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Horace Mann 2020-21 Application Essay Guide

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If you are applying for admission to grades 6 through 11 at Horace Mann School, you’ve got your work cut out for you in the essay department. Luckily for you, you have College Essay Advisors on your side to help you select a prompt and draft a winning essay. Let’s dive right in!

“The essay should include 500 words or less. Please choose one of the following essays and attach your activity/interest list to the essay. If you prefer, you may submit one of the Independent School Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY) common essays instead of one of our essays below. If you do so, be sure to include the essay question with your response.”

Topic 1: Tell us about a fictional character in literature, comic books, film or television that you admire. What are the traits that this individual exhibits that make them worthy of your admiration?

Our answer is clearly Batman. I mean, have you seen his car?? In all seriousness, Batman could be a totally valid choice, but if you do write about this caped crusader, Horace Mann wants to know which of Batman’s traits you’d like to emulate. Do you love that Batman is a superhero without any non-human powers? Or that his motivation for saving the world is rooted in a desire for justice? (We do!) Who do you look up to and why? Maybe you’re a huge fan of Anne with an E on Netflix, and you’d like to emulate Anne’s perseverance, pluckiness, and sense of adventure. Or perhaps you were struck by Twyla’s purity and kindness in Schitt’s Creek. 

Just remember: the character you choose to write about is going to say a lot about you and what traits you deem commendable. So, choose wisely and be prepared to lay out your reasoning.

Topic 2: You’re writing the story of your life so far. What’s the title? Why?

This is your opportunity to showcase your self-expression and critical thinking skills to the admissions committee at Horace Mann. For an oddball prompt like this, we think the best way to approach this essay is to (wait for it…) have fun! Puns and all manner of wordplay are welcome and encouraged. Can you boil your life down to one recurring theme? Have your beaten up feet carried you through endless hours at the ballet barre? Has your practice of cutting your own hair defined your personal look and served as a mode of expression since the age of six? Through what lens do you view your life? And what has defined your experiences thus far? This is a prime opportunity to give admissions a catchphrase, a simple epithet to remember you by. How do you want to be known?

Topic 3: If your family had its own flag, what would be on it? If you had your own personal flag, would it be different from your family’s flag? In what way?

When you boil down this prompt to the basics, you get this: How would you define your family and how does your personal identity differ from theirs? Basically, the admissions committee at Horace Mann is offering you a creative way to talk about your identity politics.

If your family had a flag, maybe it would have pancakes and waffles on it, since your household of eight gathers for a big family meal every Sunday morning. Perhaps your family flag would have a big foot on it, since your mom and dad both work in podiatry (and all they talk about is feet)! 

Maybe your flag would include aspects of your family’s flag, while incorporating some of your own interests, background, and dreams. Perhaps your personal flag would look drastically different from your family’s flag, since you’ve always been the black sheep. Regardless of what you choose to include on your flag, be sure to explain each detail to the admissions committee at Horace Mann, so they know you’ve taken the time to think this through and can see how your identity is blossoming. 

Topic 4: Tell us about your best experience in school and your best experience out of school. What made each of them the best?

We love this prompt, because we are so here for celebrating wins (and it’s incredibly straightforward to boot)! Tell admissions about some of your best experiences. If you keep a journal, now would be a good time to revisit old entries about amazing days. Or, if you keep tabs on your life through social media, scroll through your IG profile and take note of pictures with big grins. 

Maybe your best experience in school was a victory, like winning the science fair or spelling bee. Perhaps it was a learning experience, like a really fun field trip or a lecture from a guest speaker that resonated with you. For experiences outside of school, you can write about almost anything you want. The key is to be aware of what you want admissions to take away from your essay. Don’t write about a great day you had at the ski lodge if you’re not going to be able to reveal anything about your passions, goals, or character through the story. 

Topic 5: Describe something you’re hoping for, and discuss the obstacles or difficulties that must be overcome if this goal is to be achieved, either by you or by others.

Brownies for dinner!! Okay, maybe that’s not the best answer (but it is the first thing that came to mind). Take some time to brainstorm with a blank page in front of you. What are some things you’re hoping for or looking forward to? You can write about something as big as dismantling the poverty to prison pipeline or as personal as learning your mother’s first language. 

Focus on the obstacles or difficulties that must be overcome. For example, if you were to write about your hope for ending homelessness in the United States, you could address the obstacle of acquiring funding for public housing in major cities. If you were to write about your goal to visit your grandparents in Puerto Rico, you could touch on logistical difficulties, or overcoming your fear of flying. 

Even if you’re writing about a big goal that will take thousands of people and decades to accomplish, try to make your essay as personal and specific to you as possible. At the end of the day, admissions officers want to learn more about you — what you’re passionate about, how you overcome obstacles, and (if you’re going big,) what kind of world you’d like to live in.

Topic 6: Tell us about a scientific or mathematical discovery that you feel has had a significant impact on the world and why you believe its impact is significant.

This prompt will likely appeal to STEM students the most. Be careful not to write your response like an academic paper though, because as with all prompts, this is an opportunity for admissions to get to know YOU better — not Marie Curie or George Washington Carver. 

We recommend beginning with a brainstorming session. Ask yourself: Which discoveries were you most excited to learn about? Which scientists or mathematicians have stuck out to you most over the years? You can write about something as simple as the wheel or as complex as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). What is most important is that you highlight why YOU feel the discovery of your choosing has had a significant impact on the world (even better if you can relate the discovery to your everyday life). 

 

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