Merit is a very important quality in getting into jobs and schools, and it feels very good to get into somewhere because you were the most or one of the most qualified. However, this is being lost due to movements like affirmative action, giving minorities privilege because of their race, and the person who had the most merit is turned away because they needed a minority instead.
Merit should be placed first as this facet of personality can determine one's work ethic. Privilege says nothing about a person's character, it only bespeaks one's wealth. Merit can say a lot about a person as to how hard one works, is this person punctual, does this person have goals, etc.
We may be suffering as a society because there are privileged people in power who do not have the talent and smarts it takes to do or create or facilitate change. We should be helping those who have talent and intelligence to rise to the top and not turn into those who think they deserve privilege.
Just because you're 'priveleged' by just happening to be born to an influential family shouldn't get you special treatment in the school system or business world. That is why this country is going down the tubes so rapidly. Complete morons are being put in control of things when they shouldn't even be allowed to own a pet.
Merit should be placed first. I think your character as a human being speaks loudly about what type of person you are. How you conduct yourself on a daily routine should be as important as what you do in society. Actions sometimes speak louder than words and will always be that way.
Merit is the item or ideal that should always come first for the simple fact that merit is earned, while privilege is inherited. In other words, you didn't do anything to get your privilege other than be extremely lucky. For merit, you had to work to achieve your goals and dreams.