Accelerated Programs for Gifted Girls to Help Break the Glass Ceiling

With over a million gifted girls in the United States, it’s time to rethink holding them back for “socialization” when accelerating their education to innovating their curiosity and ability to learn, setting up and establishing their careers, and having time to raise a family will give them extraordinary advantages for the rest of their lives. Naturally, this is not for every girl.  But for those girls who are truly gifted, it allows them to have the lifestyle that want and deserve, on a timeline that works for them.

When exceptionally gifted girls remain with their peers through high school, they typically underachieve and lose motivation, become anxious, and succumb to low self-esteem. Classes are boring and homework is an exercise in busy work and brain-numbing obedience.  But according to Maureen Neihart, “The Socioaffective Impact of Acceleration and Ability Grouping: Recommendations for Best Practice,” girls who engage in accelerated programs and college classes actually produces social-emotional gains for these gifted and talented students

It would be ideal for gifted girls to move ahead together in small groups so they can support one another’s social and emotional needs in a high school or college setting.  That’s why I opened Merit Academy back in 1994.  My goal was to give both of my daughters that opportunity to develop intellectually, academically, and socio-emotionally in small groups and later in one-on-one classes at Merit.  I found that they engaged with their teachers and learned a wider breadth and depth in each of their subjects – something I’m certain they wouldn’t have received in a regular class setting. 

For gifted girls who might graduate from high school at age 14, graduate from college at 18, and receive their PhD at age 22, they have the opportunity to be fully immersed in their studies and practice their expertise and establish their careers by the time they can settled down to get married and start a family.  Women who have followed this path find that they’re more successful, land professional careers, and have plenty of time to raise a family without the burden of being in medical school while raising a young family. By accelerating gifted girls’ education, we can break the glass ceiling and women might be able to finally join the ranks of the top positions in every field – something that has been missing in every board room in corporate America.


UC Updates!

Now that May 1st has passed and seniors have accepted to their colleges (or you’re waitlisted), here are some important updates.

May 13:  Analytical Writing Placement Exam (AWPE)

May: Freshmen on the waitlists will receive notifications about admissions. If you get accepted to a college on the waitlist, contact the college that you originally accepted to so they know that you will not be attending (and so they can offer your spot to one of their students on their waitlists)

June 1: Transfer SIR (intent to register) deadline

June 30: ELC Student Contact Info Submissions deadline

July 1: Official transcript deadline

July 15: Other documents deadline (AP or IB exam scores for freshmen) or (IGETC certification for transfers)

Stay on top of your grades.  Remember, if any grades drop below a C-, you may lose admission to your college. Contact them right away to discuss your options.  If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Summer Plans for High School Students

If you’re a parent of a high school student, you’re probably getting a lot of pressure from other families to send your child to some expensive summer camps on prestigious college campuses and load them up with SAT-intensive classes.  Umm. You’re probably hearing about how your neighbor’s kid is booked solid with back-to-back camps and programs that cost thousands of dollars. And, you worry that your child won’t be able to compete in the college admissions race.

But, don’t worry that your child isn’t keeping up with the Joneses this summer because colleges aren’t looking for those kind of students. Nope!  They might want the parent, but certainly not an entitled child whose parents did the research, paid the exorbitant fees, and forced them to participate.

Instead, keep your kids home this summer and encourage them to do a project. That’s right.  By brainstorming about doing something on their own over the summer, they’ll be using their creative parts of their brains and implementing something that they build by themselves.  This teaches kids how to innovate – which will make them more confident and capable young people.  Isn’t that what every parent wants for their children?  We don’t want robots who regurgitate facts or complain about life – we want kids who solve problems by creating solutions.

And, colleges want these innovative thinkers, too!  They don’t want students who insist on having study guides for tests because they don’t want to learn anything that will not be on the test.  They want students who demonstrate that they can start projects that can solve problems or that they do what they are passionate about. 

If you want your middle or high school student to have a life-changing experience this summer, have them do a project!  Check out ProjectMERIT for ideas.

Learn more about specific classes and the many ways we can make your child's summer the turning point in their academic careers!

[Check out the brochure here!]

3 Steps to Starting a Project That Will Get You Into Top Colleges!

Worried about how your child will get into top colleges?

It still surprises me when my new teenaged clients tell ME what they need to do to impress college admissions officers. They come with their lists of AP classes, expensive summer camps, and all of the sports teams and clubs they belong to.  I smile and nod as they tell me about all of the “hard work” and how they’re “so busy” they don’t have time for anything else.  When they’re done with their monologues -- and feeling quite accomplished with themselves, I honestly can’t remember one thing they did that made them stand out amongst the other millions of kids vying for those coveted acceptances to the top colleges in the US. And that’s why their plan doesn’t work.

When everyone across this nation takes the same AP or IB classes on the exact same day each year, and they’re all taking SAT/ACT prep classes to artificially inflate their scores, perfect GPAs and SATs don’t guarantee admission into selective colleges because these students don’t stand out. So what do you need to do to get into top universities?


Yup, it’s as simple, and yet as difficult as that. Forget all the AP classes, starting or joining dozens of clubs, and dedicating ridiculous hours for practices and rehearsals. If everyone is doing them, unless you’re the MVP or you’re winning Academy Awards, it sounds like busy work – because it is.

Here’s what you need to do:

1.Choose a project

Spend time brainstorming before moving forward.  Think about issues that need to be fixed, applications that need to be written, and books that need to be published. It really doesn’t matter what it is as long as you’re fascinated and passionate about it.

2.Delve into it

Research what others are doing about your idea to determine whether or not there’s room for you.  Find your niche and create your brand. Then, get the word out and grow your idea or market your product. Make calls. Be persistent. Don’t give up.

3.Realize your goal

Every step you take will get you closer to your goal.  For every student I guide, I watch doors open for them because of their persistence and their eye on the goal.  They get invited to speak at conferences or on TV/radio.  Success begets success. They accomplish their goals.

Students who do projects have fascinating stories to tell on their college admissions essays.  Nobody wants to read about your team spirit or how grateful you felt after you went to an elite summer program. Instead you’ll captivate admissions officers by telling them about overcoming the inevitable obstacles you had faced when developing an app or trying to talk to the governor. When they read about how you protected the weak or started a non-profit organization to stand up to corruption, you’ll have their undivided attention.

Colleges don’t want robotic students who are good at memorizing facts, take overwhelming AP classes and spend all their free time at practices working under coaches or directors.  These types of students will not be our future leaders of innovation or the world.  Instead, admissions officers want interesting students who find solutions to problems and have unwavering drive to reach their goals.

Naturally, these projects must be done by the student – not their parents.  If you need help with starting a project, check out my book Beat the College Admissions Game: Do a Project! or if you need support, meet with me at one of my offices or on Skype.  The ideal time to start a project is in 8th or 9th grade so you have time to develop amazing ideas.  But, I work with juniors who develop their projects just in time for applications in 12th grade.

It’s time – DO A PROJECT!

Applying to a UC in Fall 2017? Check Out the New Essay Prompts!

The University of California has just released their 8 essay prompts for their applications.  They’ve modified 2 questions but the other 6 remain the same.  Like last year, you’ll choose just 4 of the 8 essay questionsEach essay is limited to just 350 words.

Freshman Prompts:

1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.  

2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.  

3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?  

4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

6.  Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. 

7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? 

8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Transfer Prompts:

Required question for transfer students:             

1. Please describe how you have prepared for your intended major, including your readiness to succeed in your upper-division courses once you enroll at the university.

Choose any three of the following seven prompts:

1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.  

2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.  

3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?  

4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

6. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?  

7. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

Get started on these essays now so you can rework them over the summer.  First, make a list of possible topics.  Second, make an outline for each topic that includes interesting information that you want to share with UC.  And, third, write a rough draft.  Save your drafts and revisit them in a few weeks.  When you feel that the essays highlight your strengths and feature your stories, ask others to critique and edit them. 

Make sure that you write these essays yourself and only get help with editingCollege admissions officers recognize essays written by tutors or parents, and you may be denied admission as a result.  So, get started now!


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.