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Writing Your College Application Essays-- Helps at the PHAA High School at Home Conference
Carole Matheny, 3/16/2010

Carole Matheny leads the PA Homeschoolers online AP Statistics course, and also homeschools her own children. Here's she's sharing about the process her son went through in crafting his main college admissions essay, using ideas gleaned from our annual PHAA High School at Home Conference. We hope you will be able to attend our conference this year-- we'll have many helpful sessions once again for parents, students, and homeschool evaluators. Many of our AP Online teachers present sessions-- Ruth Green, who led the very helpful session on application essay writing, leads one of our AP English Literature sections. We'll have full info on registering for this year's PHAA conference, set for Friday, July 16, 2010, up on our website soon. As always, there will be an 'early bird' special rate, so sign up early if possible! Tomorrow we'll post Carole's son's actual application essay about his sea kayak-- you'll love it! We welcome others to send on unique sample application essays for others to read and gain inspiration from-- just email to Susan Richman, editor, at richmans@pahomeschoolers.com. The very best advice I ever read about writing an effective college application essay is that the student should make sure that no one else in the entire world could possibly have written that essay, because it is so uniquely that student.

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*Carole Matheny on a family hiking trip in Glacier National Park-- they hiked over 300 miles that summer!* 

July 17th, 2009, I drove from my home in Delaware to Carlisle PA to the 14th Annual High School at Home Conference. For the day I would be wearing two hats, one as the AP Statistics instructor for PA Homeschoolers and the other as homeschool mom.  My oldest, a rising senior, would have benefited by coming along  but he chose to spend the day working on his 18’ sea kayak.

I looked over the session topics and decided to attend Mrs. Ruth Green’s session, Writing the College Application Essay—Help for getting YOU down on paper. With a rising senior, I knew Michael would need to write an application essay and I hoped to gain a tip or two for him from the session. I listened, I took notes, I thought of how Michael was the one who really needed to hear this workshop himself.  I took more notes for Michael to read.

Once home I reviewed my notes from Mrs. Green’s session with Michael. While the essay needed to be finished by December, Ruth had stressed that long before the deadline the essay should be composed.  Knowing that Michael would have a full plate his senior year, we agreed that his rough draft should be completed by the end of August. This would provide time for revisions, time for others to proofread the essay and time to polish the essay well before December, all steps Ruth reviewed in her session .

With deadlines set, we brainstormed possible topics. Should he write about his cross-country camping trip? His favorite hike? Or his Science Olympiad experience? On car rides to the beach or while hiking on a mountain trail we tossed around ideas.  Several times Michael began to write his essay only to decide that it wasn’t the right topic. Nothing felt right to him. Michael spent time on the web reading Common Application essays, gaining an idea of how other students had presented themselves on paper. We brainstormed again using the notes from the conference as our springboard. It was now the end of August and finally Michael found his topic. In two or three days he had his essay on paper. Coming to this point was neither an easy process nor one that we journeyed through overnight. Michael’s essay achieved just what Mrs. Green session suggested---it was Michael on paper.

Having time on his side Michael revised the essay but finally it was ready to be read by a few friends for review. Michael took their suggestions such as combining his first two paragraphs and adding a conclusion. He corrected punctuation errors and spent an hour here and there polishing his essay.  When Michael decided to apply Early Action to several colleges, with a November 1st deadline, we were thankful we had taken Mrs. Greens’ advice to start early on the essay.  His polished essay  was ready by mid-October for his college applications.


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