Few colleges now require the essay when you take the SAT or ACT. In fact, in 2016, the College Board made the essay optional, stating: “While the College Board remains steadfast in its commitment to the importance of analytic writing for all students . . . one single essay historically has not contributed significantly to the overall predictive power of the exam.”
Yet, for the Class of 2017, 1.2 million students wrote the SAT essay (70% of total test-takers), and 1.1 million students wrote the ACT essay (53% of total test-takers).
Currently, there is a strong movement among colleges to no longer require the SAT or ACT essay. According to the Princeton Review, only 19 colleges still require the essay, of which 9 belong to the University of California system. In fact, no colleges state that they use the essay for admission, though some state that they use the essay for course placement.
Harvard explained that its decision was part of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI), to broaden its outreach. Registration for the ACT costs $46 without the essay, and $62.50 with the essay; the SAT costs $47.50 without the essay, and $64.50 with the essay. The university emphasized that students still have a variety of ways to demonstrate their writing skills – through the Personal Essay required by college application platforms, Harvard’s own Writing Supplement, and an optional writing portfolio.
|COLLEGES THAT REQUIRE THE SAT OR ACT ESSAY|
|Claremont McKenna College|
|Martin Luther College|
|Soka University of America|
|The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor|
|United States Military Academy|
|UC, San Diego|
|UC, Santa Barbara|
|UC, Santa Cruz|
|University of Miami|
|University of Montana Western|
|University of North Texas *|
|Wellesley College *|
*only requires essay with ACT
Source: The Princeton Review
We recommend that for upcoming SAT or ACT tests, you do not register for the essay unless you plan to apply to a college that requires the essay. In other words, even if a college recommends the essay (without requiring it), we feel that you do not need to take the essay because typically it does not play a role in the college admissions review process. Alternatively, if you excel at writing and do not mind the additional expense or time, you certainly can opt to include the essay in your standardized testing plans.
There is increasing complexity surrounding the requirements for taking and reporting standardized testing, including the ACT, SAT, Subject Tests, AP exams, and IB exams. If you would like guidance, feel free to contact us at www.collegiategateway.com. As always, we’re happy to help!