One of the keys to winning big scholarships is to write really great application essays. The problem with application essays is that they have to be technically perfect, self-reflective essays. I know that can be a problem! I've had teenagers, and I know that "technically perfect" is a very difficult thing to get your children to do in an essay. I also had boys, and I know that self-reflection for boys is extremely difficult. Technically perfect, self-reflective essays are a difficult thing that can take a lot of time. Therefore, make sure that you have lots of time to get these essays done.
One way to do this is to have your child begin practicing their application essays when they are a junior, even as the basis for their junior year English program. When they apply to college, they will have a variety of essays to draw from. If you have a senior, I encourage you to hit the ground running the first day of senior year. Make sure their first writing assignment is a college application essay. Even if they haven't decided what colleges they want to apply to, grab a college essay topic and have your child write on it.
Often colleges will ask for more than one essay, and each one should be a completely different picture of who your student is as a person. Make sure that they never repeat anything from one essay to the other. To understand this, imagine yourself standing in a field surrounded by three friends who are taking a picture of you. Each picture is a completely different photo, a completely different side of you with a completely different background. That's how you want each of your application essays to be. For example, one of my sons played chess all the time, but he was only allowed to use the word 'chess' in one of his essays. It was difficult for him, and we had to brainstorm ideas for other things that he could write about for the other essays.
Using your notes from your college visits can help shorten your essay-writing time. If you're applying to four different colleges and you're trying to convince each one that you love them, you can use much of the same information in each essay and just change some of the details. For example, for one school your student might say, "I really enjoyed Dr. Smith's class because he talked about French literature." Then you can rewrite that same essay for a different college and say "I really enjoyed meeting with Dr. Reed and seeing how he explained micro-economics in a way that I understood." This will make your essays personal without taking a lot of additional time.
Great essays, however, won't make up for a mediocre education. You need to also make sure your student is prepared for university level work. Failing to prepare for college is one of "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make When Homeschooling High School." Learn how to avoid all 5 mistakes in my free e-mail mini-course.