Tag Archives: Writing

Essay Contest

I just received a message from @homeschooling09 on Twitter about the upcoming Home School Legal Defense Association essay contest. This is a great opportunity to have your students practice their essay writing skills and have the incentive to win cash prizes as well.

Check out the Home School Network to learn more.

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Essay Writing Secrets for Admissions & Scholarships

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Writing is a skill that everyone uses in one form or another, and it’s also a skill that can always be improved upon. When it comes to college admissions, the application essay carries a lot of weight, especially for a student that is borderline entrance material. A good essay will make him stand out from the pack, but a poor essay will essentially disqualify him from consideration. For many scholarships, the essay is the defining characteristic for the scholarship award. If writing is so important, why do so few people practice it?

Homeschoolers are notoriously good writers. Probably because we have the freedom to write on topics that we enjoy, and not just on those which have been assigned us. One of the best articles I’ve read on the art of the college application essay was written several years ago by Parke Muth, assistant dean of admission at the University of Virginia. Entitled “How to avoid the Big Mac syndrome,” it was originally published in U.S. News and World Reports. Here’s just a short snippet of his knowledge and experience:

“A good essay is not good because of the topic, though that can help, but because of the student’s voice as a writer. A good writer can make almost any topic interesting. A poor writer can make even the most dramatic topic boring. A good essay always shows; a poor essay virtually always tells. By showing, a writer appeals to all of the senses, not just the visual. To show means to provide an assortment for the eyes, ears, and, depending on the essay, the mouth, nose, or skin.”

You can read the entire article here.

Since I’m in the process of writing an all inclusive guide for homeschool students on college preparation from an admissions office perspective, I’ve been fine tuning my own writing. That’s part of the reason for starting this blog. Also a good reason you and your students should write a blog, it will help get your ideas out there and provide a forum to practice your writing skills.

So, a few quick tips for essay writing for college admissions applications and scholarships.

  • Be original, show who you really are. If you’re a naturally humorous person, then let it show, but don’t try to force it.
  • Make the story you tell interesting. Avoid generic topics; write about what you know.
  • Write from the heart and let your personality show through. Create an emotional bond with your readers.
  • Take risks and be creative. It will entertain, and everyone loves to be entertained.

If you want more tips on improving your student’s essay writing skills, check out Just Colleges for free tips and sample essays. For a more expensive option, Cambridge Essay Service has some great resources.

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The Key to Life

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This post has absolutely nothing to do with homeschooling or preparing for college, but it’s something I’ve been pondering recently. What is the point of reading? Why do we as homeschoolers place such an emphasis on it? Is it really that important? And what are we going to do with this acquired knowledge?

The love of reading is something that most homeschoolers possess. I am of the opinion that one of the greatest reasons public schools are doing so poorly (other than being government run) is because teachers have neglected to instill a love of reading to their students.

There is nothing like a good book! Doesn’t matter if it’s science fiction, an autobiography, do-it-yourself handbook, or the Bible, books change lives. Zig Ziglar says that “leaders are readers, and readers are leaders.”

Now I don’t know about you, but for a long time I was perfectly content to read as much as I could get my hands on, and yet do nothing with this acquired knowledge. I see this as a problem. Writing is the reciprocal of reading. You must have both to be fulfilled. One cannot stand alone. He who writes without reading is a fool, and he who reads without writing is wasting the knowledge gained.

So today, I want to encourage you to write as well as read. If you’re already an avid reader, start putting your thoughts on paper, or even better, on a blog. Share your wisdom with the world, we’ll all be better for it. If you’re already a writer but don’t like to read, start. It will definitely improve your writing ability and open your eyes to a whole new world!

I’d like to thank Jarkko Lane for the inspiration to write this post.

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Writing Resource

We all know how important writing skills are, not to mention that most college applications require an essay. This being the case, a good writing resource for your homeschooled students is Write Guide.com, a small, family-owned and operated business that serves homeschool families, providing them with their own private writing teachers. Although it’s somewhat pricey, it might be just the thing for your aspiring young writer.

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Questions of the Day – Entrance Tests & Scholarships

Several times a week I’m going to attempt to answer specific questions from my readers directly, in the form of a blog post. Since most questions I receive from homeschooling students and parents are very similar, but asked in many different ways, hopefully this will benefit the entire homeschool community. In the name of simplicity and space, I may rearrange the format of the questions asked and spread the answers out over several days for ease of explanation and readability. If my answer seems overly broad or ambiguous, please realize that the answer most likely will vary from state to state, and college to college. If you’d like further clarification, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Today’s list of questions comes from Dayna. She asks:

Which entrance exams should be taken and when? Do test prep courses help improve scores?

Students should plan on taking both the ACT & the SAT exams their junior year of high school. Depending upon what area of the country you live, or which school your student is applying for, one test or the other may be preferred. For example, in the Midwest, most schools push the ACT. However, on either coast, the SAT is preferred.

Studies have shown that most students scores tend to improve by a couple of points each time they take the tests. Because of this, the earlier a student begins test taking, the more likely his scores will be in the higher ranges needed for scholarship levels come senior year.

Test prep courses most definitely help. There are quite a few good ones out there. The Princeton Review is one of the most popular. Grockit.com is an online resource for test prep that is free of charge.

What is required to qualify for the Tennessee Lottery & Hope scholarships?

The requirements for the Tennessee Lottery & Hope scholarships are the following: Tennessee residency for minimum of one year; 21 or above ACT score; 980 or above SAT score; 3.00 GPA or higher. For further information, check out their website.

I’ll answer more of her questions tomorrow. Got any other suggestions? Please comment if you do!

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