ACT Writing and New SAT Essay Requirements


[Please see recent changes to ACT Writing. It’s possible that these changes will dissuade colleges from using the essay in the admission process. We will keep this blog up-to-date.]

As colleges address the new SAT, they have largely followed existing practice when it comes to accepting the New SAT versus the old SAT or how the exams will be superscored. A major shift, though, is taking place in essay requirements for the SAT and ACT. In fact, Compass expects that fewer than one-third of competitive colleges will require a standardized test essay for the fall of 2017 admission class. Of the 360 colleges and universities in the Compass 360, only about 15% are on record as requiring the Writing test (see below for the complete list; blank entries are awaiting word from colleges.). Early on, high profile schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Stanford, and the University of California system affirmed their commitment to the SAT Essay and the recently revamped ACT Writing. Meanwhile, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Cornell, Northwestern, and Boston College adopted policies that dropped or will drop the ACT essay and made clear that the New SAT Essay would not be required. Other schools such as University of Chicago and Georgetown never adopted ACT Writing in the first place, ignored the original SAT essay, and will ignore the New SAT Essay. Hundreds of other schools are now starting to publish their policies.

Compass has long maintained an SAT Subject Test resource for families and counselors and intends to do the same for SAT and ACT essay requirements.  Not all colleges have clarified their essay policies. This page will be kept up-to-date as colleges prepare for the Class of 2017, and we encourage linking to it. Please post a comment or email if you have questions or recommended changes.

College Board and ACT do maintain lists of essay policies. College Board’s is new and very incomplete. ACT’s is old and stale (i.e. includes no information on recent drops). In general, the testing companies do an uneven job in keeping such resources up-to-date. We will certainly monitor their lists for important changes. The following table of 360 popular colleges provides a wide range of institutions and policies. In general, we find that less competitive colleges are less likely to require either the New SAT Essay or ACT Writing.

Despite the decline in colleges requiring an SAT or ACT essay, Compass is still recommending that students make the essay a part of their testing plans. Skipping the essay can leave a student scrambling to fit in an additional test date should his or her college plans change. Colleges requiring the essay will typically not superscore test dates without the essay. The University of California system alone drives the decision for many of Compass’ students. Just as important, it’s uncommon for an ACT or SAT essay to be a significant negative factor on an application. So many student scores cluster in the middle score ranges (and don’t get me started on the inadequacies of the new ACT Writing scale) that the essay remains a remarkably weak predictor for colleges. With a minimum amount of practice, most students can reach the 25th – 75th percentile score ranges of even the most elite colleges in the country — something not at all true about other sections of the exams. The new and longer essays will have to quickly prove their value or the remaining requirers will push them aside. Students should not face millions of dollars in added fees and millions of hours in extended testing time unless the essay proves its worth. Validity studies, unfortunately, may not be available until 2019.


  • The following colleges have recently dropped the Writing requirement for applicants submitting ACT scores: Boston College, Boston University, Brown University, Case Western Reserve University, Davidson College (formerly recommended), Harvey Mudd College, Lafayette College, MIT, NYU, Northwestern University, Oberlin College, Occidental College, Scripps College, Stevens Institute of Technology, Tufts University, University of Delaware, University of Georgia, University of Miami (essays used for placement only), University of North Caroline—Chapel Hill, University of Southern California, University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University, Vassar College, and Washington and Lee University.
  • The following colleges have added the SAT Essay as a requirement for applicants submitting SAT scores: Duke University, Emory University, Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (accelerated programs in law or medicine only), Stanford University, University of California system, University of Michigan, and Yale University.

ACT and SAT Essay Requirements - Class of 2017 and Beyond

SchoolRegionSAT Essay RequiredACT Essay Required
Abilene Christian UniversitySouthRecommendedRecommended
Adelphi UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Agnes Scott CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Albion CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Allegheny CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
American UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Amherst CollegeNew EnglandRecommendedRecommended
Appalachian State UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Arizona State University—​TempeWestOptionalOptional
Auburn UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Augustana CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Austin CollegeSouthRecommendedRecommended
Babson CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Baldwin Wallace UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Bard CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Barnard CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Bates CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Baylor UniversitySouthRecommendedRecommended
Beloit CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Bennington CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Bentley UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Berea CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Berry CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Binghamton University—​SUNYMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Biola UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Birmingham-​Southern College SouthOptionalOptional
Boston CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Boston UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Bowdoin CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Bradley UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Brandeis UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Brigham Young University—​ProvoWestOptionalOptional
Brown UniversityNew EnglandOptionalRecommended
Bryn Mawr CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Bucknell UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Butler UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
California Institute of TechnologyWestRequiredRequired
California Lutheran UniversityWestOptionalOptional
California Polytechnic State University—​San Luis ObispoWestOptionalOptional
California State Polytechnic University--PomonaWestOptionalOptional
California State University--FresnoWestOptionalOptional
California State University--FullertonWestOptionalOptional
California State University--Long BeachWestOptionalOptional
California State University--Los AngelesWestOptionalOptional
California State University--Monterey BayWestOptionalOptional
California State University--NorthridgeWestOptionalOptional
Carleton CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Carnegie Mellon UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Carroll CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Case Western Reserve UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Centre CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Chapman UniversityWestRecommendedRecommended
Christopher Newport UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Claremont McKenna CollegeWestRequiredRequired
Clark UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Clarkson UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Clemson UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Coe CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Colby CollegeNew EnglandRecommendedRecommended
Colgate UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
College of CharlestonSouthRecommendedRecommended
College of New JerseyMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
College of St. BenedictMidwestOptionalOptional
College of the Holy CrossNew EnglandOptionalOptional
College of William and MarySouthOptionalOptional
College of WoosterMidwestOptionalOptional
Colorado CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Colorado School of MinesWestOptionalOptional
Colorado State UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Columbia UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Concordia College—​MoorheadMidwestRecommendedRecommended
Connecticut CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Cooper UnionMid-AtlanticRecommendedRecommended
Cornell CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Cornell UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Creighton UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
CUNY—​Baruch CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Dartmouth CollegeNew EnglandRequiredRequired
Davidson CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Denison UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
DePaul UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
DePauw UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Dickinson CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Drake UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Drew UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Drexel UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Drury UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Duke UniversitySouthRequiredRequired
Duquesne UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Earlham CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Elmhurst CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Elon UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Embry-​Riddle Aeronautical UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Emerson CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Emory UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Fairfield UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Florida Institute of TechnologySouthOptionalOptional
Florida State UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Fordham UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalRequired
Franklin and Marshall CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Furman UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Gallaudet UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
George Mason UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
George Washington UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Georgetown UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Georgia Institute of TechnologySouthRecommendedRecommended
Gettysburg CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Gonzaga UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Goshen CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Goucher CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Grinnell CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Gustavus Adolphus CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Hamilton CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Hampden-​Sydney CollegeSouthRecommendedRecommended
Hampton UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Hanover CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Harvard University New EnglandRequiredRequired
Harvey Mudd CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Haverford CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Hendrix CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
High Point UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Hillsdale CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Hobart and William Smith CollegesMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Hofstra UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Hollins UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Hope CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Howard UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Humboldt State University WestOptionalOptional
Illinois Institute of TechnologyMidwestOptionalOptional
Illinois Wesleyan UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Indiana University—​BloomingtonMidwestOptionalOptional
Iowa State UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Ithaca CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
James Madison UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
John Brown UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Johns Hopkins UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Kalamazoo CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Kenyon CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Knox CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Lafayette CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Lake Forest CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Lawrence UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Lehigh UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Lewis & Clark CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Lipscomb UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Louisiana State University—​Baton RougeSouthOptionalOptional
Loyola Marymount UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Loyola University ChicagoMidwestOptionalOptional
Loyola University MarylandMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Loyola University New OrleansSouthOptionalOptional
Luther CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Macalester CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Marist CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Marquette UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Mercer UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Miami University—​OxfordMidwestOptionalOptional
Michigan State UniversityMidwestRecommendedRecommended
Michigan Technological UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Middlebury CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Mills CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Millsaps CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Milwaukee School of EngineeringMidwestOptionalOptional
Mississippi State UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Missouri University of Science & TechnologyMidwestOptionalOptional
Morehouse CollegeSouthRecommendedRecommended
Mount Holyoke CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Muhlenberg CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
New College of FloridaSouthOptionalOptional
New Jersey Institute of TechnologyMid-AtlanticRecommendedRecommended
New SchoolMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
New York UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
North Carolina State University—​RaleighSouthOptionalOptional
Northeastern UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Northwestern UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Oberlin CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Occidental CollegeWestRecommendedRecommended
Ohio State University—​ColumbusMidwestOptionalOptional
Ohio UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Ohio Wesleyan UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Oklahoma State UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Oregon State UniversityWestRecommendedRecommended
Pacific Lutheran UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Pennsylvania State University—​University ParkMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Pepperdine UniversityWestOptionalRecommended
Pitzer CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Point Loma Nazarene UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Pomona CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Pratt InstituteMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Presbyterian College (SC)SouthOptionalOptional
Princeton University Mid-AtlanticRequiredRequired
Providence CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Purdue University—​West LafayetteMidwestOptionalOptional
Queens University of CharlotteSouthOptionalOptional
Quinnipiac UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Randolph-​Macon CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Reed CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Rhode Island School of DesignNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Rhodes CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Rice UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Ripon CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Rochester Institute of TechnologyMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Rollins CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey—​New BrunswickMid-AtlanticRecommendedRecommended
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey—​NewarkMid-AtlanticRecommendedRecommended
Saint Louis UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Samford UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
San Diego State UniversityWestOptionalOptional
San Francisco State UniversityWestOptionalOptional
San Jose State UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Santa Clara UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Sarah Lawrence CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Scripps CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Seattle UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Seton Hall UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Sewanee—​University of the SouthSouthOptionalOptional
Siena CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Simmons CollegeNew EnglandRecommendedRecommended
Skidmore CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Smith CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Soka University of AmericaWestRequiredRequired
Southern Methodist UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Southwestern UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Spelman CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
St. John Fisher CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
St. John's College AnnapolisMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
St. John's University (NY)Mid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
St. Lawrence UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
St. Mary's College (IN)MidwestOptionalOptional
St. Mary's College of CaliforniaWestOptionalOptional
St. Mary's College of MarylandMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
St. Michael's CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
St. Olaf CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Stanford UniversityWestRequiredRequired
Stetson UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Stevens Institute of TechnologyMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Stonehill CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Stony Brook University—​SUNYMid-AtlanticRecommendedRecommended
SUNY College of Environmental Science and ForestryMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Susquehanna UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Swarthmore CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Syracuse UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Taylor UniversityMidwestRecommendedRecommended
Temple UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Texas A&M University—​College StationSouthOptionalOptional
Texas Christian UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Texas Lutheran UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
The Catholic University of AmericaMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
The CitadelSouthOptionalOptional
Thomas Aquinas CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Transylvania UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Trinity College (Hartford)New EnglandOptionalOptional
Trinity UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Truman State UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Tufts UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Tulane UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Union College (Schenectady, NY)Mid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
United States Air Force AcademyWestOptionalOptional
United States Coast Guard AcademyNew EnglandRequiredRequired
United States Military AcademyMid-AtlanticRequiredRequired
United States Naval AcademyMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
University at Albany—​SUNYMid-AtlanticRecommendedRecommended
University at Buffalo—​SUNYMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
University of AlabamaSouthOptionalOptional
University of ArizonaWestOptionalRecommended
University of Arkansas—​FayettevilleSouthOptionalOptional
University of California—​BerkeleyWestRequiredRequired
University of California—​DavisWestRequiredRequired
University of California—​IrvineWestRequiredRequired
University of California—​Los AngelesWestRequiredRequired
University of California—MercedWestRequiredRequired
University of California—RiversideWestRequiredRequired
University of California—​San DiegoWestRequiredRequired
University of California—​Santa BarbaraWestRequiredRequired
University of California—​Santa CruzWestRequiredRequired
University of ChicagoMidwestOptionalOptional
University of CincinnatiMidwestRecommendedRecommended
University of Colorado—​BoulderWestOptionalOptional
University of ConnecticutNew EnglandOptionalOptional
University of DallasSouthOptionalOptional
University of DaytonMidwestOptionalOptional
University of DelawareMid-AtlanticRecommendedRecommended
University of DenverWestOptionalOptional
University of FloridaSouthOptionalOptional
University of GeorgiaSouthOptionalOptional
University of Hawaii at ManoaWestOptionalOptional
University of Illinois—​ChicagoMidwestOptionalOptional
University of Illinois—​Urbana-​ChampaignMidwestOptionalOptional
University of IowaMidwestOptionalOptional
University of KansasMidwestOptionalOptional
University of KentuckySouthRecommendedRecommended
University of La VerneWestOptionalOptional
University of Mary WashingtonSouthOptionalOptional
University of Maryland—​College ParkMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
University of Massachusetts—​AmherstNew EnglandOptionalOptional
University of MiamiSouthRecommendedRecommended
University of Michigan—​Ann ArborMidwestRequiredRequired
University of Minnesota—​Twin CitiesMidwestRecommendedRecommended
University of MississippiSouthOptionalOptional
University of MissouriMidwestOptionalOptional
University of Nebraska—​LincolnMidwestOptionalOptional
University of New HampshireNew EnglandOptionalOptional
University of North Carolina—​Chapel HillSouthOptionalOptional
University of North Carolina—​WilmingtonSouthOptionalOptional
University of Notre DameMidwestOptionalOptional
University of OklahomaSouthOptionalOptional
University of OregonWestOptionalOptional
University of PennsylvaniaMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
University of PittsburghMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
University of PortlandWestOptionalOptional
University of Puget SoundWestOptionalOptional
University of RedlandsWestOptionalOptional
University of RichmondSouthOptionalOptional
University of RochesterMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
University of San DiegoWestRequiredRequired
University of San FranciscoWestOptionalOptional
University of South CarolinaSouthOptionalOptional
University of South FloridaSouthOptionalOptional
University of Southern CaliforniaWestOptionalOptional
University of St. Thomas (MN)MidwestOptionalOptional
University of TennesseeSouthOptionalOptional
University of Texas—​AustinSouthRequiredRequired
University of Texas—​DallasSouthRecommendedRecommended
University of the PacificWestOptionalOptional
University of TulsaSouthOptionalOptional
University of UtahWestOptionalOptional
University of VermontNew EnglandOptionalOptional
University of VirginiaSouthOptionalOptional
University of WashingtonWestRecommendedRecommended
University of Wisconsin—​MadisonMidwestOptionalOptional
Ursinus CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Valparaiso UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Vanderbilt UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Vassar CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Villanova UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Virginia Commonwealth UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Virginia Military InstituteSouthOptionalOptional
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Wabash CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Wake Forest UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Washington and Jefferson CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Washington and Lee UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Washington CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Washington State UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Washington University in St. LouisSouthOptionalOptional
Wellesley CollegeNew EnglandOptionalRequired
Wesleyan UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Westmont CollegeWestRequiredRequired
Wheaton College (IL)MidwestOptionalOptional
Whitman CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Whittier CollegeWestOptionalRequired
Willamette UniversityWestRecommendedRecommended
Williams CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Wofford CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Worcester Polytechnic InstituteNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Xavier UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Yale UniversityNew EnglandRequiredRequired
Yeshiva UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional

*School has a Test Optional or Test Flexible policy but may still have requirements for students choosing to submit SAT or ACT scores.

Note: “TBD” or [blank] reflects a policy to be determined by the college or for which Compass has insufficient information.

Post a comment or send an email to with questions or recommended changes.


Updated 8/02/16

About Art Sawyer

Art graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where he was the top-ranked liberal arts student in his class. Art pioneered the one-on-one approach to test prep in California in 1989 and co-founded Compass Education Group in 2004 in order to bring the best ideas and tutors into students' homes and computers. Although he has attained perfect scores on all flavors of the SAT and ACT, he is routinely beaten in backgammon.


  • Randee Fuhrman says:

    Do you think the ACT Board will re-examine the inadequacies of the writing score and re-scale so it makes more sense? My daughter rec’d a 27 but it was the 95th percentile. Low number for high percentile. She also rec’d 10s in each of the 4 domains.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Compass would certainly like if they did — or at least published full data on what they are seeing. My guess is that they will not monkey with the scales, however. Once a scale is set, it’s not a simple thing to reset, as it impacts everyone else who has ever taken the test. ACT has left its other scales unchanged since 1989. It is regrettable that ACT decided to move to 1-36 for Writing — especially before it was ever administered. Recent experiences have proved what we expected — the essay is simply not reliable enough to take its place beside the other scores. Keep in mind that everyone is facing the same situation. Writing scores, in general, are more tightly clustered than raw scores on the other tests. Colleges will see this on their reports. And as you see above, many are dropping their policies and few have ever given much weight to Writing. It sounds like your daughter did quite well, and that remains true even if her 27 is “lower” than her other scores.

  • kenv says:

    Thank you for compiling this list and adding to it throughout the year as other schools may adjust their essay policies. This information is very helpful.

  • […] the NEW SAT Writing section, which will not, and which require the ACT writing section.  This list is quite helpful!  Compass also maintains a list of colleges that require SAT Subject […]

  • EWright says:

    Thank you for the helpful list. I was just wondering how you are obtaining your information? I didn’t see anything on Duke’s site about the new SAT essay & the College Board’s list doesn’t mention Duke at all.

    If College Board doesn’t mention the school at all on its list, do you think it’s risky to assume the essay is not required?

    Also, do you have any sense of whether schools would ever do a reverse – decide to start requiring the essay even if they previously didn’t?

    I’d rather not do the essay, but will if I have to. Thanks again for your help!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Good questions. When we could not find a definitive answer on a school’s website, we contacted the admissions office directly. Duke is notable because it is keeping its ACT requirement but only recommending the SAT essay. It has a convoluted rationale involving the Subject Tests.

      The College Board list is opt-in, I believe. Schools can submit their information to College Board. As you have found, not all have done so. I also don’t expect the CB list to be maintained as policies shift. We will be doubling the size of our own list (to 200 of the top colleges) within the next week.

      The reverse is possible only for the ACT, since all old SAT students took the essay (although it is true that not all colleges used the essay). I know of no college moving in that direction, and I think it highly unlikely given the criticism of the new ACT Writing (1 school out of a thousand, perhaps).

  • Scott Freeman says:

    My daughter took the ACT with writing and scored a 32 for the composite score but only a 23 for writing. I have two questions. One is whether she can submit the ACT but somehow choose not to submit the writing section, and the other is whether it makes sense to pay for them to re-score it. Thanks in advance for your answer.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      No, your daughter can only submit the test in its entirety. It is up to college policies to determine what they will do with it.

      I don’t like to be cavalier with other people’s money, but my general advice is that a rescoring is merited if a student is disappointed with his or her score. Personally, I’d like to see every April test-taker march on Iowa City with $50 in one hand and a protest sign in the other. But that last bit has nothing to do with your daughter’s situation.

      I’d also consider two ideas:
      1) College’s think little of the ACT Writing. Most never used it in the first place, and even more are dropping it now that schools no longer have to worry about the (formerly) required SAT essay. Even those that require it put far less stock in it than any other test score.
      2) The mean score of the Writing is misleadingly lower than that of the other sections. Her 23 is 83rd percentile according to the figures released by ACT. In the other 4 subject areas, scores from 25-28 are at that percentile. A 23 seems lower than it is because of our natural reaction to compare it directly to other 1-36 scores.

  • joanna says:

    Carnegie Mellon has dropped both SAT and ACT essay requirements

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Joanna, thank you for the information. We’ve updated Carnegie Mellon’s policy and will be updating other schools shortly. More and more colleges are firming up policies for class of 2017).

  • Leah says:

    My son took the SAT and got a 1500 730 reading/writing 770 Math, but his supplemental wring essay he didn’t far well how much weight will rice University put with that

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Rice does not require the SAT essay. Although colleges will still see that score, it’s rare that an essay-optional school would put much weight at all on it. I don’t think you should be concerned about how Rice will view the score.

  • Arvind says:

    I have a question regarding the SAT with essay. I have taken the SAT twice. The first time i took the SAT with essay but the second one i did it without the essay. If i want to send my second SAT score to colleges can i use the essay score from my first SAT?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Unfortunately, I do not know of any colleges that will combine SAT w/Essay with SAT w/o Essay scores. This creates a situation where — even though most colleges do not require the essay — most students are best advised to take the essay. This seems like over-testing that could easily be eliminated if colleges decided to superscore essay an non-essay results, but admission offices have not yet come around to that way of thinking.

      • Nick says:

        I’m in the same boat as Arvind. My school required me to take the New SAT in March without the essay. I took the New SAT again in May with the essay. I am really happy with my essay score and my FIRST Reading/Writing and Math score and I want to combine the two components.

        • Art Sawyer says:

          Colleges tend to move slowly in response to testing changes and often take direction from the testing organizations. Until this year, there was no ability to send an SAT score without an essay, so policies on superscoring were irrelevant. There was also the sense that “we want all students to be comparable, so if we require ACT w/Writing, then we are going to only accept scores from ACT w/Writing administrations.” Now that both tests are essay optional and the essays come at the end of the test (so there is no impact on test performance), it is completely illogical for superscoring colleges not to superscore the essay. But colleges have just not figured it out yet.

  • Ophelia Lee says:

    I took old SAT three times, now i decided to take the new SAT in October. Will the colleges combine my old and new scores? since a lot of schools do not require essay portion, can i just not take it? Thanks!

    • Ophelia Lee says:

      Also, I am looking at Northeastern’s website, it said that it required SAT with writing, does that mean that Northeastern require the new SAT essay portion?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Colleges will not superscore sections across new and old SATs. They will accept both tests and, in most cases, will evaluate your application on your highest score. The catch is that if any of your target colleges require the essay, then you will not be able to use your new SAT score without an essay. Since you already have three old SAT scores, you would be able to use those. It’s unfortunate that the 20% of universities requiring the essay are making it so difficult students to avoid the extra testing and expense.

  • Terri Dillard says:

    When a school says that the essay is optional, does that really mean it is not “required” but highly “recommended”. Because my son plays sports and they have “optional” workouts but really they aren’t optional if you really want to make the team. They are required!!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Terri, I really like that analogy. It’s apt for some colleges that claim to only “recommend” Subject Tests — Stanford and Georgetown, for example. That has not come up on ACT Writing / SAT Essay. We’ve tried to classify as “Optional” colleges that don’t use the essay for admission. There may be several cases where the essay score will be considered if submitted (unfortunately, one can’t leave it off of a submitted test date). More common are schools that “recommend” the essay only because it is used for freshman composition placement.

  • JB says:

    I have sons that scored 29 and 31 composite but only 17 on the writing. They took it again without writing and went up to 31 and 32. If certain schools they apply to DO require the writing, do you think they need to retake it with writing again, or is the main focus really on composite score?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I’m usually loathe to recommend retesting based on Writing alone, but the discrepancy between your sons’ Composite and Writing score and the fact that your sons have higher scores on the test without Writing (which means *some* schools that require writing will not use the 31 and 32) makes me think that a retake would be useful. Scores in the low 20’s are common enough that I don’t think colleges will think much of them one way or the other. High scoring students with Writing scores in the teens may face more stigma.

  • Jeanne says:

    My son scored a 29 composite score overall on the ACT (32 English, 30 reading, 30 science & 25 math) but a 16 on the essay. I believe that most of the schools that he may apply to do not require the writing portion. I am concerned however that a 16 on the essay will hurt his chances. What do you suggest?

    Also he has a learning disability which impacts his math score. Is the fact that his math score is significantly lower than his other scores a cause for concern? Should he address it in his application?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      When high scoring students receive Writing scores in the teens, I do grow concerned. In informal discussions with admissions officers, many fully admit that they don’t put much weight on Writing. When asked if they might view a 15 as a red flag, they admit “yes, that would raise eyebrows.” Your son did very well, and I’d hate to see him disadvantaged by the Writing score. I would recommend retesting if his schedule allows.

      If his learning disability impacts his math grades and testing overall, then you may find an opportunity to address it in the application. If you are only concerned that it impacted his ability on a speeded test like the ACT, I would not recommend making an issue of it.

  • Tushara says:

    I scored 1350 in jun sat. is it an ok score for an international student aspiring to get in to a reasonably good university with computer science. I am also planning to take math level 2 and physics subject adv.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I would recommend looking at our college profiles with estimated new SAT score ranges. In general, you’ll be competitive — which is not the same thing as saying that you’ll be admitted — at colleges where your scores are closer to the 75th percentile than the 25th percentile. Students and parents often don’t realize that the scores of admitted students are actually higher than the reported scores for enrolled students (we use the latter because not all college provide figures for admitted students). Keep in mind that test scores are only one part of your application. They tend to have a bit more weight for international students, because admission officers are not always as familiar with the curriculum and grading standards of other countries.

  • Eli Nitz says:

    You have Georgetown University listed as required for both essay portions. However in the paragraph on page one it states:
    “Other schools such as University of Chicago and Georgetown never adopted ACT Writing in the first place, ignored the original SAT essay, and will ignore the New SAT Essay. ”
    Can you clarify which is correct?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      We posted a set of updates yesterday that apparently had the faulty info on Georgetown. They definitely DO NOT require the SAT Essay or ACT Writing. Thank you for catching that error. We’ll review today to see that nothing else got flipped by mistake.

  • Robert Ionadi says:

    I am hoping to apply Early Decision to Columbia this fall. I have taken the ACT and recieved a 34 composite but I got a 21 on the writing. I’m not sure how this is possible as I received a 36 on the English section, so I obviously understand language arts. Anyways, should I retake the test? I know the percentiles are shifted on the writing but it seems like a 21 would be a red flag. Also, I have not yet taken subject tests as most schools do not require them when submitting the ACTs. Should I plan on taking those too? Would it be detrimental to my application if I have not taken them? Thank you so much for your help! This list is so useful!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      As you probably know, Columbia does not require the Writing. It will still be submitted with your ACT score, but the fact that it is optional for test takers gives you an idea of how important Columbia considers it — not very. The essay task and scoring system on the ACT writing are quite suspect, and colleges recognize it. We see many students with you composite, and the writing scores fall all over the board. I don’t think the 21 will serve as a red flag. Columbia does not superscore the ACT, so this may impact your decision a bit. Retaking will only help you if you can raise your composite. Although retesting can’t hurt you at Columbia (they will consider your highest scores), you’ll need to consider the policies at the other schools on your list.

      Because so many students at the top universities have great ACT or SAT scores, I do recommend that students *consider* Subject Tests. You’ll only want to worry about them if you think that they can improve your testing portfolio. In the case of elite schools like Columbia, that means 750+ (or at least 700+). You can try tests from the Official Guide published by College Board. Fewer schools than ever are requiring the Subject Tests — especially with ACT scores. It would be a little challenging to fit them in (including preparing for them) as senior year starts and application season begins, so you may want to just sit tight with your ACT score.

  • Jim says:

    I recently read your post on the new ACT writing test and found it to be very thorough and a little unsettling. I had two quick questions: My son is quite interested in the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He took the ACT in September.
    His ACT composite was 31 — solidly in the school’s range — and he scored a perfect 36 on either the English/Reading component. But his writing score was 6 — which, I think, falls somewhere in the 40th percentile. Not strong. After reading your post, I’m wondering how reliable those scores are.
    Do you recommend that he should take the test again?
    And on this post, you indicate the writing test portion is “optional” for the Coast Guard Academy. But its website says it is required. Can you shed some light on that? Thank you.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I’ve got an email into USCGA to see if they can help clarify. You are correct that they appear to be in the “Require” camp, and we will update our information. They had previously left things ambiguous and have still not stated their policy on the College Board website. The other question I have for them has to do with consideration — is the essay used for admission? The superscoring example that they give in their testing FAQ and the score range summary only mentions CR and M from the old SAT. Did they also use Writing or was it just for placement or research? Is the same true of the ACT Writing? I’d recommend contact them yourself, too.

      It’s in the 6 range where I do start to have concerns. Probably less of one in your son’s case because his ACT score is very solid for the Academy. It sounds like his ELA score would be strong despite the low essay score. It’s highly likely that he could improve his essay score upon retesting. I would try to push admissions for their take. Unless you can pin them down that it won’t matter much, your son may want to think about taking the ACT again. I hate to see students commit to extra testing just because of Writing, but I’d also hate to see your son not have everything working in his favor. Please update if you find anything new. I’ll do the same.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      USCGA got back to me with the following response: “The requirement to take the writing section is just to put all applicants on the same playing field, it is not heavily weighed when considering an applicant’s competitiveness.”

      It sounds like it would be unlikely to impact your son’s application — especially since, given his other scores, there would no concern about his verbal abilities.

  • Beth says:

    Thank you for this very helpful post. Just wondering about Reed; the table specifies the writing sections as “optional” but the Updates paragraph includes Reed in the list of colleges for which the requirement for the SAT essay has recently been added?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Thank you for pointing this out. We had originally had misinformation on Reed’s policy. Our table was corrected, but the paragraph had not been fixed. Reed is essay optional for both the SAT and ACT.

  • Leslie says:

    Hello –
    My son will be applying to Harvard and other schools. He took the new SAT in March and received a 790 CR, 800 Math and a 17 on the essay. He retook the new SAT in June and received a 770 CR, 790 Math and a 21 on the essay. Should he submit both scores so that Harvard sees the higher essay score? Or should he just submit the first score of 1590 with a 17 on the essay?
    Thanks for the help. This is very confusing!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Given your son’s circumstances, I would submit both scores. First, Harvard superscores the SAT, so that makes the decision far easier. Even if the don’t superscore the writing, your son would be no worse off. Second, neither of his non-essay scores is a concern, so it is not as if Harvard would see a score that would scare them off. While the difference between the 17 and 21 is minimal and is unlikely to impact your son’s chances for admission, there is no reason for him to put his best scores forward.

      If it’s any solace, it’s just as confusing for admission offices.

  • Lizy Shery says:

    Hello. I have done the new SAT with essay on October, and have got the required score for the essay, but not a good score for the SAT. If i retake the SAT without essay on December, would i be able to include the essay score which was done on October, Combined with the New SAT retaken score ( without essay) to colleges that requires the Essay. Thank you

    • Art Sawyer says:

      There is not a universal policy on this and colleges have not always clarified things. Some essay-requiring colleges — the University of California system is a prominent example — do not accept test dates that do not include the essay. Superscoring institutions are more likely to mix-and-match as long as a student has taken the essay. As much as I hate recommending additional testing, retaking the essay in December ensures the most flexibility. It’s unlikely that a lower essay score would hurt you, whereas it would defeat the purpose of your December testing if you can’t use your EBRW and Math scores.

  • Jack Van Dyk says:

    Hello. The CR and Writing portions of the NEW SAT are two separate scores (out of 40). Do colleges that superscore also superscore between CR and writing. For instance if I got a 35 CR and a 37 writing, then a 37 CR and a 36 writing would they view the highest scores separately (the 37’s) or would they only look at the highest overall score out of 800 (720).

  • Maria says:

    Hello Art,

    My head is swimming and I feel we have been worried for 2 years already. Thank you for the list, it is very helpful. My son has a learning disability, which puts him at a complete disadvantage for the writing portion… even with accommodations at 100% time and the use of a computer/word processor to type… his problem is such, that he does not retain spelling and grammar when translating them for practical use. The kicker, he is brilliant and a brilliant writer, aspiring to write novels, plays, and for film and television. However, he uses many learning tools to reach his end product. This writing portion is just a nightmare for us in general and a source of high anxiety. So, if you could, please help me to clarify a few things; when you say, “Compass expects that fewer than one-third of competitive colleges will require a standardized test essay for the fall of 2017 admission class.”, are you referring to the students who will be attending College/University in the fall of 2017, or applying in 2017/18 for attending fall 2018? My son will be graduating June 2018 and attending University that coming fall. How do these current tests guidelines apply to my son? Somehow, I was under the impression by spring of 2017, the essay portions were being eliminated entirely from the SAT and ACT. Is this correct? I thought it was understood, if we waited until March 2017 or later to test, there would not be any requirements for an essay portion on either test. Therefore, College/University would not have the option to even require the written portion from the students beginning the application process in fall of 2017. Or am I completely turned around? Thank you for your time and attention.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Let me see if I can help. There are no impending changes to the SAT or ACT essays. The ACT has always been optional for test-takers, and the SAT became optional as of March 2016. Neither will be dropped from the tests unless ACT and College Board suddenly come to their senses. Once the SAT essay became optional, however, many colleges reevaluated their requirements and decided to make the essay optional for their applicants. This shift happened in a big way.

      The “fewer than one-third” is a huge understatement that I should probably correct. Of 360 of the top schools in the country, we’ve found 24 that required an essay for class of 2017 (those applying right now). And that counts every UC campus independently! The percentage of schools outside the 360 who require the essay is even lower. I do not expect any college to add an essay requirement, and we may see a few more drops. If your son is planning on applying to Harvard or Duke or UCLA, then he will likely need the essay. If he is not applying to those 24 schools, though, you can’t chalk it off the list of concerns. It doesn’t sound like your son is in a position to just do some additional practice and ace the essay, so the best thing to do is to bypass it (and I don’t say that very often).

      What if he has his heart set on one or some of those 24 colleges? Here is the plan I would recommend. If he has not already tried the essay, then he should. If you are near one of Compass’ CA offices, we can provide proctored testing. If you are not, we also do fee-based testing with online proctoring. We grade essays in the same way that the College Board and ACT do. You may find that your concerns are overblown. If you don’t, then I would recommend a two-pronged attack. Make plans for your son to take the official SAT or ACT without the essay, and to then take it with the essay. The idea of the first is that he can focus on acing the test without the stress of the essay looming over him. Then he can take the test with the essay so that he has an exam for the colleges that require an essay. First, though, I would think carefully about where he is applying and whether the whole essay nonsense (and it is nonsense) can be avoided.

  • Sri says:

    Do colleges superscore with the essay? For example, I took the new SAT in October and December and I want to use my composite score from December and my essay score from October.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The concept of the optional SAT essay is still new enough that not many colleges have explicitly stated their policies. In general, I think it is safe to assume that superscoring colleges like to view scores through the “most favorable” lens and will consider your highest essay score. Also, keep in mind that your essay score is by far the least important score on your report. You don’t mention your scores, but they might make a difference. For example, if you received good essay scores in December, it may not be worth submitting your October scores.

  • Susan says:

    My son took the SAT with essay in November. He plans to retake the SAT with out the essay in the spring. He is applying to schools that do not require the essay. We are confused by superscoring. Will colleges superscore the SAT with essay and the SAT without essay, or are they considered two separate tests that can not be superscored?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      As far as I know, all superscoring schools where the essay is optional will superscore between essay and non-essay exams. The tricky part is when colleges require the essay. In those cases, some college superscore (I’d say that this is the majority), but a few do not. It sounds like your son is in good shape.

  • Sophea says:

    Boston University no longer requires the ACT writing.

  • Amy says:

    My son did well on the SAT (780, 780) but only a 16 on the essay. Is it worth taking the ACT? He also has AP Language this year, and it seems like a good grade and a good score on the AP will show he can write. He is looking at Stanford and Princeton as reach schools. (It probably doesn’t matter to his safety schools)
    Thank you for insight

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The essay score is a very, very small part of a testing portfolio. His 16 may not be the score he wanted, but it is not so far off the norm for top scorers that I recommend a retest — and certainly not a switch to the ACT given his strong SAT score. I expect 25th-75th percentile scores for enrolled students at even schools such as Stanford and Princeton to be in the 15-21 range. The benefit of being higher in that range is dubious.

  • Liza says:

    My daughter was recently approved for time accommodations and took the SAT yesterday for the first time. Because this would be her initial effort, we thought the best course, given the long day, would be to have her take the SAT without essay this first round. The concept was that she’d take some subject tests in May, then retake the SAT WITH the essay in June or August. I hadn’t realized that she would be unable to superscore the two SAT’s. This will be irrelevant if her second set of scores are higher across the board, but I now see that it could be problematic if that’s not the case. I’m trying to find a silver lining here, because nothing is to be done about yesterday. Only a few of the schools on her preliminary list require the essay. For those schools, would there be any utility in sending in both sets of scores for general consideration, even if one set doesn’t have the essay? The changing regulations certainly make for a muddle of testing. Thanks for any insights you have to offer. Your site has been a great resource!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      She may not have a problem superscoring between her two administrations — colleges have not always been clear on the topic. The UC system requires all scores to come from a single administration, but the University of Michigan, on the other hand, simply wants to see at least one Essay score. Given the trend in requirements and the number of colleges that will likely superscore between the two administrations, I would not worry much about her decision to skip the March essay. It sounds like it was the right decision for her first SAT. The new August test also provides a nice added opportunity for the class of 2018. I agree with you about the muddle. Thank you!

  • Olga says:

    What are your thoughts on Spanish with or without listening. The November test date for listening forces students to take the test the fall of junior without completing a full year of Spanish 4. Georgetown uses the score for language placement. Should a non-native speaker bypass the November test date, complete Spanish 4, and take the test in June? I am a former Spanish teacher and looked at the practice tests. Having A full year of Spanish 4 is extremely beneficial. What are your thoughts?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Please ignore my original replay, as I misread your comment entirely. The Spanish Subject Test — like the other foreign language exams — is challenging enough for students to do well on even with 3 full years of high school language. I would definitely recommend that students take the additional 7 months and wait for the June date. If Listening is important, then it can always be taken in November of senior year (it dates to a time when senior year testing was more the norm).

  • Surj sondhi says:

    The FAQ section for Brown has some conflicting info. They state that the SAT or ACT with writing is required. They also provide the link to the College Board which indicates that Brown neither requires nor recommends the writing section. Do you have any idea which one is correct?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I see what you are referring to. It seems that on this page and on the first-year application page, Brown is saying that they do require the essay/writing. That conflicts with what we found last year and with the College Board information to which they link. I have contacted Brown in an effort to get clarification.

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