Apparently taking a cue from the Common App, numerous NYC private high schools, including Dalton, Grace Church and Trevor Day, have debuted the new ISAAGNY Common Essay.  In 2014-2015, students can choose from common essay topics:

1) Describe the environment in which you live – your family, home, neighborhood, or community. How does it shape who you are?
2) If you could capture your life in just one snapshot, what would that photograph look like? Describe it and explain why you chose that image. You may include a photograph if you would like (you may mail or email your photo to the Admissions Office with your essay, or bring it to your interview).
3) Music spans time and culture. Explain how the lyrics of one of your favorite songs define you or your cultural experience.
4) If you could change any existing law, or if you could bring a new law into existence, what would it be
and why?

I think this is a smart direction for NYC private high schools.  Too often, 8th grade applicants are caught in a crunch with too many private school essays to write in too short a time.  Often I see sympathetic parents stepping in and getting overly involved helping students, either by editing and writing essays themselves, or by hiring English tutors to do the job.  These actions send students the wrong message, and can be detrimental to their admissions chances.  As a reader, it’s irritating when an essay doesn’t sound like a real 8th grader.

While I like that many NYC private high schools are sharing the ISAAGNY Common Essay, I am not keen on the questions, which are needlessly highfalutin and difficult.  Can you describe your life in a snapshot?  Or your cultural experience in music lyrics?  It’s not easy for a 13-year-old, either.  I am not sure what value this exercise brings to an admissions decision.

I am working now with my clients applying to NYC private high school to help them best approach the new ISAAGNY Common Essay.