NYU Offers Free Tuition To All Medical Students

Glad to see higher education institutions offering free tuition to all of their students, regardless of their ability to pay.  New York University just announced that all current and future medical students will receive a full ride.  Woo hoo! 

Most medical students graduate with about $180,000 in medical school debt, which means they’re paying around $1500-$2000 per month in student loans. When student loans are this high, many doctors choose more lucrative specialties, creating a shortage in lower-paying fields like primary care and pediatrics.

I hope to see more colleges offer free tuition to all of their students.  Education benefits everyone. By making it more affordable, America will continue to be one of the few places on earth where anyone can become a professional and enjoy a successful career.

Stanford and Princeton Drop Writing Requirement for SATs/ACTs

After Harvard and Yale announced that they were dropping the writing requirement for both SATs and ACTs, Stanford and Princeton followed suit.  Now only 23 colleges in the US require the writing portion of these exams for admission.  Good news for students!

Many colleges are now requiring students to submit graded writing samples – an essay that they turned in for English or history assignments with comments and grades from their teachers.  Others state that they “strongly recommend” submitting the writing scores, even if they are not “required.”

While critics claim that the writing test doesn’t judge whether a student will be able to write college-level essays, I think that there should be some sort of evaluation to determine if a student can write well enough to succeed in college.  We all know that the essays students write for their college applications are heavily edited by teachers, tutors, and parents.  Students who submit graded essays may be tempted to use friends’ essays and teachers may receive requests from students to “grade” essays that they’ve written (and received a lot of help on) specifically for college applications.  My concern is that taken out of a proctored testing environment, colleges will have to wade through a sea of papers to determine which essays were truly written by the student.

Early Decision vs Regular Decision

Put aside the Suburban Legends (tips from parents in the parking lot) about how not applying Early Decision ruins your chances of getting into your #1 college. Colleges feed this frenzy and parents just lap up the fear and hysteria. Choose just one college to apply Early Decision (binding), a few more for Early Action (non-binding), and the rest Regular. 

Senior year for most students is a time of discovery.  They’re still young – just 17 years old – and they’re exploring career options and colleges.  Forcing them to make a decision on which colleges to apply Early Decision as early as September of their senior year is ridiculous.  It would be better if the seniors could choose to make these decisions in April or May of their senior year when they’re much more mature and ready to make these huge decisions but it’s not convenient to the colleges. 

When you choose to apply Early Decision, colleges have little incentive to offer generous scholarship packages because you’ve already paid your deposit and you’re committed for 4 years.  The Early Decision option benefits the colleges as it improves their rankings and gets them off the hook for scholarship dollars.

Vocational Career Training Programs

With the high cost of a bachelor’s degree and the competitive market to get in to top colleges, students and families need to consider other careers.  Not every student has the aptitude to become doctors, engineers, or lawyers.  When students often end up back at home after enjoying 4 years of an elite undergraduate education, many parents regret spending their retirement savings on an education that doesn’t land their children high-paying jobs. The good news is that Trump just signed an update to the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which will give states more authority to determine how the $1.2 billion federal grant program will spend their funds. 

Surprisingly, both Democrats and Republicans supported this legislation.  I think everyone sees that today’s job market is changing and we need to give our students training skills to be competitive in this growing economy.  The goal is to provide technical training for high school and college students to rebuild the middle class while focusing on the needs of both small and large employers in America.  Let’s hope that these programs really do consider demographics and industry trends as they develop career training programs for our students.


Secure a Place at a UC with TAG!

Feeling insecure about applying to a UC because you don’t have a perfect GPA or SAT/ACT scores? 

Applying to UCs during your senior year of high school – along with 100,000 other students – can be daunting. 

Consider transferring from a community college with a Transfer Agreement Guarantee (TAG). Yup! 

This is much easier, less expensive, and it’s guaranteed!

Here’s how to do it:


  1. Enroll as a full-time student in a California community college after high school.
  2. Complete 30 UC-transferable units (2 semesters) to apply for TAG (by Sep 30th of your sophomore year)
    1. English and Math courses (needs to be completed by end of spring semester freshman year)
    2. Can apply to only 1 UC for TAG
      1. UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz
  3. Meet minimum GPA requirements for your major (check with your preferred UC)
  4. Need to complete required preparation for your major (by end of spring semester sophomore year)
  5. Complete 60 UC-transferable units (by end of spring semester sophomore year)
  6. Be in good standing at the community college
    1. No Ds, Fs, or No Passes (okay if the course was repeated and received a C- or better)
    2. No more than 2 withdrawals in major preparation courses
    3. By spring semester of sophomore year, on more than 1 unrepeated grade with a D, F, or No Pass
  7. Apply for UC transfer application (by Nov 30th of your sophomore year)
    1. UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz

ACT Civil Rights Violation

By requiring students to answer questions about their disabilities on their regular application forms — not their ACT Accommodations Request forms — the ACT sells this information to colleges. It costs colleges more money to admit students with disabilities because they have to provide extra services like note-taking, extended time for tests and assignments, special textbooks, and physical items like ramps and safety features for students who are blind, deaf, and/or paraplegics. This is such a violation of civil rights. 

Be careful when giving information to any agency that communicates with colleges.  Turn the tables to see how a money-making organization like the ACT or SAT might use your information against you.  It’s sad that when money is involved, the rules of integrity and ethics are thrown out the window. 


Compromised SAT Tests

By now, you’ve probably heard that the August 2018 SAT may have been compromised because leaked versions of the test were circulating in South Korea and China.  Apparently, the August SAT reused questions from an official SAT given in the fall of 2017.  Seriously?

Why would the College Board (the company that gives the SATs) ever reuse questions?  That is wrong on so many levels.  The College Board charges close to $50 per test sitting and they administer almost 2 million SATs per year!  Do the math… They can afford to write new questions for each test they give to ensure a fair playing field for all students.

Then, there’s also the fact – that no one talks about – that students who take the test in different time zones have another unfair advantage.  If a student takes the SAT on the east coast and calls their friends on the west coast with tips on a few questions, the west coast students have an obvious advantage. Seems to me that there should be different tests for each time zone or that students all over the US take the test at the same time (1:00 pm ET and 10:00 am PT) to ensure fairness to all US students.


TEDx MeritAcademy a Huge Success!

So pleased with our students and performers for sharing their IDEAS WORTH SPREADING with the TEDxMeritAcademy audience on August 12th at the Rio Theatre. Wow!

After watching them develop their projects and ideas, and then deliver powerful speeches on the big stage, I have renewed hope that it will be our youth and our artists who bring about positive change despite the chaos that we face today.

I'll post their TEDx videos over the next few months.


Sharing the Queen of Soul's Legacy with Future Generations

Youth today don't understand where their music evolved from. As an old timer myself, I grew up in the 50s and 60s when the birth of rock 'n roll revolutionized music. To honor legends like Aretha Franklin, I wrote and directed the musical revue "Best of Rock 'n Roll Music: 1955-1975" back in 1998. My students at Merit helped research and select an artist and #1 song for every year between 1955 and 1975. We wrote short introductory speeches that described each artist's style and legacy before they performed the number in full costume. They even collected album covers and used them as props on stage.

Nicole sang "R.E.S.P.E.C.T." in our 1998 productions. She and her classmates took this musical revue on the road as a school business where they performed for business functions, senior centers, and birthday parties. At under 100 lbs, we had to add inches to Nicole's small frame so she could pull off Arethra's image. During the summer before the production, we watched dozens of videos to learn more about each of the rock 'n roll legacies that we honored that summer.

"When John Hammond of Columbia Records first heard 18-year-old Aretha Franklin, he called her 'an untutored genius, the best natural singer since Billie Holiday.' She sang the frantic hits "I Never Loved a Man," "Natural Woman," "Chain of Fools," and "R.E.S.P.E.C.T." Aretha's "R.E.S.P.E.C.T." is an example of bass-line syncopation, which provided a bouncy alternative to the steady quarter- or eighth-note pulse of the blues. Aretha Franklin was inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in 1987." -- speech by Merit student.

I believe that these students have a deep appreciation for artists like Aretha Franklin and the other greats -- Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc. -- because they studied them. Aretha Franklin was the Queen of Soul and an icon in the civil rights movement. Her legacy will live on forever.

Ethics in Education and College Admissions

I’m disgusted by the lying and cheating going on in education.  We are supposed to be role models to our students – we set the guidelines and rules and lead by example.  So when I hear that some teachers change their students’ standardized tests to show higher scores, I’m baffled.  When I hear that some athletes are admitted to selective colleges because of bribery, I get angry.  And now when I hear that Harvard’s admissions officers are being investigated because they are discriminating against Asian Americans, my blood boils.

It seems the stakes have gotten so high that parents, teachers, coaches, and even admissions officers are willing to twist the facts and do just about anything –ethical or not – to give certain students advantages over others.  Why can’t admission to college be based on academic excellence and what the student can bring to the college community?

Forget legacies.  This just reinforces colleges giving way to alumni who donate (isn’t this bribery?) so that their children who usually aren’t as qualified as others are admitted. 

Forget athletes.  Yup!  Admissions officers adjust the academic bar when making exceptions for student athletes.  These athletes often get preferential treatment with tutors, proctors administering final exams, and other questionable practices.

Forget affirmative action.  Why not admit students based on academic skills and talents?  If 2 students are 100% equal, then admissions could consider people of color or other minorities.  But I don’t believe that we should change the academic standards simply to make the student body more diverse.  (This is another conversation – we need to give all students equal access to good education so everyone can compete and be successful at the most prestigious colleges).

Let’s not send the message to our children that they can lie, cheat, or bribe their way into elite colleges.  Besides being unethical, do we really want to give our children the message that we don’t believe that they have the intelligence, skills, or talents to get in on their own merit?