take the act or sat with the Essay

April 26, 2018, by

SAT/ACT Don’t Rule out the Essay, Yet!

Are you wondering whether you really need to take the ACT or SAT essay? Must you add that burden to the over 3-plus-hour exam you are already taking (over five hours if you have extended time)? How many schools actually require the essay, anyway?

You may have heard that in early March, Harvard announced that it would no longer require students to submit scores for the essay portion of the SAT or ACT beginning with the class of 2023.  Dartmouth and Yale quickly followed with similar announcements.  Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth join other Ivy League universities which have recently eliminated the SAT and ACT essay requirement, including Columbia, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania.  Many other schools have also eliminated the essay requirement, citing the essay’s questionable “predictive power” with respect to future student performance, as well as a desire to further open up admissions opportunities for students from all economic backgrounds.

So where does that leave you, as you weigh the pros and cons of taking the test with the essay?  There is no one answer for every student, but before you dispense with the essay altogether, consider the following factors:

What to Consider When Deciding:

  1. Over 30 schools DO still require the essay, including many top tier schools. Schools that require the SAT/ACT essay include Brown,  Princeton, Stanford, Duke, the University of California schools, the University of Michigan and Michigan State among others. So before ditching the essay, make sure that you are not interested in applying to any of these schools. Check the admissions requirements of all the schools you are interested in, to confirm. In some instances, while the ACT/SAT essay is not required, it is recommended, and therefore it’s in your best interest to take it.
  2. As most of you will take the ACT or SAT more than once, you might be asking, “do I need to take every test I sit with the essay?” Remember that you cannot submit an essay score separately to the rest of the test. So if you’ve only taken one SAT or ACT with an essay and the school you’re applying to requires an essay, you will need to submit that test even if it’s not your best overall. Hence, it’s worth taking all your tests with the essay so that you can use score choice to your advantage.
  3. If you have thoroughly researched all the potential schools on your college list, and none of them requires the optional ACT/SAT essay, and there is no chance that you might consider a school that requires the essay, then it’s fine to skip it.

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