As colleges address the Redesigned SAT, they have largely followed existing practice when it comes to accepting the New SAT versus the outgoing 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. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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. We will soon expand this list to several hundred schools, but it currently includes the first 60 schools on U.S. News’ list of top National Universities and 40 from its Liberal Arts Colleges list. This pool 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.
ACT and SAT Essay Requirements - Class of 2017 and Beyond
|College||SAT Essay Policy||ACT Writing Policy||Recent ACT Drop|
|Amherst College||Strongly Recom'd||Strongly Recom'd|
|Bryn Mawr College*||Optional||Optional|
|California Institute of Technology||Required||Required|
|Carnegie Mellon University||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|Case Western Reserve University||Recommended||Recommended|
|Claremont McKenna College||Required||Required|
|College of the Holy Cross*||Optional||Optional|
|College of William and Mary||Optional||Optional|
|George Washington University*||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||Recommended||Required||Yes|
|Harvey Mudd College||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|Johns Hopkins University||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|Mount Holyoke College*||Optional||Optional|
|New York University||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|Ohio State University - Columbus||Optional||Required|
|Pennsylvania State University - University Park||Optional||Optional|
|Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|United States Air Force Academy||Recommended||Recommended|
|United States Military Academy||Required||Required|
|United States Naval Academy||Optional||Optional|
|University of California - Berkeley||Required||Required|
|University of California - Davis||Required||Required|
|University of California - Irvine||Required||Required|
|University of California - Los Angeles||Required||Required|
|University of California - San Diego||Required||Required|
|University of California - Santa Barbara||Required||Required|
|University of Chicago||Optional||Optional|
|University of Connecticut||Optional||Optional|
|University of Florida||Optional||Optional|
|University of Illinois - Urbana||Optional||Optional|
|University of Maryland - College Park||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|University of Miami||Required||Required|
|University of Michigan||Required||Required|
|University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|University of Notre Dame||Optional||Optional|
|University of Pennsylvania||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|University of Richmond||Optional||Optional|
|University of Rochester*||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|University of Southern California||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|University of Texas - Austin||Required||Required|
|University of Virginia||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|University of Washington||Recommended||Recommended||Yes|
|University of Wisconsin - Madison||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|Wake Forest University*||Optional||Optional|
|Washington and Lee University||Optional||Optional||Yes|
|Washington University in St. Louis||Optional||Optional|
|Worcester Polytechnic Institute*||Optional||Optional|
*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” reflects a policy to be determined by the college or for which Compass has insufficient information.
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