Make sure to read 15 Ways to Position Your Child for College Scholarships, Part 1 

 

Here are four more important components to build into your home-school program that will result in competitive applications for college funding.  More importantly, these are life-changing experiences that prepare your children to embrace what God has in store for them:

 

3.      Learn to write essays that are engaging and reflective and show potential for intellectual growth.   A writing-intensive program from the elementary grades onward will produce fluid, confident writers.  And that will come across in college application essays.  Writing is a great learning tool. Use it in your program regularly to help kids process what they are thinking about, observing, feeling, and experiencing. 

 

     Since kindergarten, I’ve always had my four children engaged in at least 1 writing assignment weekly. These assignments were usually not drawn from a composition program, but rather were suggested by them.  Sometimes it came from our science studies; sometimes from our history; sometimes from field trips, family reunions, or humorous adventures with pets or friends; but always, it was something my kids were already interested in.  I might help them brainstorm on a possible topic, but in the end the writing piece was about something they wanted to say. Writing is, at its core, a form of self-expression – that’s what we want to emphasize as we teach our children to write.

 

That’s also the purpose of college and scholarship application essays – to reveal the character of the student.  Face-to-face interviews are just not possible. So it is important for our kids to learn how to put their best foot forward in an essay. This means learning to use the English language to reveal who we are.  It means finding our unique writing voice (similar to our spoken voice, but more thoughtful, deliberate, and formal).

 

Scholarship committees use the essay to look for indications of leadership potential, intellectual curiosity, initiative, and openness to growth. These are characteristics necessary to make the most of the opportunities that scholarship committees are making possible for students. They are also looking for students they’d enjoy having in their classrooms.  If these are strengths your children possess, then help them emphasize them through what they reveal about themselves in their essays. 

 

There are several good books on the market that include examples of successful college application essays. I recommend How to Write A Winning College Application Essay by Michael Mason (available at Debrabell.com).

 

 

4.      Pursue unique opportunities that demonstrate initiative and broaden your perspective of the world. Learn to write and talk about these experiences in an engaging and reflective way.

 

I’ve found most of the opportunities my kids have seized from talking with other home schoolers and reading the local newspaper. I’m always on the hunt for experiences that will stretch my children beyond the boundaries of an ordinary life. That’s primarily because I believe finding God’s will for our lives means being risk-takers. I don’t want my kids standing on the sidelines, too timid to enter the game.  When our children were young, we made public performances a regular part of our home-school co-op. We sang, acted, danced, etc. at local nursing homes and churches.  We took music lessons and participated in bi-yearly recitals. We wanted our kids to be comfortable in front of a crowd. Now, we’ve graduated to full-scale dramatic productions.

 

As a family, we’ve also been a part of starting several ministries and outreaches in our community that were organized in response to local needs and problems.  We’ve had foreign exchange students in our home. Other home schoolers we know regularly host missionaries and internationals as well.

 

While these experiences are noteworthy in themselves, I’ve now found college admissions committee highly value them on the resume as well.

 

Two main ways we can stretch our children’s boundaries are through travel and cross-cultural experiences: Let’s finish up this week by looking at each:

 

5.      Travel

For most of us, travel can most easily be accommodated by exploring the United States.  Deepen these experiences by first studying the region you are headed for, and then designing the trip so you sample the local culture – the food, the people, their ethnic traditions, the physical geography, the specific challenges facing that region. Help your kids prepare to write about their travels in a meaningful way later, by encouraging them to journal or scrapbook during the trip.

 

If at all possible, include international travel in your program during high school.  Mission trips are the easiest way to facilitate this, but foreign exchange programs are also worth looking into.  Our daughter Kayte has been fortunate that her trips to Mexico and Europe have included living with a family in each region – she has found this vastly more educating than participating in a tour. Now she wouldn’t experience another culture any other way.

 

6.      Pursue cross-cultural experiences. 

You don’t really need to leave the United States to make this happen, just pursue experiences that expose your children to internationals living in this country; i.e., invite a foreign student home for Christmas break, host an exchange student, open your home to furloughed missionaries, etc. Spend the summer volunteering for ministry serving a cross-cultural group of people in your area.

 

 

As you can see from each of these examples, scholarship committees are looking for individuals who are open to new experiences and able to demonstrate their intellectual growth through writing thoughtfully about them.  My experience has been that Christian home schoolers typically incorporate these types of experiences into their lives because of our high commitment to furthering the Gospel and serving others. We often do not realize they also make our children highly valued by selection committees as well.

 

 

In His Sovereign Grace,

 

 

 

Debra

 


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