6 Things Your Grad Should do Before Leaving for College

Now that the graduation ceremonies and parties are done (hooraaaay), and your young adult is biding time before heading off to college in the fall, review this list of 6 tasks that will help them close this chapter in their lives and be prepared to start their next one.

One: Clean Your Room!
Okay, this is a great way to get them to get rid of all of their "junk" that they've hung on to for years. Set up 2 large bins: one for trash and the other for Salvation Army or Goodwill. Then, give them a designated area where they can keep their belongings that they'll need when they come home for holidays and breaks. Any remaining items can be stored if they're family heirlooms or mementos, or sold on Craigslist or at a yard sale for cash.

Two: Write Your Autobiography
Before heading off to college, have your teen write an autobiography to give them closure on the first 18 years of their lives. If writing or organizing something like this is not your kids' cup of tea, they can always create a scrap book or photo album and fill it with their favorite memories. Giving them a sense of who they are will instill a strong sense of self-esteem, which will in turn give them a solid foundation on which to build their future.

Three: Create Your 4-Year College Plan
Have them organize their entire 4-year plan for college. By doing the research and thinking about what they hope to learn before the graduate, they'll understand what courses they need to take for their majors (and minors) and general education requirements. They can even add in internships, jobs, and research so they don't have regrets later. Not only will they take advantage of the many programs available to them on campus, they'll graduate in 4 years, which will save you between $12,000-$60,000 (depending on their tuition).  I probably don't have to tell you that anything you can do to save yourself tens of thousands of dollars is time well-spent.

Four: Purchase College Items Early
Every college gives students a list of things they should bring with them during orientation and before classes begin. If your kid is like most college-bound students, they'll probably wait until the last minute to buy these things, which means you'll be paying top dollar at the nearest stores when you arrive with their stuff piled high in your minivan. Instead, ask them to make a list of items they want and ask them to find sales. They can even go on Craiglist, Amazon, flea markets, garage sales, and local bargain stores to get great deals. Most colleges provide a twin bed (extra long), desk, chair and closet. PRO TIP: Buy the extra-long sheets online to get lower prices. They might want a mini-fridge or microwave for their dorm, and you can get those used. My daughter got one for free when students were vacating their dorms and didn't have a place to store them.  Score!

Five: Indulge in Reading
This will be the first time in over a decade that your kid won't have a list of "summer reading" and stress to study for SATs or ACTs. They actually have no responsibilities and no stress. So, give them a list of classics to read for the summer (reading isn't really a responsibility).

Six: Get a Job
With no homework, stress, or lists of things to do -- well, except these (awesome) lists -- they can go out and earn a buck! With no degrees or seniority, taking that low-paying summer job will be just what they need to realize how important it is to get their college degree! So let them slave away at an ice cream counter or bus tables at a restaurant. Earning those extra nickels will also give them spending money once they get to college because you'll be tapped out just paying their tuition, room and board and MONEY DOESN'T GROW ON TREES, KID!


Parents Will Try to Cheat the New SAT Adversity Score System

While the College Board has tried to level the field for college applicants by creating a new Adversity Score on the SATs, leave it up to parents to try to game the system. This Adversity Score gives points to students who don’t have the same privileges as wealthy students by evaluating where they live, family income, neighborhood crime, and other factors.  The College Board will neither release the algorithm nor the actual Adversity Scores. Naturally, there’s been a huge outcry from wealthy parents who want to know the algorithm used to determine these adversity points.

So how will parents try to game the system? They’ll use home addresses of friends who live in poor neighborhoods and report lower family incomes.  After the infamous college admissions scandal was exposed a few months ago, we now know that wealthy parents will pay their way to get their children into top colleges.  As for the Adversity Score, some parents will undoubtedly try to manipulate their way to giving their children a leg up on their peers.







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 with ProjectMerit or if you need support, meet with me at one of my offices or on Hangouts.  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!


Tips for Boomerang Students Home for the Summer

So you thought that having teens in the house during high school was challenging? Wait until they come home for the summer after living independently in a college dorm all year. Think: “Animal House.” They’ve spent the year doing what they wanted, when they wanted, and with whomever they wanted without parental supervision. Add a little “entitlement” and moving back home for the summer may be a recipe for disaster.

When your college student comes home for the summer, you’ll need to rethink your relationship and try not to expect them to live by your old rules when they were teens.  Remember, they’re adults now – even though they might not act like it.

Check out these 5 tips:

#1: The Plan:
Upon their arrival back home, discuss rules, chores, boundaries and expectations. It’s best to do this during their welcome-home dinner while their stuff is still in suitcases and the honeymoon hasn’t ended yet. In other words, negotiate the plan before they unpack and create their new environment for the summer.

#2: The Rules:
If you have younger children in the home, remind your college student that they’ll need to observe and respect the family rules so that the other children won’t be conflicted should there be double standards. Depending on how old your college student is, you can also grant them privileges because of their age and maturity. For instance, you can tell the younger children that their older brother doesn’t have a curfew or that his curfew is 2:00 am unless he calls to let the family know if his plans change.  Layout all of the rules before they need to be enforced.

#3: The Chores:
Just because they didn’t wash their sheets or make their beds for entire semester, doesn’t mean that they can continue that lifestyle in your home. Remind them that doing chores is a tradeoff for room and board.  When they do the math, they’ll quickly see that they’re getting a bargain! Rather than constantly asking them to do chores as they’re needed, discuss daily and weekly chores for the summer ahead of time so they can make plans accordingly.

#4: The Boundaries:
Give your college students privacy both in their old rooms (or guest rooms!) and in their personal space. Their sleep schedules might shock you (choose your battles!), and they may not want to discuss their grades, majors, jobs, or future careers (let them bring up these topics when they’re ready). Be available and be a good listener, and they’ll come around and share their thoughts with you.

#5: The Expectations:
If you have several children of driving age, there may be conflict over who gets the keys when your college student comes home for the summer. If you don’t have enough cars for all of the drivers, layout a schedule around work, internships, and outings. Post it on the fridge so everyone knows when they have the car.  Encourage them to negotiate trades and carpooling. Some families pride themselves on having Sunday dinners or special family time. If this is important to you, announce this and build excitement around your special time so everyone shows up and participates.

To manage your college student’s 3-month boomerang stay for the summer, discuss the 5 tips above as soon as they arrive home. That way, you’ll set up your expectations and everyone wants to know what’s expected of them. If tensions mount – as they inevitably will at some time – just be glad that it’s a temporary situation because they’ll be leaving at the end of the summer!




SAT Error Leads to Possible Math Score Increase

If you took the May 2019 SAT, your math score may go up by 10-20 points! Yup. The College Board made an error by not including the correct answer in the multiple choice possibilities. Students whose scores were increased due to this error have been notified by the College Board, and notifications have been sent to colleges.

This is yet another example of how wealthy students have better opportunities than their poorer counterparts. A private school student’s SAT tutor found the error when reviewing the student’s exam. We all know how every point makes a difference in college admissions and scholarship decisions, and students whose parents can pay tutors to analyze their entire May SATs – something that can cost hundreds of dollars – so the student can improve specific areas for future sittings or challenge the College Board (like they did here) if errors are found reap the benefits.

Unfortunately, most errors are never caught, and most students and their families don’t have the finances, or time, to fight the College Board. But this time, many SAT students who took the test in May will receive the benefits of the rich and famous without paying a dime. Love it when these breaks help all students.



Fraternities are Ground Zero for Sexual Assault

Scandals within college fraternities have escalated with the MeToo movement demanding accountability from irresponsible, entitled fratboys. Yale University’s frats are notorious for sexual hostility against women. Their pledges have posted signs that read “We Love Yale Sluts” and have chanted “No means yes; Yes means anal.” It’s shocking that these men should be the smartest and most capable men in the country – yet the way they fraternize with their “brothers” creates a good-ol’-boy’s club that creates misogynistic morale that has opened doors to rape and sexual misconduct on campus.

Female students at Yale have demanded that these fraternities admit women as a solution to how they are treated. Three women tried to join frats at Yale in 2017 and 2018, but were rejected. Feeling the heat, Harvard University has tried to stop single-sex organizations and dissuaded students from joining them.

Back in 1972, Title IX (federal education amendment) passed to protect students against gender discrimination – except for social Greek organizations (fraternities and sororities). This is why it’s so difficult to make single-sex fraternities and sororities become coeducational.

While verbal, mental, and sexual attacks against female students on college campuses needs to stop, I’m not convinced that making fraternities coed will solve the problem. This wave of misogyny needs more than coed social clubs to stop these attacks. We need social reform and public pressure to shame these students into stopping these abhorrent acts.



Finals and Fasting Accommodations

I have a hard time fasting for one day – I find myself counting the hours and dreaming about BBQ salmon and a buttery baked potato! That’s why I feel for Muslim students who are observing Ramadan this year during finals, AP exams, and SATS. This year, Ramadan falls between May 5th and June 4th, and it is a Muslim holiday where they fast from dawn until dusk for a full month to become closer to Allah. Ramadan is especially difficult during the late spring and summer months because there is more daylight hours than during the winter, which translates to 15 hours of fasting vs 10 hours.

Several colleges give special accommodations to students who observe Ramadan by changing exam times to early in the morning or late at night to allow time for the students to have a meal before taking the exams. Any student who observes religious holidays or even students who have important events like weddings and funerals can work with their professors to arrange to take exams at times that work both for the student and the professor. 



Online Classes and Multitasking

Did you know that students who take online classes are less likely to learn concepts and benefit from lectures than students in traditional brick and mortar classrooms? Yup! Here’s why: Students in a classroom with a teacher or professor in the front of the room are not going to text their friends, email messages, play videogames, watching YouTube, or check their social media accounts when the teacher is looking right at them. Many teachers have rules against having smart phones, and even laptops or tablets in the classrooms for this reason.

But students taking online classes – even those with cyber lectures -- are more inclined to multitask during lectures. They’ll often listen to lectures while playing videogames or texting friends. Because social media and staying connected with their friends and family sucks them into a cyberworld that is disconnected from the class lecture, the student’s focus goes between the class lecture and their multitasking activities. Your brain can’t do both at the same time – it goes back and forth, which means that they’re not hearing, engaging, learning, or retaining information at the depth they need to for the class. 

Studies conducted at Kent State and Purdue Univ found that students are 25% more likely to multitask in online settings than in-person settings. I’ve found that when students are listening to lectures, researching concepts, writing papers, or studying for exams, they are more efficient if they do the work completely without social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, email) and cyber distractions (YouTube, videogames, Netflix, online shopping). In other words, they’ll learn at a deeper level, get better grades, and retain the concepts for tests and finals – and they’ll do it quicker!  Students should take classes and study void of all distractions, and then enjoy all of their social media and gaming when they’re done. 

Parents, set the rules to get homework and studying done first so your child will do better in school and have more time for social media later.



Community College Helps Students Select Classes for Majors

Finally, a community college is helping freshmen pick out course schedules based on their majors to encourage them to enroll fulltime and graduate quicker. Consumnes River College, a California community college, is doing what high schools do for their students: lay out a plan to make sure students know what courses they need to take to graduate. If all colleges laid out a 4-year plan with their students during freshman orientation, students would be more engaged, take a full load, and graduate on time.

Many students who attend community colleges take 12 credits or less each semester when 15 credits is considered full time. When students take 15 credits per semester, they can transfer to a 4-year college in 2 years with the required 60-credits. Otherwise, students who take 12 credits per term only have 48 credits after 2 years, making them have to continue at the community college for another semester. That’s really wasting a full year because most colleges don’t accept spring transfers.

I find that when students choose courses every semester by looking at what’s offered and referring to their general ed and major requirements, they accidentally take classes that they don’t need because they were satisfied by courses they’ve already taken or will need to take as a prerequisite in the future. That’s wasting Mom and Dad’s money and their precious time.

Now that college-bound students are heading off to start college in August or September, this is the ideal time to lay out their 4-year plans. By organizing both general ed and major courses (lower and upper division) before starting college, they’ll understand how to take advantage of the many opportunities available to them once they arrive. It’ll ensure the best ROI (return on investment) for Mom and Dad. Merit helps students choose majors, lay out 4-year plans, and even include study abroad, internships, and research.



Big Bang Theory Cast Supports STEM with Scholarships at UCLA

I still cover my eyes when there’s blood or violence on TV, and I walk out of the room when the music escalates because I can’t handle psychological thrillers. So I can only watch a handful of shows, and two of them are The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon. That’s why I’m disappointed that The Big Bang Theory has ended after 12 seasons. I loved watching quirky young physicists – and 2 of them women -- interact in a brilliant comedy show.

The cast and crew have raised $4 million for the Big Bang Theory Scholarship Endowment for science students at UCLA. Five admitted students studying STEM at UCLA will be selected every year to receive need-based financial to bridge the gap between regular financial aid and the cost of attendance.

Mayim Bialik, actress who portrays Amy Fowler, earned her PhD in neuroscience from UCLA, and David Saltzberg, the program’s science consultant, is a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy. Love to see philanthropists support the sciences!