Chicago, Chicago!

Just returned from a whirlwind visit in Chicago where we ate our way around the city.  We started out with Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza at Gino’s, enjoyed their unique Eatily, where a medley of artisan chefs prepare gourmet dishes, and tried dozens of other specialty restaurants on just about every block downtown.  Jaclyn and Alex (and Radar!) live on the 40th floor right downtown and just 1.5 blocks from Kellogg’s grad school. 

We stayed in a suite with a conference table and a Murphy bed (love Murphy beds!) in their building, where we hosted a mini family reunion with Jean and Davis Tatsui-Satake.  It was our first time meeting the Chicago Tatsui relatives who left California right after Pearl Harbor.  Rather than be interned like the rest of the family, this part of our family moved to Chicago and has stayed there ever since.  We immediately hit it off with Jean and Davis, and have already made plans to get together again this year.  It’s exciting to make connections with family members, learn new facts, and hear interesting stories about our ancestors.  They contributed to our genealogy database and plan to help us fill in stories and data about our Chicago family.

We also had dinner with Rob’s brother Bill and his family in the suburbs south of Chicago. Rob and Bill exchanged stories about their youth – the ones you don’t want your children to hear – except, oops Jaclyn sat there in shock with her mouth wide open as she learned about her father’s earlier days. She kept looking at me to make sure these were real stories!  It’s shocking that Rob and Bill are alive today…

Jaclyn hosted a get together with her Kellogg friends (Alex, Rob, and Kelly – yup, weird coincidence!) so Rob and I could meet them.  As always, we love her new friends and had a blast with them.  We plan to return to Chicago in June for Jaclyn’s graduation ceremony.  Time flies; and we can’t wait to get her back to California!

Checking Out Colleges In The Windy City

Packing in business with pleasure in Chicago!  I joined Jaclyn in business classes at Kellogg’s MBA program at Northwestern last week.

Sitting in on one of the Top 10 MBA programs in the nation, I was intrigued and inspired by the excellence in both professors and grad students. We toured the new Global Hub on the Evanston campus where I saw students engaged in conversations and projects with fellow students.

The design of the Global Hub was quite impressive; with amphitheater social areas and modern architecture both inside and outside, it made me want to go back to college!

We also toured University of Chicago and Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.  Visiting these colleges makes us better resources to our students – so we can recommend programs that meet our students’ needs, expectations, and goals.  With over 4,000 colleges just in the United States, there’s a college that’s perfect for every student!

Cheating and Favoritism in College Sports

Honestly, how can colleges look the other way when their star athletes cheat and plagiarize, when other students are expelled and humiliated for doing the same thing?  What’s worse is that this rolls into a despicable arena where rape and sexual harassment are ignored when it involves athletes.  This is just wrong.  It sends the wrong message to the student body and to aspiring young athletes.

In my book, athletes shouldn’t receive any special treatment in the classroom or the courtroom.  These athletes should go into professional sports and leave spaces open on college campuses for students who really want a college education.  Period.


Did You Know That Some Colleges Are Slashing Tuition To Recruit Students?

Who would have believed that some colleges are desperately seeking students when you hear about how Stanford has a 4.8% acceptance rate, which is lower than Harvard’s 5.4%? Yup!  There are over 2,800 public colleges, and over 1,200 private colleges in the US. Only the top colleges are ridiculously selective.  Eight private colleges just announced that they are slashing tuition for next fall (2018-2019). Reducing college tuition is called “tuition reset.” 

Although you might think that this tuition reset attracts and helps financially struggling families, it actually does the opposite.  Students who would be entitled to financial aid (grant and loans), only receive less financial aid so the actual amount they pay is about the same.  ARGH.  And guess what?  The wealthy students are the only ones who actually pay less with tuition reset.  Because these students wouldn’t get financial aid anyway, the discounted tuition rate means that they pay less for college. 

So tuition reset is really just a marketing ploy that benefits the wealthy.  It moves the college into the limelight bringing more applicants; and to make up for the decrease in tuition revenues, many colleges are increasing their enrollment.  In my book, that may lead to lower academic standards with increased class sizes and fewer professors.


Does Location Matter When Choosing A College?

You’ve heard that LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION is everything in real estate and retail business, but did you know that location is also a key factor in choosing the right college?  Yup! I’ve been advising students to choose a college that’s located in a vibrant city where they can intern in top companies – possibly for their future employer. Going to college in cities where they can explore the industry and make vital contacts adds a bonus to the mix when choosing colleges.

According to Stanford’s Chetty and coauthor Brown University economist John Friedman, students who attend college in New York City, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Fayetteville (Ark), El Paso, and San Antonio, increase their after-college earning salaries by as much as 15%. 

In other words, you don’t want to study business marketing in a rural community or animal sciences in a metropolitan city.  It’s really just common sense.


Dirty Little Scholarship Secrets

Did you know that colleges can actually take scholarship money away from students? It's called DISPLACEMENT, it's a common practice, it's highly unethical, and it makes my blood boil more than just about anything else (except MAYBE Donald Trump). What's worse is that they can take money they said they'd give to YOU and give it to someone else instead. The money you bring in from outside awards/scholarships DISPLACES (or replaces) any awards the school has said it would give you. And often, students don't even realize this until very shortly before they start school, which can put them in a very difficult financial situation.

Here's how it works: 

Let's say that someone (like my daughter, for example), works hard to get a $20,000 outside scholarship to help pay for her VERY expensive education. One of the colleges she considered offered her $30,000 in financial aid. Tuition, room and board were $55,000 per year. So logically, she should have had to pay just $5,000 for her freshman year. Great, right? NOPE.

The school takes the money they said they'd give you and SUBTRACTS the amount you bring in "from outside", which tosses the funds you would have received back in the pot/endowment/whatever. To add insult to injury, this particular school told her that the only way her outside scholarship would be applied toward her net cost AT ALL was if she earned OVER $30,000 in outside scholarships. In other words, she would have to MATCH what the college gave her in financial aid, and ONLY THENwould they apply a single dime toward her tuition bill. SO. SO. WRONG.

Colleges should not have the right to take a student's promised funds and give it to another student. This discourages students from applying for outside scholarships and discourages philanthropists from awarding grant money to students in need.

BEFORE you accept admission on May 1st, PLEASE check with the financial aid department to make sure your scholarships/outside aid will actually be applied to your tuition bottom line! Fortunately, not all colleges work this way - make sure yours doesn't! College is expensive enough!

3 Things You Need To Do To Secure Financial Aid For Your College Student

If your child will be starting college in the fall of 2018, it’s time to get ready for the financial aid process.  The 2018-2019 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens on October 1st.  For financial aid it's first come, first served! So, sharpen your pencils and do the following 3 things:

  1. Get your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID
  2. Get your 2016 Tax Records and Social Security Numbers
  3. Complete your FAFSA before March 2, 2018

Students who qualify for the California Dream Act (CADAA) and the Chafee Grant for Foster Youth can attend the free Cash for College workshops in California.  Sign up for the 100+ workshops to learn more about moneys available.

In order to receive scholarship funds, you need to complete the FAFSA and indicate which colleges you’re applying to.  After the colleges receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) from your FAFSA application, they will calculate your financial need and create scholarship/loan offers if your child receives an admissions offer. Good luck!

Who Needs To Take the SAT 2 Subject Test?

It used to be that college-bound students took the SAT 1 or ACT to demonstrate that they had the reading, writing, and math foundation to be successful in college, and they took the SAT 2 Subject tests to demonstrate their specific skills in academic subjects.  While most colleges still require the SAT 1 or ACT today, very few colleges now require the SAT 2 Subject Tests.  

If you happen to be strong in a particular subject area and you’re applying to competitive colleges, take the SAT 2 Subject Tests and submit them with your other scores.  It might help you get in.  But, if you’re not a good test taker or you aren’t ready for any of the subject tests, then skip them.

Check with the colleges on your list to make sure you don’t need the SAT 2 scores.  In California, UCs don’t require SAT 2 Subject Test but they do recommend them for freshman applicants majoring in competitive majors like engineering, biology, chemistry, or physics.  Here are the UC recommendations:

Chemistry: Math Level 2 and science test (same as major)
Engineering: Math Level 2 and Physics

Engineering: Math Level 2 and Physics
Computer Science and Engineering: Math Level 2 and Physics
Pharmaceutical Science: Math Level 2, Biology M and/or Chemistry
Physical Sciences: Math Level 2
Public Health Sciences: Biology E, Biology M, and/or Chemistry
Public Health Policy: Biology E, Biology M, and/or World History

Los Angeles:
Engineering: Math Level 2 and Physics
Applied Sciences: Math Level 2 and a science test closely related to the major

Natural and Agricultural Sciences: Math Level 2 and Chemistry or Physics
Engineering: Math Level 2 and Chemistry or Physics

San Diego:
Engineering: Math Level 2 and Physics
Physical Sciences: Math Level 2 and a science closely related to major

Santa Barbara:
Engineering: Math Level 2
Mathematics: Math Level 2
Physics: Math Level 2 and Physics
Biology: Biology
Chemistry and Biochemistry: Chemistry
Computer Sciences: Math Level 2

Sept 30th Is The Deadline for UC TAG!

Transfer students who attend California community colleges and hope to transfer to UCs need to get their Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) application in before September 30th

Six UC campuses offer an admission guarantee for junior transfer applicants (Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz).  Simply complete the online UC TAG application at  Use the useful Transfer Admission Planner (TAP) to help you get organized. 

If you need help, just ask a Merit College Advisor at!

Grammar Is Often Your First Impression

So, who cares about grammar and correct word choice? Surprisingly, many people. Writing is often your introduction – to a college admissions officer, potential employer, or future partner. Using vocabulary incorrectly, misspelling words, or forgetting an apostrophe can give the impression that you have limited education and/or intelligence (sorry, but it’s true!). 

Even if you consider yourself a good writer, check out these common grammar mistakes (from Inc Magazine’s Christina DesMarais, “43 Embarrassing Grammar Mistakes Even Smart People Make”).  Learn these 37 most common (even among great writers) mistakes so you can communicate clearly and prevent an embarrassing faux pas.

  1. First-come, first-serve
    It should actually be "served." Without the d, the phrase above suggests that the first individual who arrives will be the one who serves everyone, which is not the idiom's intent.
  2. I could care less
    Think about this one for a minute. The way it's written above suggests you possess care which still could be allocated to the situation in question. "I couldn't care less" is correct because it communicates that "I have no more care to give."
  3. Irregardless
    This is not a word. It's simply "regardless," as in "Regardless of what you think about grammar, you'll look silly if you use it incorrectly."
  4. "I" as the last word in a sentence.
    This mistake is remarkably common, yet a correct example would be "Karlee talked with Brandon and me." The trick to getting this one straight is to take the other person's name out of the sentence and see if your personal pronoun choice still sounds right. "Karlee talked with I" is awkward and incorrect.
  5. "Me" as the first word in a sentence.
    I hear people saying things such as "Me and Brandon met at Starbucks this morning" all the
    time, even though it's always wrong. "Brandon and I met at Starbucks this morning" is correct.
  6. Shoe-in
    "Shoo-in" is what you really want to write when you're trying to say that someone is a sure winner. It's because when you "shoo" something you're urging it in a certain direction.
  7. Emigrated to
    Emigrate" and "from" always go together, as do "immigrate" and "to." To emigrate is to come from somewhere, and to immigrate is to go to somewhere. "Colin emigrated from Ireland to the United States" means the same as "Colin immigrated to the United States from Ireland."
  8. Overuse of apostrophes
    These little guys are ubiquitously misused. Apostrophes indicate one of two things: possession or letters missing, as in "Sara's iPad" and "it's" for "it is" (second i missing). They don't belong on plurals. "FAQs," for example, should not have an apostrophe. Also, people often make a mistake with their own last name. If you want to refer to your family but don't want to list everyone's first name write "The Johnsons" not "The Johnson's." Another big one: Decades should not have apostrophes. For example, "1980s" is correct but "1980's" is not.
  9. Prostrate cancer
    This one is a simple spelling mistake resulting from an extra r. "Prostrate" actually means to lie face down. The "prostate" gland is a part of the male reproductive anatomy.
  10. Slight of hand
    A "slight" is an insult, whereas "sleight" indicates dexterity or cunning. It's why "sleight of hand" is commonly used in the world of magic and illusion.
  11. Honed in
    Just know that to "home in" on something means to move toward a goal, such as "The missile homed in on its target." To "hone" is to sharpen.
  12. Baited breath
    When I think about bait, worms and lures come to mind. The first word should actually be "bated," which stems from the verb "abate," meaning to stop or lessen. So, if you're trying to say that someone is holding his breath, you can see that "bated breath" makes the most sense.
  13. Piece of mind
    If you want to share what you're thinking with someone, this could work if you add "my" before "mind." But if you're trying to indicate tranquility, then spell it "peace."
  14. Wet your appetite
    "Whet" means to sharpen or stimulate. As such, the latter spelling is more appropriate.
  15. Make due
    "Due" means "owed," and that's not the intent with this idiom. "Make do" is the proper way to say that you're going to get along with what you have.
  16. Do diligence
    "Due diligence" is the proper business and legal term. It means you will investigate an individual or company before signing a contract.
  17. Peaked my interest
    To pique means to arouse, so the correct phrase is "piqued my interest," meaning that my interest was stimulated. While the incorrect way it's written in the heading may suggest that someone's interest was taken to a high level, it's still wrong.
  18. Must of, should of, would of, and could of
    All those ofs should be "have." The proper versions were corrupted by contractions such as "must've."
  19. ll the sudden
    Whether you say "all of a sudden" or "all of the sudden," the preposition "of" must be involved either way. But if you're really trying to say "suddenly," just do.
  20. All the sudden
    Whether you say "all of a sudden" or "all of the sudden," the preposition "of" must be involved either way. But if you're really trying to say "suddenly," just do.
  21. Worse comes to worse
    "Worse comes to worst,"--note the t--is better because it indicates something has degraded from one negative plane to the lowest possible.
  22. Unthaw
    Even though people use this word as a verb all the time, the best way to "un-thaw" something would be to put it in the freezer. Is freezing what you mean, or thawing?
  23. Hot water heater
    If anything, it's a cold water heater. Just use "water heater."
  24. Boldface lie
    "Bald-face" means shameless or showing no guilt. When a person tells a bald-faced lie, they are openly lying. An acceptable variant of this phrase is a "barefaced lie."
  25. Chock it up
    The correct version--"chalk it up"-- comes from keeping score on a chalkboard.
  26. Through the ringer
    The incorrect example above is missing a w. A wringer is an old-fashioned mechanism which presses water out of clothes being washed by hand, a process indicative of giving someone a hard time.
  27. Subject and pronoun disagreement.
    This one is subject to debate, but here's my two cents. Take the sentence, "A person who smokes damages their lungs." See anything wrong there? You should. "A person" is--obviously--one person. But "their" is a word you would use if you were referring to more than one person. Correct sentences could either read:
    1. "People who smoke damage their lungs."


"A person who smokes damages his or her lungs."          

In the first bullet, "people" is more than one person and now agrees with "their." In the second bullet, the use of "his or her" can be awkward, so you can just pick one or the
other as long as you're sensitive to any gender issues an audience might raise.

  1. Given free reign
    It's easy to see why this one looks correct, considering that "reign" is something that kings, queens, and other sovereigns do. Yet the correct idiom refers to the reins which control a horse. When you give a horse "free rein" you let it go where it wants to go.
  2. Nip it in the butt
    To "nip" means to pinch or to bite. Therefore, the correct version is "nip it in the bud," which refers to snipping off a flower bud before it can bloom. The idea is to put an end to something before it gets worse.
  3. Tie me over
    You don't really want someone to tie you on top of something, do you? The phrase "tide me over" is talking about sustaining someone through a difficult time and refers to the ocean's tide, which is capable of moving boats to a new location when the wind will not.
  4. Tow the line
    To "toe the line" means to follow the rules. It comes from runners who put their toe to the line before running a race.
  5. Chalk full
    The word "chock" is an Old English word which means "cheek" as well as "full to the brim." In other words, "chock-full" means "mouthful."
  6. A mute point
    Mute means silent, so would you really want to make a point that doesn't say anything? A point that is "moot" is debatable or doubtful. So, a point can be moot, but not mute.
  7. Expresso
    The strong coffee drink brewed into a tiny cup is pronounced with an "s" in the first syllable and written "espresso."
  8. Eccetera
    Pronounce "etcetera" exactly how it is spelled. Lots of people bristle when a speaker drops the "t."
  9. Deep-seeded
    The incorrect spelling above seems like it could be right since something that is planted deeply in the ground would be firmly established. The correct expression, though, is "deep-seated."
  10. Sneak peak
    A "peak" is the top of a mountain. The correct word is "peek," which means a quick look.

For the complete list of tips, read the Inc. article.