Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Worried about getting into college? Do a Project!

Thanks to budget cuts, California’s higher education system is going through tough times, and students from across the state are feeling the strain. We’ve already gone over the fact that the UC’s are now admitting a lower percentage of residents, which means that their ever-higher admissions standards are only getting more so for Californians. It’s becoming harder and harder to stand out. These days, with the abundance of AP and Honors classes offered at many high schools, a 3.6 GPA or even a 4.0 doesn’t get you nearly as far as it used to. Many students know this, and try to cram as many sports and extracurricular activities into their schedules as they can, but it can be hard to stand out even by doing that because so many kids take that approach.

If you’re an upcoming high school senior, not only does this make it harder to get into Berkeley or UCLA, it makes it harder to obtain quality financial aid once you get there. A UC Regents Scholarship is notoriously difficult to get, and is reserved for only the most exceptional students. So, how can you convince them that you’re exceptional and put yourself over the top? By doing a Project - an original undertaking outside the classroom that reflects your interests and aspirations. A Project can take many forms; you could start a business, invent a new product, produce a film, publish a book, or campaign for policy changes. What’s important is that by accomplishing something unique and impactful, you’ll be demonstrating the creativity, initiative, and tenacity that admissions officers truly covet.

Projects have helped many Merit students get into the college of their dreams. My own daughters, Nicole and Jaclyn, impressed many an admissions officer with their tales of starting a nonprofit for alternative energy and building a hydrogen fuel cell. Not only did they get into their first choice of colleges, they also received 80% of the scholarships they applied for, including Jaclyn's $10,000 Toyota Community Scholars award.

Because they involve accomplishing something in the real world, projects put you in touch with leaders of science, industry, and politics. They also help you develop your entrepreneurial skills, hone your ability to do independent research, and learn to interact with the media. Not only will of this give you a wealth of insight into who you are and what careers you’re best suited for, it’ll also endow you with the self-confidence that comes from knowing that you did something very few kids your age even attempt – change the world for the better.

To learn more about doing a Project, read the book or visit our website!

University of California now admitting less Californians

Californians have long had the best public university system in the world, but because of our ongoing budget crisis, current high school students and their parents are facing some grim realities. In order to cope with expected budget cuts of $500 million to $1 billion, the University of California system is continuing to increase the number of admissions slots offered to out-of-state applicants, who pay three times as much tuition as residents do. Out-of-state admissions share now stands at 18%, up from 11.6% just two years ago. That translates to about 4,700 well-qualified Californians who will be denied admission to their own universities in favor of nonresidents.

Some of this shortfall can be made up for by the California State University system, whose local campuses offer admissions guarantees for regions historically served by that campus. That means that a high school student from San Jose is guaranteed a spot at San Jose State as long as he meets the minimum of a 2.45 GPA and 1550 SAT I score (no other criteria required). These campuses then fill the rest of their slots with the best applicants from across the state. While this is extremely helpful for many borderline students, it raises its own set of problems, especially for average students who don’t live near a CSU campus, like those from Santa Cruz. Not only are they not guaranteed admission into either of the public university systems that their parents pay taxes for, they face the likelihood of being bumped from a school with a good program in their chosen major by a less-qualified student who either can pay more (in the case of UC’s) or lives in the local area (in the case of CSU’s).

Many of us are understandably frustrated, even outraged, that our own taxpayer-funded universities are restricting our options for an affordable, high-quality education. But at the same time, could losing spots to nonresidents actually be, as the UC Regents claim, “better for Californians?” After all, the alternative is even deeper cuts to already-strained departments and services, at a time when some science majors are already taking 5 to 6 years to complete because of the dearth of available classes. Parents of California, which do you think is the more important mission for the UC’s to prioritize: providing the highest possible quality of education, or continuing to serve the people of this state?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Working in the summer? Learn how to get FREE Child Care!

Now that summer and the end of the school year are fast approaching, working moms and dads, especially those with young children, will soon have to confront the yearly hassle of finding something for their kids to do for the next three months. Whether you want to make sure your child doesn't waste his whole summer vegging out on video games, or just need the security of knowing that someone's watching him while you're at work, now is a good time to look into ways to get free child care in your own home.

It doesn't take much effort to find a qualified caregiver and set up a summer day care program that will both entertain and enrich your kids. For example, when my daughters were young, I hired a theater teacher for the summer who taught them how to put on musicals. Not only did the girls love singing and dancing and dressing up in costumes, they also gained a lot of stage presence and learned to be comfortable with performing in front of an audience, skills which have continued to serve them well throughout their lives. And because other moms in the area found the theater program to be so fun and convenient, they enrolled their kids as well, which covered all of my costs! That's just one example of how to get quality free child care in your home for the summer. If you'd like to learn more, check out my book on the subject!

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