courses for just one term (quarter or semester) but they don’t help layout a 4-year plan to make sure they’re on the right path.

After surviving 12 years of elementary, middle and high school with specific tracks for college prep, college students often flounder once they start college.  Some dabble in the general education courses required for graduation and take a few lower-division courses for their possible majors. When students are weak in math or English, they may have to take several courses just to get into a college-level course that is required for graduation.  Without seeing the big picture and understanding why they are taking each of their courses, these students can lose sight of their goal: to get that coveted bachelor’s degree.

When students lay out their 4-year college plan BEFORE they start college, they understand the importance of taking specific prerequisites and they know how to find courses that satisfy multiple requirements.  This saves both time and money. These students work harder to complete their courses and they take extra steps to get into courses with waiting lists because they understand the consequences of not getting in.

The students I work with who organize their 4-year plans, graduate in 4 years. Besides ensuring that they will in fact get their degrees, they learn how to work with the system to do it more efficiently so they save between $12,000 - $75,000. These students also take advantage of the many unique programs that their colleges offer by adding internships, research, and study abroad programs before they leave home!


VIDEO: Eva Prakash TEDxMeritAcademy Talk

In August, Merit Academy hosted TEDxMeritAcademy at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz.

Eva Prakash was a featured speaker, and her TEDx Talk is embedded below.

“Why Diversity Matters for the Future of Artificial Intelligence”
The world is in a period of revolutionary digital transformation that is driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning. But as AI’s uses become more widespread, an important question arises: who will be building these technologies? Currently, there is a diversity crisis in engineering – women and people of color make up only a small percentage of computer scientists, and their numbers appear to be even lower in the AI field. What are the implications if this massively important technology is fundamentally biased? And what can we do to bridge the gap?

About Eva Prakash : Eva Prakash is a rising senior and an advocate of diversity in artificial intelligence. She is the founder and CEO of Girl 2.0, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in California that is dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology by providing free computer science education to girls and other underrepresented minorities in STEM. The organization is focused on debunking the myth that coding is only for “white guys in hoodies” by rebranding what it means to be a computer scientist. Currently, Eva is a student researcher in computational biology at Stanford University, where she works on the interpretability of machine learning models for genomics.


Step Back, Helicopter Moms!

Moms who hover over their children are Helicopter Moms. They’re worried that their children might get hurt so they constantly make sure that there environment is void of sharp corners or opportunities to put their kids at risk. These moms consider themselves to be superior to other types of mothers because they are always fussing over protective layers of clothing and gear for sports.

Children of Helicopter Moms might wear multiple layers of sweaters and jackets so they will be warm. When playing sports, they’ll be the player wearing every form of protective gear available. And if the flu is going around the school, this child will be wearing a mask and downing Vitamin C every few hours, and then they’ll be on their way to the ER to get antibiotics.

Helicopter Moms don’t stop worrying at high school graduation.  They’re the moms who make excuses for their college kids by requesting retakes on exams, or call in sick to their adult children’s employers. Yup, I can only image how they get entangled in their marriages and grandparenting.

The result of helicopter parenting is that these children aren’t prepared to make decisions on their own. This can lead to insecurity and often depression. So rather than hover over your child, let them experience some risks and manage their own consequences. A Helicopter Mom will never step back far enough to ever be accused of neglect or endangering their children. Just reel it in a bit so your children can experiment and grow. 


Teen Who Survived Homelessness Gets Into 17 Colleges

Amidst the college scandal debacle, it’s refreshing to hear that a young teen who was in and out of homelessness has been accepted to 17 colleges! He will be the first person in his family to go to college. Using the application fee waivers, he applied to 20 colleges.

Love to see this type of determination from a bright young man and the support from a mother who encouraged him to study and to position himself to break the poverty cycle. Kudos to the mom, too!


30 Million Words by Kindergarten

We know that reading to our children encourages them to read and explore ideas. Educators have been encouraging parents to read to their children for decades.  And we know that educated and wealthier parents try to make it a ritual – at bedtime if not more often – to read piles of books to our kids. There’s evidence that children from low-income homes have heard about 30 million LESS WORDS than kids from middle or upper income families. Here is just another example of how poverty negatively affects children and sets them back in the academic world.

If parents read 5 books per day to their children, these kids will be exposed to 30 million words when they enter kindergarten.  They’re more likely to be prepared to start school, read at their grade level, and be success in academics. Many low-income children don’t have access to books and may have been exposed to under 5,000 words (compared to 30 million!). Groups are donating books to underprivileged children to give them a head start. If you have books on your children’ bookshelves that they no longer read, consider donating them to women’s shelters, clubs, and other organizations. 

What's A Bulldozer Mom?

A bulldozer mom forges ahead of her child, clearing all obstacles to ensure success. While this may seem like a dedicated mother whose sole purpose is to protect her child, she ultimately sets her child up to be psychologically frail and afraid to fail.

A bulldozer mom might pay thousands of dollars to get her child into a selective college (Lori Loughlin), or hire a hit man to murder her daughter’s rival so she could get on a cheerleading team (Wanda Holloway). This is ultimately more about the mother’s insecurities than their children’s.  It’s the mother’s ego that needs to boast that her child got in or made the team.  The children are victims of their mothers’ personal ambitions.

As a result, bulldozer children don’t learn coping and problem-solving strategies. These children often grow up to be adults who can’t navigate their careers to reach their goals. In the case of the Loughlin daughter, she didn’t want to advance her career, her goal was to go to college to party.

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UC Bound? Here are Your Next Steps!

Congratulations on your acceptances to the UC! As May 1st quickly approaches, there are a few things you’ll need to do.  Get your planners (or GCals) and set time aside for the following:

1) File your Statement of Intent (SIR) by May 1st for freshman, and June 1st for transfers.

2) Pay your SIR deposit to ONE college. If you are waitlisted at a different college, pay your SIR to a college that you have been admitted to, not the waitlisted college. Unfortunately, the SIR deposits are nonrefundable and non-transferable.

3) Sign up for Orientation to learn more about college life and protocol. (Not all UCs offer Orientation)

4) International students may need to submit a Statement of Legal Residence (SLR).

5) If you’ve been offered a position on a waitlist, you must opt-in to the waitlist for all of the campuses that you’re considering.

6) If you change your mind and withdraw your SIR for a UC campus, you’ll lose the SIR deposit, and you’ll need to file a new SIR and pay a new SIR deposit at the college you choose to go to.

7) The Analytical Writing Placement Exam (AWPE) will take place on May 11th if you haven’t met the Entry Level Writing Requirement (ELWR) by April 1st.

8) If you took college-level courses through a dual-enrollment program, you’ll need to provide a final transcript from your college (even though the course may have been offered on your high school campus) after high school graduation.

Mark your calendars to make sure you don’t forget any steps!

How to Get More Financial Aid From Your College

Are you worried by the high cost of attending college – no matter what your income bracket – and feel pressure to “find” money to cover your child’s college tuition? You’re not alone. It’s difficult to tell your hard-working child that you can’t afford to send them to their #1 college.

Here are some tips to get more financial aid from your college:

  1. Tell them if your income (or ability to pay) has changed from the time you submitted your FAFSA. Consider situations like losing a job, having special needs children, or changes in marital status.
  2. If your child received a better financial aid package from another comparable college, some colleges like Cornell will consider matching a competing financial aid offer.
  3. Check for errors on your FAFSA and if you find one, resubmit it and alert the college so they can recalculate your ability to pay. Make sure you didn’t report retirement accounts (401(k) or IRAs as an asset, and make sure you include stepchildren in your household size.

If you find something that may change your status, write an appeal letter that summarizes your basis for the appeal. Include documents (layoff notice, medical bills, bank statements). It can also be helpful to have a doctor, social worker or others to write a letter stating your financial situation to support your claims.


Three Tips to Create a Healthy Device Balance in Your Home

Concerned that your children are spending too much time on electronic devices?  Worried about how this might negatively affect their learning and even their health? Think that you can’t do anything about it? It’s time to rethink how we can use technology to enhance our children’s and our own lives – not hurt them.

3 Tips to Implement NOW:

1) Set up specific times that are okay for cell phones, computer games, and other digital distractions. Be consistent!

2) Supervise device use. Install nanny software, check in to see what they’re doing online, have all passwords to make sure they’re safe.  It’s your right and your privilege as their parent!

3) Organize activities where no devices are allowed. Getting exercise with the family promotes a healthy lifestyle.  Plan hikes, outings, and physical activities.

You’ll probably notice that your kids will get better grades in school, be less anxious, and be happier.  And, you’ll appreciate preserving family time again!