Seniors Have Many Choices

It’s not just ADMIT or DENY.

As seniors receive their final admit or deny letters from their colleges, many feel stressed and anxious.  Not all students get into their #1 college, and as they hear classmates gloating about choosing between 2 Ivy League choices, they sink into depression. Here are some tips to help seniors who face some difficult decisions:

- If they didn’t get into their #1 college, they can take a gap year to build their portfolios and be more competitive next year.

- Check the majors and programs at the colleges they were accepted to – they might find that other colleges offer exactly what they want.

- Apply to other colleges.  There are over 450 colleges that are still accepting applications!

Students have many options and they shouldn’t feel pressured to make decisions about college until they find the best fit.

Student Loans (and Contracts) are Good for Grades

Amidst the chatter about how student loans create a financial burden for student after graduation, a new study finds that students with student loans do BETTER in classes than those students without loans. They earned more credits and received a higher GPA. And, community college students with loans are 11% more likely to transfer to 4-year colleges.

When students are motivated to complete their degrees in a shorter period of time because they are paying for the courses, they will finish quicker and they’ll study harder than students whose parents are footing the bill.  When parents whip out their checkbooks to pay tuition, room and board, and living expenses, why would their children rush to leave such a sweet deal? Four years of partying with no parents in sight! Hmm.

I’ve created a 4-Year Plan and Contract for my students to make sure that both students and parents benefit from the college experience.  We lay out all of the student’s major, electives, and general education requirements so the student understands what they’ll be taking and why.  Then they sign a contract indicating what the parents will pay for based on course completion and grades.  If the student’s grades drop or they withdraw from classes, the student is responsible for a portion of the tuition and room and board.  It’s a great way to make sure that college students understand that their parents are making a huge sacrifice to send them to college and this gives them incentive to do well and graduate on time.

Why Iceland is the Best Place in the World for Girls and Women

Starting in preschool, gender equality lessons are taught -- and it doesn't stop there. They have 3 laws that protect women at work, ban gender discriminatory advertising, and prohibit strip clubs for feminist reasons. In 2009, Iceland was the first country to completely close the gender gap in education and health.

In 2016, it was 87% of the way to closing gender gaps in all sectors.

Check out the laws and practices that Iceland uses to support women's rights:

1. Women's equality is protected by law

2. Equal pay for equal work is mandatory (by 2020)

3. Companies' Boards must include at least 40% women

4. Best parental-leave policy in the world

5. Students learn gender equality is important (preschool to college)

6. Paying for sex is illegal; strip clubs are illegal; prostitutes are victims

Imagine the world if all nations had these laws and practices in place? That would be a more peaceful and enlightened world.


The Legacy Loophole is Legal Discrimination

Children of alumni (aka legacies) are more likely to get into elite colleges than students with equal qualifications without the legacy card. Remember that a hundred years ago, elite colleges were predominantly white, male, and wealthy.  So if the legacy tradition has been in place for decades, these elite institutions have been discriminating against women and people of color simply by reserving the right to admit children of alumni. 
At the start of the 20th century, these legacy policies were a deliberate strategy to keep Jewish students out of elite colleges. When children of alumni’s GPA and SAT scores were lower than Jewish students, these elite colleges needed to give their legacy students an advantage. This was blatant discrimination. 
One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, rejected the system of hereditary privilege of the English monarchy. He hoped America could be a natural aristocracy based on virtue and talent. And today in 2019, I’d like to see the end of the legacy loophole.

Don't Pay For Essays

Think you can pay tutors to write your child’s college app essays? Not if you want them to get into college and do well once they get there!

When a tutor gets paid to edit dozens of essays, it’s in the tutor’s best interest to completely rewrite them as quickly as possible. But just because the essay is excellent, doesn’t mean that the student will get into a top college. Actually, perfect essays will probably do the opposite! Yup! Remember college admissions officers read thousands of essays and they can quickly spot an essay that isn’t written by the student.  They review each student’s entire application so they see the student’s GPA and SAT/ACT scores, quality of the school, caliber of courses taken, and extracurriculars. That means that if this tutor wrote an excellent essay from a college graduate’s refined perspective and writing style, it might not match up with what the admissions officer would expect to read from an average high school student.  In other words, the essay probably won’t pass the sniff test. 

In the unlikely chance that this student got into their dream college by submitting an essay that a tutor wrote for him, he’ll likely fail out. I see this happening every year.  How can parents expect their child to do well in college when the entire class of incoming students have far superior critical thinking and writing skills than their child? This unfortunate child will harbor feelings of incompetence as he struggles to pass courses. His parents will need to pay tutors to write his essays for classes just to graduate.  This student couldn’t possibly go on to graduate school because his college GPA will not be competitive, and forget him passing the GRE or other grad school exams. 

So if your child is not a prolific writer, don’t pay someone to write their essays.  Instead, hire a tutor who will teach him how to write these essays.  It might take 15-20 drafts but with each draft, your child’s writing skills will improve. First they should start with carefully reading the essay prompts.  20% of my students write essays that don’t address the prompt – a big no-no in the eyes of college admissions officers.  Then they’ll need to brainstorm about experiences they’ve had that address the prompts.  If they’ve done a project, that will be the focus for all of their applications. Next, they’ll write an outline, and then a rough draft.  In the following 3-4 drafts, they’ll add more content and details, and then they’ll start editing grammar and word usage.  In the final drafts, they’ll be polishing the essay and checking its tone and clarity. If the student reads it and it doesn’t sound like they’re telling the story, then they will continue to work on it until it does. When they’re done, the student will be proud of the essay and ready to start the next one.  Each essay will get easier to write and when they’re done with all of their applications, your child will be ready to tackle college-level essays and head off to college with success.

Do your child a favor by not paying someone to write his essays.  Stay away from companies that give you package deals because they’ll be motivated to do heavy editing or rewrite essays that your child could never write. All of my college advisory specialists are trained and dedicated to helping students write excellent essays and retain each student’s individual voice. They don’t rush through the process because the student’s writing won’t improve. Sure, you want your child to get into a top college or university, but you want them to get in on their own merits and you want them to have the skills to hold their head up high and enjoy their college experience. 


Want to Speak at TEDx? Have an Idea Worth Spreading?


TEDx is an excellent platform to share your thoughts, discoveries, and projects, and TEDxMeritAcademy is currently looking for speakers for our 2019 event.

Check out our previous TEDxMeritAcademy events. If you would like to speak at our TEDxMeritAcademy event on Saturday, July 27th, 2019, please contact us at or 831.462.5655.  We’re reviewing applications now and will be announcing the new speakers in May!

Domestic Violence in the Trump Era

When 50% of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner, domestic violence is a serious problem in America. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has decided to change the definition of domestic violence and sexual assault to consider physical harm ONLY.  This eliminates the very root and nature of abuse that includes power and control, patterns of behavior, sexual violence, and emotional, economic, and psychological abuse.

What does this mean?

If a woman’s partner isolates her from friends and family, monitors and controls her actions, verbally abuses her, or controls her access to money to support herself and her children, she is NOT considered a victim of domestic violence.  Only actions that are felonies or misdemeanors are considered domestic violence.

Why is this a problem?

Victims will need to report the abuse and the abusers will need to face criminal punishment. Many victims are afraid that such calls will result in more aggravated assaults against themselves and loss of financial support that may cause homelessness for themselves and their children (if their abuser goes to prison). These women need the oversight and protection of domestic violence support programs so they can get out of these abusive relationships before it’s too late. Trump’s domestic violence program may restrict vital programs to just those who are victims of crime, not the survivors who don’t report their abuse. Most relationships start off rosy and some gradually become abusive.  This happens over time and it’s during this time that advocacy programs need to support victims so they can get away from their abusers.

We need to check in with loved ones to ensure that they are safe, and if they are not, we need domestic violence advocacy programs and funds in place to protect them.

"Catching Up" On Sleep Doesn't Work

Sleeping in on the weekend doesn’t help you catch up after late nights all week.

If you’re staying up late and getting up early during the week (sound like you?) and you love to sleep in on the weekend to catch up on sleep, a new study by Current Biology found that you might become less healthy than your sleep-deprived peers. Why? That’s counterintuitive.

Sleep deprivation may cause weight gain and chronic illnesses like diabetes because it alters your metabolism. Changing sleep cycles between the week and the weekend can further aggravate sleep deprivation. Because most people work or go to school during the week, this alternating sleep cycle can continue for years, even decades.

Want to be well rested and healthy? Set a regular bedtime EVERY night of the week, and don’t eat snacks after 9:00 pm. You’ll be more energized and you’ll be healthier!


"Lawnmower" Moms Actually Harm Their Kids

When parents take control of their children’s lives, their children never learn personal accountability.  If a parent cuts down all obstacles before a child (thus, lawnmower), that child is missing a lot of important lessons and experiences.  Parents shouldn’t need to wake their children up or remind them to study for tests in high school. Sure, in elementary, and even for some middle school students need parents to set rules and guidelines to help them establish good ethics and a sense of responsibility. But, in high school? 

I see this behavior all the time. Parents set the alarms, drive the kids to school, get them to extracurricular activities on time, and help with homework. Why would a kid ever worry about taking responsibility for things when they know their Lawnmower Mom will make sure everything is handled. It’s no wonder why some parents bribe their children’s way to college admissions – they start doing this in elementary school and continue through college.

According to a New York Times poll, many parents never stop doing things for their kids.

76% remind their college students about deadlines

74% make doctor’s appointments for their adult kids

15% call or text their college students to wake up for tests or classes

11% call their adult child’s employer to discuss issues at work

22% help their kids study for college exams

16% write part or all of their employment or internship applications

14% helped set up internships and jobs

12% gave their adult children more than $500 per month for rent and living expenses

11% helped their kids write college essays

So if you think you’re helping your child by taking all of the responsibility upon yourself, think again. You’re not. You’re actually setting your child up for failure when you actually stop doing the work for them. My girls used the Merit Planner to get organized and took it upon themselves to reach their goals.


Heading to UC next year? Sign up for the AWPE!

Now that you’re happily on your way to a UC next year, you’ll need to take the Analytical Writing Placement Exam (AWPE) on May 11th, if you haven’t already satisfied the requirement.  You’ll receive a letter from UC with information about the location and other information in early April if you need to take the AWPE.

Students aren’t required to take the AWPE if you have any of the following scores:

- 30 or better on the ACT, English Language Arts; or

- 680 or better on the SAT, Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing section; or

- 3 or above on either the AP English Language or AP English Literature; or

- 5 or above on an IB Higher Level English A: Literature exam; or

- 6 or above on an IB Standard Level English A: Literature exam; or

- 5 or above on an IB Higher Level English A: Language and Literature exam; or

- 6 or above on an IB Standard Level English A: Language and Literature exam; or

- Successfully completed a UC-transferable English composition college course.

Go to for more information.