How to Ensure a Successful Life and Career By Choosing the Right College

The Criteria for Choosing Colleges has changed; Make sure your child considers these factors!

6 factors to consider when choosing your college

If you have a child who is considering which colleges to apply to or if they’re already seniors and they’re weighing their college options now, consider behavioral economics instead of rankings. Forget about the US News and World Report – they collect data based on admissions yields, retention, grades, test scores, and graduation rates. While this may seem important, they don’t include career satisfaction or how prepared grads are for real life.

The Gallup-Purdue Index has surveyed 60,000 graduates (over 80 years) about their satisfaction with their college experience and preparation for a successful career and a happy life.  It lists 5 essential elements of a “Great Life”: Purpose, Social, Financial, Community and Physical Well Being.

Here is what is key in getting the most out of the college experience.

Instead of looking at rankings, prestige of college, and physical characteristics of the college, successful college grads who have a great life now consider the following elements essential to the college experience:

  1. At least one professor who made them excited about learning
  2. One professor who cared about them as a person
  3. One mentor who encouraged their goals and dreams
  4. Long-term PROJECT (more than a semester to complete)
  5. Internship or job where they applied class learning
  6. Extreme involvement in extracurricular activities and organizations

Sadly, less than 30% of college grads in the US experienced any of the above.  Seriously? Those who had a job or internship in college where they applied what they were learning in the classroom were twice as likely to be engaged at work later in life. 82% of those who experienced all 6 elements above feel that their college experience prepared them well for life after college; and by a strong contrast, only 5% of those who did NOT experience any of the above felt well prepared for life.

The US News and World Report does not consider any of these vital factors into their rankings today. Hmm. Now that Gallup has conducted behavioral economics studies about colleges and universities, we’ll see more information about what really matters when our children go to college.  So as your child starts considering colleges, ask questions about how engaged your child will be with professors, internships and student activities. Seems like these are more important considerations than the old ranking system.


Tips on UC Admissions

For all of you seniors who are waiting to hear from UCs, here’s a quick update.

- You should hear from all UCs by March 31st.

- If you receive an invitation to be placed on a waitlist, you need to respond.  You are not automatically placed on the waitlist.

- If you are on a waitlist for your #1 college, you still need to accept and pay the deposit to another college to ensure that you are going to college in the fall.  You will lose your deposit from - that college if you are accepted to and plan to attend your #1 college (waitlisted on).

- If you are positive you want to attend the UC you’ve been accepted to, submit your Statement of Intent (SIR) with your $250 deposit before May 1st.

- Sign up for Orientation ASAP; some colleges require that students attend Orientation before the start of the new term.

- Submit all high school and college transcripts, AP/IB and or A-Level exam results by July 15th.  Make sure you receive a C- or better in all classes; colleges may rescind enrollment to students whose grades have dropped below a C-.

- Withdraw your application from other campuses after you decide where you are going to college; this gives colleges the opportunity to offer enrollment to waitlisted students. 

In An Age of Robots, Are We Preparing Our Students For Future Jobs?

With artificial intelligence and robotics capable of calculating and producing products and doing what people have done for centuries, the future of jobs for human beings will be creative, critical and social. So why are classes designed to teach students to act like machines? Regurgitating facts and sitting quietly in rows doesn’t stimulate innovation. As the director at Merit Academy, I have been approached by several Chinese schools (public and private) to help them improve their rote curriculum.  Their students are bright, eager to please, and hardworking but they can’t compete in our entrepreneurial and technological world because they aren’t taught to analyze and think critically. 

The average Chinese class size is 50, but many classes have as many as 80 students. In order to manage a class size that large, teaching has to be a one-way lecture and learning has to be done with worksheets and multiple choice answers. Students don’t learn how to write research papers or literary analyses.  Imagine editing 80 essays for one class? It’s simply impossible for a teacher to manage.

I take pride in watching Merit students thrive.  With one-on-one classes where teachers engage in conversations with students, and students are encouraged to think outside the box and explore concepts and ideas in depth, it is really the ideal environment for developing our future leaders.  I’ve met with the teachers and love to hear their plans for each student they teach. The students ranked their teachers with the highest ratings possible. My favorite role is as their college advisor who guides the students as they launch their projects. Each student finds their passion and sets out to change the world.  Imagine if all schools – Chinese included -- encouraged this type of leadership? We could solve many of the problems we face today. I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world to have this opportunity. 

5 Things to Do While Waiting to Hear from Colleges

Now that most college application deadlines have passed, you’re probably wondering what you’ll be doing with all of your free time.  

After all, you’ve spent every free moment writing essays, completing applications, requesting letters of recommendation, and putting together portfolios or videos (art, film, and dance students) for the past 4 months!

And to think you did all of the above while taking a full load of classes your senior year.  Wow! Pat yourself on the back!

Before senioritis sets in, here are 5 things you can, and should, do to make sure your applications receive the best reviews:

  1. Check your emails.  I know you’re receiving a ridiculous number of emails each day but pay attention to the ones from the colleges you’ve applied to.  If they’re missing something that you know you’ve submitted, it is YOUR responsibility to resend it.  So do check to see what they’re asking for.
  2. Create portals.  If your colleges allow you to set up portals, do it!  You’ll be able to see where you are in the application review process and be up to date on anything they’re missing.  You’ll also see when they’re planning Admit Days where you get to meet other students who have been admitted for Fall 2016.
  3. Email them with updates.  If you did a project, this is a great opportunity for you to give them an update.  Tell them the good news that’s taken place since you submitted your application.  You could even create an event to create more news! J
  4. Organize a college tour of the colleges you’ve been accepted to.  Schedule this during spring break or on weekends before May 1st. Try to set up an overnight at your top colleges so you can really get a feel for the college life.
  5. Apply for outside scholarships.  While you’re on a roll with all of your essays, you probably can reuse some of the essays if the prompts are similar.  Check with your high school counselor to see what scholarships they think might work for you.  Ask your parents if their employers have scholarships available.

When you’re done with these 5 tips, then it’s time to enjoy the rest of your senior year.  You’ll have until May 1st to decide where you’re going to college next year.  But, don’t forget: keep your grades up or you might lose your college admissions offers! 

So you can relax… to a certain extent!

Why Speed Reading Isn't Good for Gaining Knowledge

In our fast-paced world where information can be had in mere seconds from millions of readily available sources, reading for depth has become an anomaly. Standardized tests require students to read passages quickly and answer multiple-choice questions within a short time span.  The timed test is really unnecessary and produces inaccurate results. The testing organization is not interested if your ability to fully understand, ponder philosophically, and then render an answer.  Nope!  They want to see what you can take away from the question under pressure in a conveniently short period of time. 

In order to ace the ACT or SAT college entrance exams, students flock to take speed reading classes so they can skim over passages to make educated guesses.  When students speed read, however, they don’t comprehend what they read as if they read it at normal speed. You can’t analyze or think critically when you’re reading fast. All you get is the gist of the passage, which is simply superficial knowledge.

So if students take in bits and pieces of what they read, they’re possibly making bad decisions or assumptions that can lead to big problems.  After all, it’s easy to miss important words like “NOT” and completely misunderstand the passage. Applying speed reading to real life, the speed reader would have to spend unnecessary time fixing their mistakes – something they could have avoided by simply reading at a healthy pace to understand the text.

I love the quote by Einstein, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

So rather than rereading what you didn’t understand because you were speed reading, just read for depth the first time.  Block off time when you aren’t rushed or pressured and then read for knowledge.  You’ll be smarter for it, and you’ll do better on any test. 

UC Updates!

UC UpdatesIf you’ve applied to any of the UC campuses for 2017-2018, here is an update on your application. 
• UC will admit 2,500 more Californians this year!
• Decisions will be announced starting in March (undergrads) and April (grads)
• Transfer applicants’ new deadline is Jan 31st (not Nov 30th, 2016)
• Send SAT or ACT scores to just one campus (UC will distribute scores to other UCs)
• Send IELTS scores to all colleges
• Do not send transcripts unless asked to
• If you were asked to verify information on your UC app, do so by Jan 31st
Good luck to you all!  And, if you’re worried about your prospects of getting into a UC, you still have time to apply to many private colleges in California and across the US.  Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket!  

Why Are College Application Deadlines So Early?

Why so EARLY, Colleges?I still can’t fathom why college application deadlines are during the fall and early winter of the senior year.  The UC and CSU (California state universities) deadlines are on Nov 30th – that’s only 3 months into 12th grade and just days after Thanksgiving.  I don’t believe seniors are really ready to select each of the colleges to which they will apply this early in their last year of high school. Every year I see students cramming and stressed out to meet that deadline.  Most haven’t yet visited the colleges and end up making decisions based on what their friends are doing or parents recommend – not what’s best for them.  

Then, most private college application deadlines are on January 1st.  What cruel person(s) came up with New Years' Day? Knowing that the majority of students wait until the last minute, that means that New Years Eve plans for the students – and their parents, mentors, and friends – are ruined. What’s worse, colleges aren’t open on January 1st because it is a legal holiday! So students can’t get answers to their last-minute questions, and stress levels are off the charts!

I believe that students really aren’t mature enough and ready to make college admissions decisions until the end of their senior year.  Why don’t colleges accept students after their graduation so they can include the students’ senior grades in their overall GPA?  Most students, especially boys, don’t realize the seriousness of their GPA and course selections until their junior year when it’s really too late to make a difference in the college application process.  And, most importantly, students could apply to college when they are completely free of high school pressures and make smart choices about where they will spend the next 4 years of their lives. 

Big Win for Students with Learning Disabilities

After taking the heat from the public, the College Board has finally made it easier for students with learning disabilities to get test accommodations on the SAT. 

Starting January 1st, students who already receive test accommodations through an IEP or other plan will most likely receive the same for the SAT, PSAT, and AP tests. 

This is a huge step in the right direction.  English as a Second Language students will also receive accommodations soon.


Noises Disrupt Learning and Productivity

Whether it’s a student or a co-worker sitting next to you, we all know how annoying it is to deal with their “noises” throughout the day.  Does it negatively affect your performance?  Absolutely.

While most students don’t have classrooms to themselves (except at Merit Academy) or offices for just one person, you need to address the noise maker so you can co-exist peacefully. We’ve all had co-workers whose voices were so loud we couldn’t think while they were talking. And in class, there’s always that annoying student who doesn’t blow their nose but sniffles every 30 seconds. Gross!

One of my students, told me that after taking the SAT, he had to cancel his scores because he couldn’t concentrate during the exam.  Apparently, the student in front of him was blatantly cheating and the proctor didn’t notice.  My student said that he couldn’t help himself from watching the student cheat and looking at the proctor to see why the proctor wasn’t paying attention.  Even though he really needed to do well on the SAT, he couldn’t finish the sections in time with this distraction and knew he had blown the entire exam.  So sad.

So how do you deal with noisy, distracting people?

First, try to relocate your desk or seating assignment to remedy the situation.  If that doesn’t work, ask your teacher or supervisor to address the issue with the offender.  You can also get noise cancelling headphones to drown out loud sounds as long as it isn’t in a lecture hall where you need to hear the professor. Your productivity and success depends on your ability to filter out distractions. Be proactive to create the best learning and working environment for you.


Check Your College Applications List to Make Sure You're Eligible!

With Thanksgiving around the corner and Christmas and winter holidays next month, every college-bound senior is stressed out as they scramble through piles of college applications and make important decisions about which colleges they should apply to.

Don’t waste your precious time, and your parents’ precious money, applying to colleges to which you are not be eligible.  Don't forget these 5 important factors before applying to colleges.

1.  MAJORS: Make sure that the colleges you are considering all offer your top three majors.  You don’t want to change your mind about your #1 major and find that you have to drop out of your college, reapply (YIKES! Anything but that!), move back home, and waste a year in the process!

2.  HIGH SCHOOL REQUIREMENTS: Make sure you've taken all of the high school coursework required.  If you haven't, you still have time to satisfy most requirements.  Many colleges will not accept grades lower than a C-; check your transcript to determine which classes you may need to repeat.

3.  REQUIREMENTS for MAJOR: Make sure that your particular major doesn't require additional high school classes.  Some majors like finance, for instance, require trigonometry, even when the college itself requires only Algebra II. 

4.  ADDITIONAL APPLICATIONS for the ARTS: Most colleges require an additional application and auditions for music, theater, film and/or art majors.  Some of these applications are due earlier than the regular application so check for these deadlines ahead of time. You should be ready to set up audition dates and prepared to send electronic portfolios.

5.  SAT/ACT/SAT 2/TOEFL REQUIREMENTS: Most selective colleges require either the SAT I or the ACT with Writing AND the SAT 2.  International students need to also take the TOEFL.  Check with each of your colleges to determine what exams are required for admissions.  Most colleges will still accept SAT/ACT/TOEFL scores from December test dates.  Check deadlines online and sign up if you haven't already done so.

Understanding what is required and what you've taken can be confusing. Read college websites or call admissions officers to get accurate information.  Don’t rely on online information that is gathered by third parties because I have found many mistakes and omissions that could be problematic for applicants.