We have finally arrived at the last stop on our journey through the ISEE…the essay! Wait, so after 2 hours of staring at bubble sheets your child is expected to produce an organized, thoughtful, and coherent piece of writing? Absolutely.
The good news? It’s not graded! This essay is used as a writing sample and sent to schools along with a score report to be considered along with his/her application. Now, the pitfall of knowing this is dismissing the essay, thinking that there is no point to it. Does this sound like the attitude of any teenagers you know?
In my opinion, there are at least a few reasons to put your best foot forward when it comes to preparing for and writing the ISEE essay.
- The essay gives an opportunity to show a student’s writing skill and personality. It can differentiate a student from other applicants with similar scores and can be one factor that could make a difference in the admission process if all other things are equal with another applicant.
- Writing timed essays is an incredibly valuable skill that will be indispensible in all future academic endeavors and especially standardized tests. Both the ACT and SAT have optional writing sections, and the format and timing are very similar to the ISEE essay. This can be looked at as a great opportunity to learn strategies for timed essay writing and to practice and develop this skill.
If you’re at least mildly convinced that it’s worth preparing for the essay (now try convincing your 13-year-old), here are some basics that will help out any essay-writer.
- 30 minutes is allotted for the planning and writing of the essay.
- 2 pages are given for the essay itself. There is a page given for notes that is not sent to the schools.
- Students must use a ballpoint pen with blue or black ink (erasable ink is allowed).
ERB’s suggested checklist of questions for students (bold added)
__ Did I put the topic in the box at the top of the first page, as instructed?
__ Did I plan my essay before putting it on the lined sheets?
__ Did I allow enough time to write my final copy on the lined sheets?
__ Did I write about the topic that was given?
__ Did I include details to add interest?
__ Did I follow rules for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization?
__ Can others read my handwriting?
__ Did I review my writing upon finishing?
So what’s the essay about? The fall of the Roman Empire? Nuclear physics? No way! It’s nothing even remotely complicated. The essay is a personal reflection that asks the student to look into his or her own life for examples and evidence. Here are the example topics given by the ERB:
Topic 1: Describe in detail where and how you would spend your perfect vacation.
Topic 2: What would you like to do to make the world a nicer place in which to live? Explain.
Topic 3: Who is your favorite relative? Why have you chosen this person?
Topic 1: If you could improve your school in one way, what would that be? Describe the improvement you would make and explain how it would benefit students.
Topic 2: What would be the perfect career for you some day?
Topic 3: There are many problems in our world today. Name one you would like to solve and explain how you would do it.
Topic 1: Of the books you have read in the past year, which one made the biggest impression on you and why?
Topic 2: Your school requires you to perform forty hours of community service in order to graduate. Describe which type of community service you would choose and explain your choice.
Topic 3: Describe what you would consider a “really successful person.” Explain why you consider this person and this person’s qualities to be successful.
Not a lot of guidance is given by the ERB on how to write the essay, and many students find themselves puzzled by the LACK of structure and direction. At UP, we give the students a step-by-step breakdown of how to write great ISEE essays and provide them with TWO things to focus on that will make their essays shine. We won’t spend hours of precious preparation time on an essay that isn’t graded, but we will cover the essay in an efficient and effective way that will set the stage for a future of writing stellar timed essays. To find out more about our programs or to register for tutoring or an upcoming workshop, set up a free consultation with us. In the same amount of time that your child could write a practice essay, you could already be set with a curriculum that will suit your child’s ISEE preparation needs. Now THAT’S efficiency!
This concludes our series on unlocking the mysteries of the ISEE. We hope you have learned a bit more about the journey your child will be embarking upon and we look forward to serving you in any way we can! Stay tuned for future newsletters with tips, tricks, updates, and other helpful ISEE hints.
Your writing warriors,
Jenni and Erin
The prompt is asking you about the most important individual that you have modeled yourself and/or the things you do in some way and their influence on you. This individual does not need to be someone you have actually met, nor does his or her influence have to have had that great of an impact on you. However, role models are usually those individuals who have changed or shaped your life in an effective way. Your choice does not necessarily have to be serious, but you should be serious in making your choice, since the admissions department reads your ISEE Essay. For example, your role model can be a/an:
My most important role model as a child was Batman. Even though he is a fictional person, I have always looked up and admired the good things that he does in the comics, on TV, and in the movies. Growing up, many of my birthday parties were Batman- themed, and I regularly dressed up as Batman for Halloween (including this past Halloween). I would watch the Batman cartoon series over and over again, and I’m sure my parents could even quote several episodes now. Batman is a great role model as he always tries to do the right thing as a person and as a crime-fighter, he is incredibly charitable to those in need, and he has persevered through a very difficult life.
Although I realize that Batman goes above the law with how he fights crime, I know that his heart is in the right place. When Batman lost his parents as a child at the hands of a criminal, he made it his mission to battle crime in Gotham City. Batman utilizes his intelligence and vast wealth to stop criminals such as the Joker at every turn, all the while trying to minimize the damage the criminals cause. For example, Batman thwarted the efforts of Ra’s al Ghul, a man determined to destroy Gotham City. Ra’s al Ghul decided that Gotham City needed to be destroyed because it was too corrupt, but Batman knew that it could be saved. Though Ra’s al Ghul managed to wreak havoc on a portion of Gotham City, Batman was able to stop it from spreading. Batman’s crime- fighting inspires me to stop violence and other destructive actions whenever I can. Once, I saw one of my classmates bullying another in the hall. Without thinking, I got between them and was shoved by the bully in the process. I stood back up and staid between them, and eventually the bully walked away. Thinking about it later, I realized that Batman always puts himself in danger to help others, so why can’t I risk a little injury to do the same? In the end, I felt I had done the right thing.
Batman and Bruce Wayne are one in the same person, as Batman is Bruce Wayne’s crime-fighting alter ego. However, the actions of one are in the same spirit as the other. Bruce Wayne is incredibly wealthy because of his parents’ businesses and investments. Bruce Wayne uses this wealth to help those in need in Gotham City. For example, Bruce Wayne and his family set up the Wayne Foundation Building, which works on several social projects like soup kitchens and funds scientific research. The Thomas Wayne Foundation funds medicine and medical help and manages several free clinics across Gotham City. Along with these two foundations and many others like it, Bruce Wayne, or Batman, seeks to improve the quality of life for everyone in Gotham City. To that end, I am inspired to perform whatever charitable work that I can. Every holiday season, I work in soup kitchens to help those who can’t feed themselves. I regularly participate in food and clothing drives with my church, and I perform community service with Small Steps, an organization that helps underprivileged young people.
Aside from his acts of charity and crime-fighting, Batman has led a very difficult life. Both of his parents were killed one night when he was very young, and he had no other family except Alfred, the family butler. However, Batman made the most of it, and found a father figure in Alfred. He selflessly seeks to help those in need, even though he could not claim any credit for himself. He is a vigilante, you see, since he fights crime without the approval of the police. Batman has to forever remain in the shadows and cannot claim any credit for his actions because he would be locked away for it. Whenever I feel down about how life is treating me, I think of all the hardships that Batman has faced. I realize that I should make the most of the situation, because there are many people who have it worse than I do. I also realize that, like Batman, I should help these people.
All in all, Batman was, and still is, the most important role model to me as a child. He inspires me to stop violence and wrongdoing whenever I can, strive to help as many people as possible, and to overcome hardships with optimistic thinking. Although he is fictional, Batman demonstrates what it really means to be a good person.