Stanford and Princeton Drop Writing Requirement for SATs/ACTs

After Harvard and Yale announced that they were dropping the writing requirement for both SATs and ACTs, Stanford and Princeton followed suit.  Now only 23 colleges in the US require the writing portion of these exams for admission.  Good news for students!

Many colleges are now requiring students to submit graded writing samples – an essay that they turned in for English or history assignments with comments and grades from their teachers.  Others state that they “strongly recommend” submitting the writing scores, even if they are not “required.”

While critics claim that the writing test doesn’t judge whether a student will be able to write college-level essays, I think that there should be some sort of evaluation to determine if a student can write well enough to succeed in college.  We all know that the essays students write for their college applications are heavily edited by teachers, tutors, and parents.  Students who submit graded essays may be tempted to use friends’ essays and teachers may receive requests from students to “grade” essays that they’ve written (and received a lot of help on) specifically for college applications.  My concern is that taken out of a proctored testing environment, colleges will have to wade through a sea of papers to determine which essays were truly written by the student.


Early Decision vs Regular Decision

Put aside the Suburban Legends (tips from parents in the parking lot) about how not applying Early Decision ruins your chances of getting into your #1 college. Colleges feed this frenzy and parents just lap up the fear and hysteria. Choose just one college to apply Early Decision (binding), a few more for Early Action (non-binding), and the rest Regular. 

Senior year for most students is a time of discovery.  They’re still young – just 17 years old – and they’re exploring career options and colleges.  Forcing them to make a decision on which colleges to apply Early Decision as early as September of their senior year is ridiculous.  It would be better if the seniors could choose to make these decisions in April or May of their senior year when they’re much more mature and ready to make these huge decisions but it’s not convenient to the colleges. 

When you choose to apply Early Decision, colleges have little incentive to offer generous scholarship packages because you’ve already paid your deposit and you’re committed for 4 years.  The Early Decision option benefits the colleges as it improves their rankings and gets them off the hook for scholarship dollars.


Secure a Place at a UC with TAG!

Feeling insecure about applying to a UC because you don’t have a perfect GPA or SAT/ACT scores? 

Applying to UCs during your senior year of high school – along with 100,000 other students – can be daunting. 

Consider transferring from a community college with a Transfer Agreement Guarantee (TAG). Yup! 

This is much easier, less expensive, and it’s guaranteed!

Here’s how to do it:


  1. Enroll as a full-time student in a California community college after high school.
  2. Complete 30 UC-transferable units (2 semesters) to apply for TAG (by Sep 30th of your sophomore year)
    1. English and Math courses (needs to be completed by end of spring semester freshman year)
    2. Can apply to only 1 UC for TAG
      1. UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz
  3. Meet minimum GPA requirements for your major (check with your preferred UC)
  4. Need to complete required preparation for your major (by end of spring semester sophomore year)
  5. Complete 60 UC-transferable units (by end of spring semester sophomore year)
  6. Be in good standing at the community college
    1. No Ds, Fs, or No Passes (okay if the course was repeated and received a C- or better)
    2. No more than 2 withdrawals in major preparation courses
    3. By spring semester of sophomore year, on more than 1 unrepeated grade with a D, F, or No Pass
  7. Apply for UC transfer application (by Nov 30th of your sophomore year)
    1. UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz


ACT Civil Rights Violation

By requiring students to answer questions about their disabilities on their regular application forms — not their ACT Accommodations Request forms — the ACT sells this information to colleges. It costs colleges more money to admit students with disabilities because they have to provide extra services like note-taking, extended time for tests and assignments, special textbooks, and physical items like ramps and safety features for students who are blind, deaf, and/or paraplegics. This is such a violation of civil rights. 

Be careful when giving information to any agency that communicates with colleges.  Turn the tables to see how a money-making organization like the ACT or SAT might use your information against you.  It’s sad that when money is involved, the rules of integrity and ethics are thrown out the window. 



Ethics in Education and College Admissions

I’m disgusted by the lying and cheating going on in education.  We are supposed to be role models to our students – we set the guidelines and rules and lead by example.  So when I hear that some teachers change their students’ standardized tests to show higher scores, I’m baffled.  When I hear that some athletes are admitted to selective colleges because of bribery, I get angry.  And now when I hear that Harvard’s admissions officers are being investigated because they are discriminating against Asian Americans, my blood boils.

It seems the stakes have gotten so high that parents, teachers, coaches, and even admissions officers are willing to twist the facts and do just about anything –ethical or not – to give certain students advantages over others.  Why can’t admission to college be based on academic excellence and what the student can bring to the college community?

Forget legacies.  This just reinforces colleges giving way to alumni who donate (isn’t this bribery?) so that their children who usually aren’t as qualified as others are admitted. 

Forget athletes.  Yup!  Admissions officers adjust the academic bar when making exceptions for student athletes.  These athletes often get preferential treatment with tutors, proctors administering final exams, and other questionable practices.

Forget affirmative action.  Why not admit students based on academic skills and talents?  If 2 students are 100% equal, then admissions could consider people of color or other minorities.  But I don’t believe that we should change the academic standards simply to make the student body more diverse.  (This is another conversation – we need to give all students equal access to good education so everyone can compete and be successful at the most prestigious colleges).

Let’s not send the message to our children that they can lie, cheat, or bribe their way into elite colleges.  Besides being unethical, do we really want to give our children the message that we don’t believe that they have the intelligence, skills, or talents to get in on their own merit?


PROSPER ACT: More Federal Money For Colleges, Less Financial Aid For You

The PROSPER Act will cut $15 billion in student loans if it becomes law. In December 2017, the Republicans just pushed the PROSPER Act through the House without hearings and despite calls from the college communities, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Sound familiar?

The bottom line: This bill will make college MORE expensive for students and working families. Students will have to borrow more money and pay more to pay down their loans. Don’t be fooled by it’s name: PROSPER Act: Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act.

Once again, the Republicans have framed this act that will mislead Americans to vote for something that will ultimately hurt the people who need financial aid the most! Check out this article that lays out how student loans will change if the PROSPER Act is passed.



You Shouldn't Have To Choose Between Financial Aid and Crushing Debt

If you have trouble reading the financial aid letters and awards documents that you received with your acceptance letters from colleges, you’re not alone. Colleges send vague letters with mixed messages about what it will cost to attend. One would think that colleges would write letters that inform prospective students about their financial aid offers: 1) How much they will receive in grants and scholarships each year (free money!), 2) how much they will receive in loans (money to pay back after graduation), 3) how much their parents can borrow (money that parents back in monthly installments), and 4) work/study and student employment (paid jobs on campus). After all, wouldn’t colleges want students to get their degrees and prosper?

Doesn’t look like they do.

UAspire, a nonprofit company that promotes college access and affordability, recently reviewed 11,000 financial aid award letters from 900 colleges. They found that one third of these financial aid letters didn’t define what type of money the student was to receive (loans and grants) and camouflaged parent contributions by subtracting their financial responsibility from the total cost (making it look like the parents didn’t have to pay anything!). Other letters didn’t use the words “loan” and some didn’t indicate the total cost of attending.


When you have super excited kids wanting to attend colleges that are out of their family’s financial comfort zone, many students accept offers before realizing the incredible debt they will face upon graduation. For the poorest families, college tuition took about 20% of their income back in 1990, but today, tuition takes about 75%. This is creating a deep divide between those who can afford college and those who can’t. Do we really want a college education for just the wealthy?



My Baby Is Getting Her MBA!

Just returned from Chicago where Jaclyn received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Yes, my baby walked the stage with her class of 2018. This has been quite a whirlwind for Jaclyn as she moved to Chicago last June to join this exceptional group of MBA students. 

We had a blast as we celebrated with her Kellogg friends and family for several days.  So excited to see what marketing opportunities Jaclyn will have this September when she completes her coursework at Kellogg.

I’m so proud of the dynamic young lady that Jaclyn has become!


Law Schools No Longer Require The LSAT For Admissions

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), law schools are no longer required to use the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to be accredited by the ABA. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need to take a standardized test to apply to law school, it simply means that law schools can choose which tests they’ll accept because they won’t be required to use the LSAT.

The College Board couldn’t be more pleased with this decision because most law schools will probably accept the GRE, which is offered by the College Board. When looking to see what tests offer the best predictor of success in law school, most find that the GRE and the LSAT result in equal predictive values.

So, if you’re law school bound, you now have options. Like high school students who can take the SAT or ACT, law school applicants who didn’t do well with the LSAT may do better with the GRE.



Is College Just For The Rich?

When I was a college student, anyone could pay for their own college education with a summer job and a Pell Grant (or scholarship).  Back then, Pell Grants covered almost 80% of the tuition.  Today, Pells only cover about 18%. 

Public colleges – you know, the ones funded by your hard earned taxes – were established to provide an equal opportunity for all students who wanted to get a college degree.  Anyone from any background could lift themselves out of poverty and into a successful career by sheer grit and determination. 

I’m worried that the divide between the haves and the have nots is going to create class wars. Socioeconomic status dictates who has more opportunities to advance themselves than race, gender, or religion do. 

When bright and eager students from low-income families don’t apply to colleges because they don’t want to start their lives in debt, that’s a big red flag in my book.  The wealthy students spend 4 years at elite campuses – I remember my father telling me that my college was like a country club! – taking classes, living in dorms, partying every night, and not worrying one bit about paying the $250,000 or more for a bachelor’s degree.

Yes, two years at a community college does reduce your college tuition by 50% but only 35% of low-income students actually transfer to a 4-year college.  When that much-sought-after bachelor’s degree is the surest way for low-income students to break out of poverty, these stats just aren’t fair.