Friday, August 28, 2009

How to say goodbye to your college freshman

So you thought saying goodbye to your toddler was difficult when you drop them off at preschool; try saying goodbye to your college freshmen as they begin new lives without you. Now that I've done it twice, once at Stanford and again at Claremont McKenna College, I'd like to share some tips to help you get through it.

Make a list of 3 things that you would like to do with your children before they leave. This starts the dialogue about creating memories together. Then, mark your calendars to ensure that you both make time to do these special things. You can do simple things like taking a walk in a favorite park, shopping for photo albums or frames, or having lunch at a local restaurant. If you'd like to create a more meaningful event to mark this time, go through old baby photos and put together a photo album of their lives. That way, if they get homesick, they can look through their photos. My daughters both wrote autobiographies during their senior year of high school to reflect on their first 18 years of life before they begin their new lives in college. I especially enjoyed helping them select and scan the photos. We now have keepsakes!

By spending time reflecting on their childhood and early teen years, it helped us come to terms with the next phase in their lives. They, too, appreciated the time we spent together remembering their first 18 years. I believe it paved the way for the close friendships I have with both of my daughters today. I talk to them every day; I think our relationship is stronger now that they've moved on.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What courses are considered in my child's GPA?

While this may seem like an easy calculation, trying to determine your child's high school GPA for college admissions can be confusing. Most colleges consider only 10th and 11th grade courses in their GPA calculations. Summer courses taken before 10th, 11th, and 12th grade are usually included. Your high school will usually list the courses that colleges will accept on the high school website. Only include courses that colleges will consider in the GPA calculations. Classes like PE, health, and Introduction to Computers are usually not accepted. Your child's high school transcript will automatically calculate your child's GPA for your state. Just to be sure there are no mistakes, inquire with the guidance counselor to understand what courses were included in the GPA.

If your child took AP or IB courses and received passing scores on exams, these courses may receive weighted grades. In other words, an A will be given a 5.0 instead of a 4.0. If your child took college classes, those courses will be weighted on the same 5.0 scale. Check with the college admissions officers to make sure that they will accept all weighted classes because some colleges (like the University of California and California State University) will only accept a specific number of weighted courses for application purposes.

Mistakes happen, so meet with the guidance counselor to make sure all of your child's classes and college courses are included. If the college application requires that you enter your GPA, carefully read the guidelines to determine which classes you can include.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Here's a quick way to make sure your child is on track in high school

Worried that you may find out that your child is on the wrong track in high school when it's too late? Meet with your child's high school guidance counselor right away. Make sure your child is taking the most rigorous courses available to him/her. By taking the most challenging classes offered, he/she will demonstrate personal drive and academic prowess. Top colleges prefer students who seek college-level classes to prepare themselves for success in higher education.

Don't let your child be one of those who find out in their junior year that they should have taken more sciences or languages. Discuss your concerns with your counselor. If your child struggles in the most difficult classes, seek tutorial support before dropping to the lower-level classes. If you'd like professional advice from a college advisor, check Merit's Online College Advisory services.

Three easy steps to get your child to do homework first!

If you're like most moms of school-aged students, getting them to do homework is probably a battle on the home front. Naturally, you prefer that they complete the homework so you know that it's done. Kids, on the other hand, prefer to take a break and put if off until later, a lot later. They often misjudge how long it will take to do an assignment and most kids don't know how to prepare for tests or quizzes. So how do you convince a student that they should do there homework first?

By using a Merit Planner, your children will learn how to get their homework done in three easy steps. First, ask your children to enter in all of their classes at the approximate times the classes take place (for the semester). Second, ask your children to enter their assignments on the dates that they are due (not on the day they are assigned). This helps them to prioritize their responsibilities. And third, ask your children to block off time to do each task for every assignment including studying for tests, working on projects, and completing homework.

Your children will quickly see how much time it will take to do their homework and study for tests. I'm always happy to see that the students block off time to get the work done earlier in the day so they can be sure to get it done before bedtime. When they realize that they won't get their work done when they start after dinner, they'll be the ones to make the change in their routine.

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What every parent needs to know about guiding students through the college application process

As college application deadlines quickly approach, tension between parents and their college-bound seniors often escalate. Naturally, you want your child to get into the best colleges and you know that your high school senior should be spending every free moment checking out colleges, writing personal statements and essays, and studying for the SATs/ACTs. But, whether they're clueless or procrastinating, if you're like most moms of college-bound students, you're probably pulling out your hair as you try to get them to get started. And when they finally get on board and realize what they need to do for each college application, even the most level-headed seniors will feel the stress. As their stress mounts, you'll need to take some deep breaths and build up some callouses to help you through the next few months.

Many parents succumb to the pressure and fill out the application forms for their children. Don't do it. Students need to complete their applications on their own; it's part of growing up and getting ready to move on. Instead, you can help by setting up a time to meet so you can both discuss colleges, deadlines, essay topics and letters of recommendation. Be prepared to have them put the deadlines in a planner or on a calendar to prioritize where to get started. Then, they'll block off time to complete each task for every college. Making time to get the job done is important and this step is often overlooked; it is the most important step in the process. Finding time to complete each task in any senior's fall semester will be a challenge. But once your child sees what needs to be done over the next few months, he/she will own some of this responsibility -- minimizing the nagging and reminding that you will have to do.

The key is to let your child block off time to do all of the steps required to submit the college applications, finish regular school homework, and participate in after-school activities or work. It's easy to blow off writing a college application essay if you think you can do it tomorrow or next weekend, but students who have taken the time to organize their schedules for the entire college application process, know what they need to do. By putting the responsibility of completing college applications on your child, you can be a supportive mom who offers a shoulder massage or cookies when things get stressful instead of the nagging mother who reminds them that they are behind schedule.

Friday, August 21, 2009

If You Don't Choose Your Children's Classes, You'll Hate Yourself Later

Budget cuts are hacking away at the integrity of our public schools. High school counselors are often overloaded with students. This is detrimental to our children because then, the counselor’s goal becomes less about setting up a tailored college track for each student and instead, focuses on keeping the line moving. When the counselors' goal is to make sure that a student just graduates high school in four years, many average students get put on the graduation track as opposed to the college-bound track. Parents can no longer sit back and take for granted that their children's academic future will be mapped out for them. The best way to ensure that your children receive a stellar education is to take those courses that top college admission committees like to see on transcripts and the best way to get in these courses is to complete their four-year high school plan before they enter high school.

By selecting all of the courses your children will take throughout their high school tenure, your child’s counselor will recognize that your child is on the college track. You can create a plan with your counselor during the school year and encourage your child to understand and embrace it. That way, each year when students are required to make requests for the following year's classes, your child's choices will already be in place.

I recommend that parents email their counselors prior to enrollment dates, requesting specific classes and teachers during the spring and summer and before counselors are overwhelmed with the rush of all the latecomers. Roll up your sleeves and mark your calendar now!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How to get the most out of a College Tour

One of the best ways for your children to know whether or not a college is a good fit is to tour the college with a student guide. Walking around the campus, visiting classrooms and facilities, eating in the dining halls, and mingling with the students will give you a feel for the college life. Remember, the student guides are paid to sell you on the school and they recite a memorized pitch as they walk backwards along a predetermined path. While this speech is informative, you'll get the most out of the tour if you walk along side the guide and ask your own questions.

Ask the student guide how difficult it is to get into general ed classes. If your children know their majors, inquire about the department and research opportunities. Make a list of the guide's favorite professors and classes. Ask about the social life, school spirit, and other things you're curious about. This is probably your best opportunity to get an insider's view of the college so be prepared -- write a list of questions!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Psst! Give your child a head start -- Prepare for the PSAT!

Should your child prepare for the PSAT? Yes, I recommend that students start taking the PSAT in 9th grade. That way, they're better prepared to take it in 11th grade when the scores are used to determine Merit Scholarships. By preparing for the PSAT, your child will increase his/her odds of scoring in the top 1-5% in the nation. Merit Scholars and Semifinalists have an advantage in the college admissions process.

This preliminary SAT was designed to give students a taste for the real SATs. It is given every October at local high schools, and if your high school doesn't offer the PSAT, you can sign up to take it at another school. There is a nominal fee ($13), and the good news is that college admissions committees don't see these scores.

How to Ensure College-Bound Classes for your Highschool Student in the Midst of Nasty Budget Cuts

With budget cuts hacking away at the integrity of all public schools, high school counselors are often juggling more than twice their regular load of students. When the counselors' goal is to make sure that students graduate in four years, many average students get put on the graduation track instead of the college-bound track.

Parents can no longer sit back and take for granted that their children's academic future will be mapped out for them. A great way to ensure that your children receive a stellar education, and take the required courses that top college admissions committees like to see on transcripts, is to complete their four-year high school plan before they enter high school.

By selecting all of the courses your children will take throughout their tenure in high school before they enroll, the high school counselor will undoubtedly recognize that your children are on the college track. You can discuss the plans with the counselors during the school year and encourage your children to understand and embrace them. That way, each year when students are required to make requests for the following year's classes, your children's plans will already be in place!

I recommend that parents email the counselors their requests for specific classes and teachers before the deadlines for students to submit their lists in the spring and again during the summer when the counselors are organizing and setting up fall classes. Roll up your sleeves and mark your calendar now!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why would a Harvard MBA student pay $204 for a $20 bill?

Irrational Behavior Happens to the Best of Us.

Why would a Harvard MBA student pay $204 for a $20 bill?

Harvard Business School professor, Max Bazerman found a fail proof way to take money from Harvard MBA students. On the first day of his negotiations class, he waves a $20 bill in the air and declares he will be auctioning it off. There are only two rules to the auction: First all bids must be in $1 increments and, second the winner will walk away with the bill, but the runner-up must honor his or her bid leaving the situation empty handed.

As Professor Bazerman begins the auction, the MBA Harvard students are at the edge of their seats- anxious to make a cheap $20. The auction rapidly takes off as as hands are flying up throughout the classroom. Within no time the bid is up to $10 and climbing, around the $12 to $16 students notice the trend and the volume of bidding falls out completely till there are two bidders left.

Now one would think this shouldn't get too out of hand; these are intelligent business students that are going to change the world. However, neither wants to be out $16. So it goes on to $21, $22, $23, $50, $100 the record is $204.

Lesson? Loss aversion is a powerful force to recon with, as it beckons irrational behavior, be it in a classroom auction or when making important decisions such as choosing a college. By gauging your commitment and controlling your anxiety, you can prevent this from fogging up your decision-making perception! Fight loss aversion and help ease a college's decision to accept a student by encouraging them to Do a Project.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

At Last, We Can Make Money For College Shopping!

Yes, it is true and it works nicely. I was browsing through the web a while back and came across this site, but I wasn't sure about it. Not enough to sign up...until today. I found this post Save For College While You Shop - by my friend JoJo it inspired me to register, and I encourage you as well. You can save some serious dollars, and it's FREE!

Upromise is a website designed to help save money when buying everyday expenses we already incur. Shopping online yields receive 25% of any purchase from 600 participating stores. Just sign up and start saving. Make sure you are signed in to Upromise before purchasing anything online. Download the toolbar to make is easy.

Register your credit cards so that every time you dine out at a supporting venue, 8% of your costs goes toward college. Still skeptical? You could just become a preferred diner. eTrust is Upromise's privacy provider, which is a highly reputable company. Rest assured, your card numbers won't be phished out by some computer hack.

You could also use Upromise to pay off your loans. Just link to your Sallie Mae account. Find out more.

Why College Admission is a Daunting Process

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Introduce Yourself to Merit!

If you are stopping by the blog and happen to read a post about us, we want to hear from you!

Take a second to tell us a little bit about yourself. We want to hear your story! Who are you? Are you a parent? Student? Journalist? What was a college experience you previously had?

If you're already familiar with Merit, then tell us what we could do to better serve the aspiring college community.

We would love to field any questions, concerns, or college inquiries. Our Director is a seasoned college adviser and has tons of valuable information she would love to share.

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