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ACT Writing and SAT Essay Requirements

By August 28, 2020October 10th, 2023ACT, College Admission Requirements, SAT

On January 19th, 2021, College Board announced that they will no longer administer the SAT Subject Tests in the U.S. and that the Essay would be retired. Read our blog post to understand what this means in the near term and what the College Board has in store for students down the road.

Our articles on Subject Tests and the SAT Essay will remain on our site for reference purposes as colleges and students transition to a revised testing landscape. As an admission tool, students should consider the Essay as canceled. Compass recommends our students forgo the SAT and ACT optional essays on future exams.

The SAT Essay and ACT Writing continue to pose a conundrum for students. While College Board and ACT have made these components optional, a small number of colleges continue to require or recommend them. Compass believes that students should no longer take the SAT Essay or ACT Writing unless they are applying to (or thinking about applying to) one of the few colleges that still requires the essay. Students who have already taken the essay should not be overly concerned about scores. One reason the essay is fading away is that the scores simply aren’t that accurate or useful. Colleges never really found a use for them, and the essays created an unnecessary obstacle for some applicants.

Rather than worrying about an essay score that is mostly ignored by colleges, Compass believes students should spend their time strengthening the more valuable pieces of their academic portfolio: high school GPA and, more specifically, success in rigorous courses like APs. Compass offers AP and academic tutoring in over 50 subjects to help students stay on pace with their coursework. Our team of subject specific expert tutors will guide the program from start to finish. We also offer a Study Skills and Organizational Coaching program to provide students with the tools they need to excel in the classroom.

The following table of popular colleges provides a wide range of institutions and policies.

Colleges with essay optional policies often do not specify whether submitted essay scores will be used for admission. When the college explicitly states that scores will not be evaluated, we have listed the policy as “Not Considered.” “Optional” should not be interpreted as meaning that the college uses submitted scores. We recommend contacting the school if you have specific questions.

ACT and SAT Essay Requirements - Class of 2019 and Beyond

SchoolRegionSAT Essay RequiredACT Essay Required
Martin Luther CollegeMidwestRequiredRequired
United States Military AcademyMid-AtlanticOptionalRequired
University of Montana Western **WestRequiredOptional
University of Minnesota—​Twin CitiesMidwestOptional*Optional*
Abilene Christian UniversitySouthOptional*Optional*
Soka University of AmericaWestOptional*Optional*
Adelphi UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Agnes Scott CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Albion CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Allegheny CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
American UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Amherst CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Appalachian State UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Arizona State University—​TempeWestOptionalOptional
Auburn UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Augustana CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Austin CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Babson CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Baldwin Wallace UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Bard CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Barnard CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Bates CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Baylor UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Beloit CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Bennington CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Bentley UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Berea 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 EnglandOptionalOptional
Bryn Mawr CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Bucknell UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Butler UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
California Lutheran UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Carleton CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Carnegie Mellon UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Carroll CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Case Western Reserve UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Centre CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Chapman UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Christopher Newport UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Clark UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Clarkson UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Clemson UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Coe CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Colby CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Colgate UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
College of CharlestonSouthOptionalOptional
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—​MoorheadMidwestOptionalOptional
Connecticut CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Cooper UnionMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Cornell CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Cornell UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Creighton UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
CUNY—​Baruch CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Dartmouth CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Davidson CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Denison UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
DePaul UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
DePauw UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Dickinson CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Drake UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Drew UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Drexel UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Drury UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Duke UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
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-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Franklin and Marshall CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Furman UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Gallaudet UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
George Mason UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
George Washington UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Georgetown UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Georgia Institute of TechnologySouthOptionalOptional
Gettysburg CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Gonzaga UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Goshen CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Goucher CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Grinnell CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Gustavus Adolphus CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Hamilton CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Hampden-​Sydney CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Hampton UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Hanover CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Harvard University New EnglandOptionalOptional
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
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
Luther CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Macalester CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Manhattan CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Marist CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Marquette UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Mercer UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Miami University—​OxfordMidwestOptionalOptional
Michigan Technological UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Middlebury CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Millsaps CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Milwaukee School of EngineeringMidwestOptionalOptional
Mississippi State UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Missouri University of Science & TechnologyMidwestOptionalOptional
Morehouse CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Mount Holyoke CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Muhlenberg CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
New College of FloridaSouthOptionalOptional
New Jersey Institute of TechnologyMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
New SchoolMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
New York UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
North Carolina State University—​RaleighSouthOptionalOptional
Northeastern UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Northwestern UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Oberlin CollegeMidwestOptionalOptional
Occidental CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Ohio State University—​ColumbusMidwestOptionalOptional
Ohio UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Ohio Wesleyan UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Oklahoma State UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Oregon State UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Pacific Lutheran UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Pennsylvania State University—​University ParkMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Pepperdine UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Pitzer CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Point Loma Nazarene UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Pomona CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Pratt InstituteMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Presbyterian College (SC)SouthOptionalOptional
Princeton University Mid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
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-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey—​NewarkMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Saint Louis UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Sam Houston State UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Samford UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
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 UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Skidmore CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Smith CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
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 UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Stetson UniversitySouthOptionalOptional
Stevens Institute of TechnologyMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Stonehill CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Stony Brook University—​SUNYMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
SUNY College of Environmental Science and ForestryMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Susquehanna UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Swarthmore CollegeMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
Syracuse UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
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 EnglandOptionalOptional
United States Naval AcademyMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
University at Albany—​SUNYMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
University at Buffalo—​SUNYMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
University of AlabamaSouthOptionalOptional
University of ArizonaWestOptionalOptional
University of Arkansas—​FayettevilleSouthOptionalOptional
University of ChicagoMidwestOptionalOptional
University of CincinnatiMidwestOptionalOptional
University of Colorado—​BoulderWestOptionalOptional
University of ConnecticutNew EnglandOptionalOptional
University of DallasSouthOptionalOptional
University of DaytonMidwestOptionalOptional
University of DelawareMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
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 KentuckySouthOptionalOptional
University of La VerneWestOptionalOptional
University of Mary WashingtonSouthOptionalOptional
University of Maryland—​College ParkMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
University of Massachusetts—​AmherstNew EnglandOptionalOptional
University of Michigan—​Ann ArborMidwestOptionalOptional
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 North TexasSouthOptionalOptional
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 DiegoWestOptionalOptional
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—​AustinSouthOptionalOptional
University of Texas—​DallasSouthOptionalOptional
University of the PacificWestOptionalOptional
University of TulsaSouthOptionalOptional
University of UtahWestOptionalOptional
University of VermontNew EnglandOptionalOptional
University of VirginiaSouthOptionalOptional
University of WashingtonWestOptionalOptional
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 EnglandOptionalOptional
Wesleyan UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Westmont CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Wheaton College (IL)MidwestOptionalOptional
Whitman CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Whittier CollegeWestOptionalOptional
Willamette UniversityWestOptionalOptional
Williams CollegeNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Wofford CollegeSouthOptionalOptional
Worcester Polytechnic InstituteNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Xavier UniversityMidwestOptionalOptional
Yale UniversityNew EnglandOptionalOptional
Yeshiva UniversityMid-AtlanticOptionalOptional
California Institute of TechnologyWestNot ConsideredNot Considered
California Polytechnic State University--PomonaWestNot Considered*Not Considered*
California Polytechnic State University—​San Luis ObispoWestNot Considered*Not Considered*
California State University--FresnoWestNot Considered*Not Considered*
California State University--FullertonWestNot Considered*Not Considered*
California State University--Long BeachWestNot Considered*Not Considered*
California State University--Los AngelesWestNot Considered*Not Considered*
California State University--Monterey BayWestNot Considered*Not Considered*
California State University--NorthridgeWestNot Considered*Not Considered*
Humboldt State University WestNot Considered*Not Considered*
San Diego State UniversityWestNot Considered*Not Considered*
Loyola University New OrleansSouthNot Considered*Not Considered*
Michigan State UniversityMidwestNot ConsideredNot Considered
University of California—​BerkeleyWestNot ConsideredNot Considered
University of California—​DavisWestNot ConsideredNot Considered
University of California—​IrvineWestNot ConsideredNot Considered
University of California—​Los AngelesWestNot ConsideredNot Considered
University of California—MercedWestNot ConsideredNot Considered
University of California—RiversideWestNot ConsideredNot Considered
University of California—​San DiegoWestNot ConsideredNot Considered
University of California—​Santa BarbaraWestNot ConsideredNot Considered
University of California—​Santa CruzWestNot ConsideredNot Considered
Claremont McKenna CollegeWestNot ConsideredNot Considered
University of MiamiSouthNot ConsideredNot Considered

* In response to COVID-19, these schools have announced temporary test optional or test blind policies, which also effects their essay requirements and recommendations. Please check with the individual schools for more information.

** University of Montana Western has students submit ACT Writing in order to satisfy English proficiency requirements.

Post a comment or send an email to guide@compassprep.com with questions or recommended changes.

Related posts:

ACT Writing scores have gone through multiple changes. To try to clear things up, Compass has published ACT Writing Scores Explained. A similar analysis for the SAT is also available.

Our College Profiles page provides SAT and ACT scores for some of the most competitive colleges in the country.

Score choice and superscoring policies can be found for more than 400 popular colleges and universities.

Subject Test requirements continue to evolve, so Compass keeps an up-to-date list.

Updated 6/24/2020

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.


  • ST says:

    Hi Art,
    Hope you are staying safe. Son is sophomore who will be taking the September ACT. He is not a great writer, does not like writing, and does not want to take the writing portion. He likely will score in the 33-35 range and apply to a variety of schools (a couple top [sub-10% acceptance rate] privates and top publics, as well as some less competitive universities and colleges). Not applying to any UC schools. Do you think lacking the writing score — which likely would be average — will hurt him? Put another way, would doing the writing help him at schools where it is “optional” assuming his score is not great but not terrible? Thanks.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      If colleges were completely honest, they would admit that the Writing test is dead. Some won’t state it so bluntly because it sounds like writing is not important. I don’t think there will be any colleges that care about your son’s Writing score by the time he applies. He should pass on it in September.

  • BSS says:

    Hi Art,

    If I’m understanding correctly, the only students who need to be taking the writing/essay exams are those applying to the first 9 schools on your list that are “required” or “recommended”? In this wild west post-Covid era of college testing where it seems the only constant thing is change, it is hard to understand why anyone would still take the essay portion if they aren’t applying to any of those 9 schools. We are in CA so it used to be needed for the UC’s but as you noted even that has changed. So now post-Covid, do you still advise most of your students to take the writing exams, or feel that there is “more upside than downside” to taking them? My 11th grader previously did the SAT w/essay and scored 760 R&W, 650 M, and 4/4/5 on the essay. He’ll be retaking it to improve his math score, or possibly switching over to the ACT since SAT isn’t offered this summer (He was scheduled for the March exam that was cancelled the day before, so we are re-evaluating our options). Thanks very much for your insight.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I’d go even a step further and say that — except for students applying to West Point — the essay can finally be retired. I’m not sad to see it go!

      Given that your son is already considering the ACT, I’d recommend looking at July ACT and August SAT dates. Not that he needs to take both, but the strategy is a hedge against cancellations. Registration for some students just opened up for the SAT dates, but it sounds like your student will need to wait until registration goes wider on June 3.

  • Bob says:

    Duke: “Recommended” Duke website: “We do not require the optional essay.” https://admissions.duke.edu/apply/ I don’t see anywhere that they recommend it.

    Also, on your Subject Test page: Duke: “Recommended Strongly ” Duke website: “We do not require Subject Tests.” I see nothing that would indicate it is “Recommended Strongly”. https://admissions.duke.edu/apply/

    Caltech – “Optional” Caltech website – “Caltech also does not require the SAT Essay or ACT Writing exam sections. These sections will not be considered in the application review process.” http://admissions.divisions.caltech.edu/apply/first-yearfreshman-applicants/standardized-tests

    I believe the vast, vast majority of the colleges you list as “Optional” similarly don’t even consider a writing score.

    • Margaux Erilane says:

      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for reaching out! And thank you, in particular, for the Duke update. Just a few weeks ago we checked their site and they still had Subject Tests listed as recommended strongly with the “or ACT” twist. We’ve updated the Subject Test page to reflect that. We still have Duke listed as recommending the essay because of this: https://today.duke.edu/2018/07/duke-makes-sat-essay-act-writing-test-optional-applicants (this announcement is from almost two years ago, but we haven’t heard anything to specifically counter it.)

      We recognize that the essay is becoming increasingly less relevant in admissions, and we have plans to revisit this list and put the “Optional” schools in better context.

  • Mazin says:

    Hello Mr. Sawyer,
    I have an SAT score of 1510 and my essay score is 5/4/6 should I consider taking the SAT again to improve the essay score if I plan to apply to the top universities such as Harvard, Yale and Duke.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      You should not repeat the SAT just because of your Essay score. You may have seen the news yesterday that College Board is phasing out the Essay. It is simply no longer a concern.

      • Marjorie says:

        Mr. Sawyer, what are you thoughts on the ACT writing (essay). Do you expect it to follow suit and discontinue it like the SAT essay?

        • Art Sawyer says:

          My first thought is that — ACT’s decision aside — students should not take the Writing test. It is disappearing for good reason — it’s just not very good or useful.

          ACT will make a business decision, just as College Board did — although not necessarily with the same immediate result. ACT may want to retain the fees it is receiving for the Writing test. It may also try to wait just long enough not to seem that it is following College Board’s lead. ACT typically implements changes during its school calendar year of Sept – July. I would not be surprised to see the essay discontinued after the summer administrations.

  • Sarah says:

    Mr. Sawyer-Wanting some advice. My junior just took the ACT and scored a 33 composite with a 35 in English and a 34 in reading. Our school had recommended the writing test so he took it and bombed it with a 6/12. He has taken all honors and AP English classes offered and done excellent. GPA is 3.95 unweighted. I wonder if his horrible handwriting played a role but now he is stuck with a 6 on writing. Should he retake the test just to improve that score? If so does he take it with writing again or simply try to score a 33 without writing and submit that score. He’s looking at Carleton, Pomona, Grinnell along with some others.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      One of the reasons the essay has been abandoned is just how fluky the results can be. I would not recommend retesting only to raise his Writing score.