Wednesday, September 23, 2009

3 Simple Steps to Selecting Best-Fit Colleges for your College-Bound Kiddo

Choosing the best-fit colleges today is a whole different ball game than back when we went to college. Many schools offer many courses of study- but we can be sure that every school doesn't offer every degree, and it's important to make sure that your child has many good options. So how do you know which colleges offer the majors that your children are interested in?

One of my clients, Debbie Z., a high school graduate, recently approached me regarding her four-year plan for Business Marketing at UC Santa Barbara- just before she was going to enter as a freshman! Because she hadn't done her research beforehand, she was devastated to find out that UCSB doesn't have a business marketing major. To avoid nightmares like this one, your soon-to-be-freshman needs to do his/her research!

  1. Select all of the possible majors that your children are interested in. They can take career tests to point them in the right direction. That way if they have a few options, they can change majors without having to transfer to different colleges. After selecting their majors, they can search for colleges that offer the specific degrees that they're interested in.
  2. Ask your children to begin their searches by visiting websites like These sites allow students to search for colleges by desired major. To start with, make a list of about 15 to 20 colleges. They can then begin narrowing the list by choosing colleges based on their locations.
  3. Check out the college websites with your children. Read more about the departments and programs. You'll quickly see that not all colleges are equal. One might offer a business administration degree while another offers a school of business with seven majors. Then look at the statistics regarding life at that school (living arrangements, geography, potential for local activities, etc). And finally, visit your child's top five colleges! Nothing is more explanatory than first-hand observations and tours.
Choosing the right college takes time and effort, but the payoff is well worth all the effort spent! If you're going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on college expenses, make sure that the fit is right for your kid. High school guidance counselors as well as private college advisers can shed light on your plan today- don't wait until you realize your major isn't offered at the school of your choice- speak with Merit's Online College Advisors today to get a leg up on the decision-making process.

Monday, September 14, 2009

UCs will no longer require SAT II Subject Tests in 2012!

It's about time! The UCs have taken a bold step in reducing the number of standardized tests needed to apply to college.
Starting with the class of 2012 (10th graders this year), students will no longer be required to take or submit the SAT II Subject tests. All students will still need to take the SAT I or the ACT with writing.
Students who will be graduating in 2010 or 2011 will still need to take and submit the SAT II if they plan to apply to the UCs. Good news for sophomores and younger students! For SAT prep resources visit College Advisory @ Merit World!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How many after-school activities does your child really need to do?

As a college advisor, I recommend that students start projects and continue to work on their projects all through high school. By doing these independent projects, students learn leadership, entrepreneurial, communication and coping skills -- skills that will help them in college, career, and beyond.

College admissions officers are intrigued by students who start non profits or rally friends to help families distressed by a hurricane. They like to see that a student had the initiative to do something that was not required of them. While college admissions officers like to see students involved in after-school or extracurricular activities, they don't want to see a list of 15 activities on their application forms.

So how many activities is enough? Try to keep extracurricular activities down to just one or two. That way, your child can focus on doing a good job and making a difference rather than spread themselves out over too many activities. College admissions committees don't want a Jack of all trades, master of none.

The old school philosophy encouraged students to be "well rounded" so students would join sports teams, clubs, non profits, and more. Unfortunately, these students didn't have time to participate and get involved because they just didn't have the time to go to all of the events. So, don't push your child to take too many activities, just a few of their favorites so they can master them. Encourage them to do a project!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Secret to getting your child into Top Colleges!

Besides GPAs (grades) and SAT/ACT (standardized tests) scores, what are top-ranked college admissions officers looking for in their incoming students? They're looking for outstanding, curious, interesting students. Long gone are the days of recruiting bookworms and science nerds. Colleges want to build a class of students who are bright and innovative. That's why doing a project is the best kept secret to getting your child into the best colleges.

By doing an independent project -- not something that is required for a class and not a community service -- your child will position himself to stand out among his peers. Rather than write about how he hopes to save the planet someday, your child could write about how his project is saving the planet. Personal statements, essays, and interviews are more interesting when students can discuss how and why they started their projects. They give the students talking points -- and that gives them an advantage in the admissions process!

If you're worried that your child can't do a project on his or her own, check out this book "Beat the College Admissions Game: Do a Project!". The book walks students through the entire process of doing a project from brainstorming to completion. And if your child needs help or support along the way, Merit College Advisors can guide them through any part or the entire process

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What everybody ought to know about Study Skills!

If you're like other parents, you know your children aren't doing all they can to prepare for tests. As an educational consultant, I work with hundreds of students who claim that they study best by reviewing their notes the night before an exam, and then blame their low test scores on their poor test-taking skills. Unfortunately, students don't get much in the way of training to prepare for tests. When they get low test scores, it's most likely because they simply don't know the material! So how do you teach study skills? It's really simple; read on.

Tell your children that they need to prepare for tests FOUR days before the exam. That doesn't mean that they will be studying around the clock for four days, it just means that they should engage with the material for about 30-60 minutes per day, for four days prior. Here's why. If your children block off time in their planners to complete one task to prepare for an exam, they'll have time to absorb the concepts, practice using them, and still have time to meet with the teacher if they have any questions. For instance, if they're preparing for a vocab test, they might do the following. Day 1: Define the words and write sentences; Day 2: Make flashcards and practice them; Day 3: Take a practice exam; Day 4: Write new sentences for the vocab they're still getting incorrect.

By giving your children the skills to ace a test, you're really giving them the key to success. After all, students' grades are largely dependent on quiz, test, and final exams. Teach your children how to study so they can enjoy the great feeling they'll experience when they get A's in class!

If you wish to learn more merit has some excellent education services focused toward accelerating the learning process. Call us at 831.462.5655 to talk to Susan our Director or stop by our college advisory.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

SAT and ACT deadlines coming soon!

If your child will be taking the SATs or ACTs this fall, sign up now to avoid late fees. Most colleges will accept the Sept, Oct, Nov, and Dec scores for 2010 applications. Apply online and pay by credit card.

Here are some resourceful links to help you plan accordingly.

Test Date: Oct 10
Regular Registration: Sept 9
Late Registration: Sept 23

Test Date: Nov 7
Regular Registration: Oct 1
Late Registration: Oct 15

Test Date: Dec 5
Regular Registration: Oct 30
Late Registration: Nov 12

Test Date: Oct 24
Regular Registration: Sept 18
Late Registration: Oct 2

Test Date: Dec 12
Regular Registration: Nov 6
Late Registration: Nov 20

If your child needs SAT or ACT prep, check with local tutorial companies and set this up soon. Merit offers SAT/ACT prep; call (831) 462-5655 or visit

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

4 things every student needs to do to protect themselves from H1N1 (Swine flu) virus!

Whether you're sending your child to preschool or college, you're probably concerned about how to protect them from getting the H1N1 virus. The schools and colleges, and even the government, are setting up plans to minimize the impact this flu season will have on their students. Here's what your child can do to stay healthy amidst those infected with any kind of ailment.

1. Cough into your shoulder or shirt sleeves; don't cough into your hands.

2. Wash your hands before touching your eyes or mouth, and especially before handling food.

3. Stay away from people who are sick -- especially those who are coughing and/or sneezing.

4. Use Clorox-type wipes to disinfect doorknobs, computer keyboards, cell phones, and anything that you touch.

10 Things College-bound Students need to pack!

Most freshmen pack way too much and end up buying the things they really need once they arrive on campus. Girls especially over pack clothes -- and the wrong types of clothes -- when they head off to college. They only need to bring a few dressy outfits and shoes because they will live in their comfy sweatpants and sweatshirts. If they insist on packing high-heel shoes, only bring one, or two at the most. Flip flops and tennis shoes are really all they need.

Consider the 10 things listed here, and they're good to go!

#1: Medicine (Tylenol, Nyquil, Sudafed, Pepto Bismol, Bandaids)

#2: Phone Numbers (doctor, dentist, optometrist)

#3: Computer (desktop or laptop) and Printer

#4: Thumbdrive (2 GB+)

#5: Bedding (sheets, blankets, pillow)

#6: Shower slippers

#7: Toiletries (enough to last the term)

#8: Key ring for Student ID, mail box key, and room key.

#9: Lamp (for desk or reading in bed)

#10: School supplies (binders, paper, pens, stapler, tape, paperclips, backpack)

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