ACT Writing and SAT Essay Requirements

By August 28, 2020 January 21st, 2021 ACT, 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
Mills CollegeWestOptionalOptional
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

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.


  • Johnny says:

    Hello Mr. Sawyer,
    I received a July ACT score of 33 with an essay score of 6 (Not happy about). My composite score is a 36 R, 35 S, 32 W, 29 M. Will my essay score be a red flag when applying to the more highly selective colleges?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The 25th-75th percentile range for admitted students at highly selective colleges is 8-10. I don’t think the essay score will disqualify you by any means — and many won’t pay attention to it at all. If you are thinking of retaking the test, though, I’d recommend retaking the Writing, as well.

  • Rithvik says:

    Hello Mr. Sawyer,
    I am planning on sending both my SAT and ACT scores to the colleges to which I’m applying, some of which are on this list. When I took the SAT, I elected to take the writing portion as well. However, with the ACT, I did not take the essay portion. If I were to send my ACT score would it be considered even without the writing component? Do I need to retake the ACT with the essay in order to have both tests considered with their respective writing components? Keep in mind that I am planning on sending the SAT with the writing. I hope this makes sense.


    • Art Sawyer says:

      This is an interesting twist, and I will say that I have not asked colleges about this case. Keep in mind the relatively small number of colleges that will even require the essay component. I would recommend contacting admission offices to see what they recommend. My sense is that they would be OK with it. While they don’t superscore across test types, some view the essay as simply a checkbox. You’ve checked it as long as you submit the SAT. If your SAT and ACT scores are similar, then you should send both.

  • Jennie says:

    My son took the SAT twice. Once he received a 770 V and 780 M. He took it again with essay and scored 730 V, 790 M and an abysmal 11 on the essay. I assume at elite schools this essay score is so low as to raise a red flag … and avoid sending this score, even if the college superscores and the math would be higher? He has taken all schools that require the essay off his list.
    Also, he took the ACT (no essay) once “for fun” and ran out of time on the science section. He scored Composite 34, English 36, math 35, Reading 35, Science 29. Should he report those scores instead of the SAT scores? And on the subject tests he got an 800 math and 750 physics. Would you report those scores to elite schools?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      While the 10 points of superscoring benefit is probably not worth the risk of submitting the second test, I would not recommend that your son cross off “essay required” schools. An 11 might raise a flag, but colleges look at the entire application for a reason.

      His SAT scores and ACT score are similar (looked at via concordance). I would probably go with the SAT score to avoid any issues with the “low” Science score. His Subject Tests scores should be reported to all schools (those that don’t consider them will simply ignore the scores).

      • Jennie says:

        Thank you! This is SO very helpful! He took the ACT in December and got oddly opposite scores, compared to the first time. (He is a slow test taker and often runs out of time.) The first time he scored Composite 34, English 36, math 35, Reading 35, Science 29 …. and in December he scored Composite 34, English 30, math 36, Reading 35, Science 36 (stem 36)! Would you still go with the SAT score (770 verbal 780 math)? or send both ACT scores? Or just send all 3?
        I really appreciate your time.

  • Annie says:

    I appreciate your reply. Thank you!

  • Annie says:

    Hello Art – My daughter plans on applying to several ivies. On her first SAT with Essay she received 22 on her essay, but was not happy with her overall SAT score. Recently, in August, she retook the SAT without the essay. She is happy with her August SAT score of 1550. Will Yale, for example, allow her to use the August SAT score along with the essay score from her previous SAT test? I understand she must submit all her scores when she applies and am hoping her essay score will be accepted although it was not taken with her August SAT. Thank you!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Almost all of the admission offices that we have talked to are happy to see at least one testing with an essay and are ok if other sittings do not include an essay. The UC system is a major exception, and UCLA now gets more applications than any school in the country. I have not spoken to Yale, but it has its “send all scores” policy because it prefers to take a holistic review. There is no reason to think that Yale will ignore her 1550.

  • dane says:

    very helpful. thanks so much.

  • Dane says:

    Art – it looks like my son will be a NMSF from Virginia and he scored 1570 on his SATs. Unfortunately, he only got a 14 on the essay, because he did not prepare at all. He is planning to apply to the most competitive schools including schools that require the essay. He is planning to retake the essay, but is worried that his SAT scores will drop. Any recommendations for us?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      As you’ve probably gleaned, I usually try to talk students out of repeating the SAT when the only goal is to increase the essay score. It’s far less important than the EBRW/Math components even at colleges that require it. It is hard to imagine that many scenarios where it is the decision maker. The 25th-75th score range for the essay is likely to be 5-7 (in each area), so your son’s score is not that out-of-whack. As you may also have gleaned, I’m a believer in supporting students. If your son wants to raise his Essay score and is willing to repeat the SAT, then I’d encourage him to focus on the positive. He is a Semifinalist from VA and scored a 1570, so he knows his stuff. A “drop” is not going to be significant and is completely irrelevant for superscoring colleges. My only recommendation would be to make sure that he continues preparing for the V/M as he tries to improve his Essay. He can’t go into the test just thinking “gotta do great on the Essay,” especially since the Essay comes at the end. I’m sure he’ll do fine.

  • Kathy says:

    His grades in the AP Classes that correlate to the subject tests were high A’s (without the AP score incorporated), since his school incorporates the AP score into the final grade on the transcript. One thing that concerns me for a few other classes where he had a 92 before the AP was incorporated (which is considered an A- at his school, but with the AP score incorporated it got bumped up to an A) is that I’ve read that colleges don’t like that and prefer that the class grade be separate from the AP score. Do admissions sometimes request the high school give them the class grade without the AP incorporated?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Colleges typically use unadjusted GPA when looking at transcripts. For example, some schools give an A in an AP class a 5.0 rather than a 4.0. Your school’s situation sounds like it may be different. If the only course grade on your son’t transcript is an A and your school reports this as a 4.0, then I’m not sure how a college would work backwards. This falls out of my area of expertise, though, so I don’t want to make any definitive statements.

  • Kathy says:

    My son took the new SAT w/Essay got a 1590 but a 15 on Essay. Took two subject tests: Math2: 730, Chemistry 710. Unweighted GPA 4.0, Took 15 AP’s: APLang 5, APLit 5, AP CALC AB and BC 5 on both, AP Chem 5, AP Bio 5, AP Physics 1= 4, plus many more (all 5’s except for a 4 on Latin) but not relevant to my question. Should he retake either of the Subject tests in the case of Harvard or Princeton and if majoring in Biomedical Engineering, or do they weigh in his AP scores as well in that regards, or what if he decides to major in law, would that change anything. I believe they use this formula for a thing called the Academic Index Score based on Subject Tests, SAT, GPA, and class rank, his school does not rank so his Academic Index score comes to 231. Is that good enough? Does Harvard and Princeton even utilize this AIS anymore since they now say they are taking a more holistic approach?
    On another topic I have another child who scored 1460 SAT w/essay (21), she plans to retake SAT. She is interested in Stanford and we wanted to know if she took it again without the essay if they would superscore the two SAT’s and they said yes. Here was their response: “Hello,
    We require ALL the scores from ALL the tests taken and will consider the highest scores from all the results, including the tests without the writing portion. Best, Office of Undergraduate Admission Stanford University”

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The Academic Index Score causes a great deal of confusion. AIS is not used for admission (with an exception important for only a slice of students). The Ivy League is, first and foremost, a sports league. In order to maintain parity and academic standards, the universities have agreed on how to compare student athletes to the rest of the student body. The holistic factors for admission aren’t of much use here. How do you compare “Her essay blew me away” at Dartmouth to the same reaction at Harvard? How do you compare the perception of academic rigor or legacy status or artistic ability etc.? So the universities have a straightforward formula of GPA and test scores. Because the AIS is used for athletes, it can come into play in the case of recruited athletes. A useful article at The Crimson is here.

      Back to your son’s Subject Test scores. I do think there is room for improvement. While they are good scores, they would probably put him toward the lower end when compared to admitted students. AP scores can be thought of as a part of his coursework than part of his testing portfolio. APs are not designed to be admission tests. Most colleges will at least take a look at them, but his grades in those courses are likely more important than his test scores.

      Thank you for the update on Stanford. I’m glad to add another college to the common sense category regarding the essay (although dropping it might be even better). Despite Stanford’s all caps ALLs, the answer neglects to mention that they mean SATs and ACTs. They specifically do not require reporting of all Subject Tests.

  • Ann says:

    Hi Art
    If a college requires ACT with writing and does not superscore (website says they look at the highest composite score from one sitting) does this mean they will not consider any ACT scores that were not taken writing?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      There is not one answer. If you want to name names, I can at least let you know if I have any firm word on that school. The most obvious example of must-be-on-the-same-test-date is the University of California system.

  • Mary says:

    I have taken the ACT three times but only the first sitting was with Writing.

    For schools I’m interested in that are “writing optional” such as BC and Notre Dame I’m assuming the admissions process will consider all my test dates regardless of whether that date had he writing section scored or not?

    For some schools – Harvard, Princeton, Duke and Dartmouth, will they not consider scores from the dates I didn’t take the writing section?


    • Art Sawyer says:

      You are correct about the writing optional schools. Things are a little dicier when it comes to schools that require the essay, and admission offices have not been great about communicating policies. The elite schools you mention often take a “portfolio” approach. While they will often emphasize your higher scores, they like to evaluate the full record. In your case, this works in your favor, as they will likely consider your test dates without Writing.

  • Raj says:

    Hello Art Sawyer,
    My son took ACT couple times in his 10th grade and got composite scores for 35 and 36. His essay scores both times was 8.
    He is thinking of applying for engineering major at University of Michigan, Stanford and UC Berkeley. Wondering how are the chances with low essay score and do i need to send both scores to universities
    Appreciate your insights.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Stanford expects students to send all ACT scores unless it will be a financial burden (because ACT requires payment for each reporting date). The UC’s and Michigan will look at your son’s highest scores. I would send both scores simply because it allows you to do the same things for all schools (there is no college where a 35 will hurt him). His 8 is at the lower range of enrolled students at those colleges — which would see a range of 8-10 for 25th to 75th percentile. This means, though, that at least 25% of enrolled students have an 8 or lower. Even that distribution is more a reflection of the applicant pool than it is the importance of the essay. I would not worry about the score.

  • James says:

    I’m shaping myself on my application as a writing student. I’m Editor-in-Chief of two publications at my school and have won a few prestigious writing competitions. I got a 1580 on my SAT, but a 6/5/6 on my essays. I want to go to UPenn and am wondering if I should retake the SAT to bump my essay score. I don’t know if my good writing extracurriculars will outweigh my poor essay score or if my poor essay score will delegitimize by good writing extracurriculars. What should I do?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Please do not retake the SAT. Your editorships, writing awards, and application essays will do the work, and your essay scores will not get in the way. In fact, should you go to Penn, you’ll likely find that your essay scores are the exact median of your classmates’ scores. The SAT Essay is a task in search of a mission. Don’t let it distract you from yours.

  • Bethany says:

    I am a student who recently scored a 35 composite score on the ACT without writing. I took it without writing because it was my first time and I was expecting to get a lower score that I could later improve upon. I would like to submit this score to the colleges I am applying to, but some of the colleges require the writing portion and will therefore not accept my 35 composite without writing. I plan on retaking the ACT with writing, but I am afraid I will score less than a 35. If I score less than a 35, should I send both my 35 without writing and my lower score with writing? Will colleges like Brown and Stanford even accept this? Thank you for your help.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Sorry to hear that the lack of a Writing section poses a problem, but congratulations on your great score! Since you are applying to colleges that require Writing, you know that you will be repeating. I would focus on the positive. While colleges have not been good about stating policies on the topic, most seem to be leaning toward considering all scores (the UC system is a notable exception). As an “all scores” school, Stanford emphasizes the testing portfolio, so I’d be surprised if they ignored your 35. There is no reason *not* to send your 35 unless you do even better next time. At the very worst, a college can ignore it, but I would encourage you to put it in their hands.

  • li li says:

    My son is interested in UVA and was wondering if he needs to take SAT subject tests to apply this school. The subject tests are optional for UVA. Also he took SAT math2 in May and received 740. Is 740 an ok score? Thank you so much!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      li li,
      Your son does not need to take Subject Tests. UVA used to “strongly recommend” the tests, but they have downgraded their policy to “Subject Test optional.” As with many “recommended” or “optional” colleges, Subject Tests can demonstrate a student’s strengths. Yes, a 740 is strong enough that I think it is worth sending. If your son has academic strengths in other areas — chemistry or biology, for example — then he might consider trying the exams.

  • Mom in NJ says:

    Hi Art
    Thank you for all of this useful information! My son took the ACT 3 times:

    1) 34 C 35 W 35 M 35 R 31 S (no essay)
    2) 34 C 35 W 36 M 35 R 28 S (essay – 8)
    3) 35 C 35 W 36 M 34 R 35 S (essay – 8)

    Do you see any reason to send anything other than the third score? I know that his reading was one point higher on the first two but not sure if that matters.

    Thanks so much! I really appreciate any insight.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      NJ Mom,
      No, I don’t see any reason to send scores 1 or 2 (except where a college requires all scores). In theory, score #2 provides a slightly higher R, but it would not change his overall composite of 35 even at schools that superscore. There are problems with the other scores (the 28 Science on #2 and the lack on an essay on #1) that make me think your son should keep it simple.

  • Diana says:

    Hi Art,
    Our situation is a bit the reverse of Brad’s. My son scored a 1350 on his first SAT (740 Math, 610 Evidence Based Reading & Writing) and a 5/3/5 on the Essay. He then took his second SAT at school (in NYC), and scored 1540 (780 Math, 760 Evidence Based Reading & Writing) but the NY DOE did not offer the Essay. Is it possible to Super score, using the complete second SAT (1540) and the Essay from the first SAT? And if so, can we extract that Essay score on its own, or will we need to send the entire SAT scores from the first test (1350) ? Would prefer for schools not to see the lower score at all, but at least to submit the Essay from that test would be what we need.

    [Edit: Art, I read many of the questions from the others after I sent you mine, many of which are similar. Just to clarify – I was asking this: if colleges don’t super score the optional essay from one test with another entire SAT test (no essay taken), and my son wants to apply to schools where Essay is required, would you suggest we send both complete SAT tests? Thanks again!]

    Many thanks, Diana

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I’m sorry to hear that the NY DOE did not offer the Essay. There is no ability to send just the Essay score. The only case where he would not send the first SAT is where a college does not require the Essay. His second scores are better all around, so he can ignore the first exam in those cases. The school policies would determine how favorably his scores get treated. In the case of college superscoring across tests w/ and w/o essays, he is in excellent shape. His Essay score is, perhaps, a little weak given his overall scores. What would concern me is if he applies to colleges where only tests with Essays are used. The difference between his EBRW scores is substantial. I’d suggest at least considering repeating the SAT. As you’ve likely read, I prefer students not re-take the SAT just to raise an Essay score. But the 190 point difference in total score is impossible to ignore. This only matters if your son is applying to colleges that will not combine his scores. For example, UCLA would only consider his 1350. That’s the exception, though, so I would recommend examining his target colleges closely.

  • Brad says:

    Hi Art,

    My daughter is a Junior and took the January 2017 SAT and scored a 1280 (640 and 640 splits) but scored a 23/24 on the Essay. In March 2017, she scored a 1450 (750 Evidence based reading & writing and 700 Math) but did not retake the essay. She is also looking to retake the SAT again in August to try to boost the Math section. Do you know how some of the top colleges will view this (particularly those requiring the essay) as her best sitting score wasn’t on the same date as her essay? Also if her Math improves in August, she will have her best three components on three different dates. Will this hurt her chances at some of the top schools?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Colleges that superscore will generally look at the highest scores across each section — including the Essay. Some schools that require the Essay simply want the Essay taken at least once (University of Michigan falls in this group). Other colleges — such as the University of California system — will only consider test dates that include the Essay. Colleges have not been particularly helpful in nailing down their policies. Keep in mind that some colleges — Yale and Stanford, for example — will require all her scores and consider them in a more holistic fashion. The “hurt her chances” part is glass half-full/empty. Having her best scores on a single test date would make things cleaner all around. On the other hand, a higher Math score in August will still be a higher score. She certainly showed great progress from January to March, so it seems like she can put up good scores. I would recommend that she take the Essay again. Even if she scores lower (and the statistics on the Essay make it likely), my feeling is that it is more important to have a test date that can be used everywhere than it is to skip the Essay because she already nailed it. For example, at a Score Choice college, I’d be more comfortable seeing a student submit only a 730ERW / 730M 6/6/6 Essay than having to also submit the 640/640.

  • Preetal says:

    Do superscoring colleges superscore the SAT essay? My daughter got a better SAT score in March (1560) but only 17 on essay. Last November she got 1520 but 24 on essay. Not sure how colleges will view this.
    Also for colleges that need one score, will the 1560 with 17 on essay look bad?
    Any advise is appreciated.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      It’s a question that only a few colleges have addressed directly. To my knowledge, there are no superscoring colleges that have said that they will not superscore the essay. Colleges that superscore choose to view students’ scores in the most favorable light, so I don’t think they will choose to handle essay scores differently.

      Your daughter’s 24 is extraordinary; her 17 is inline with what we see from many top-scoring students. It should not be a concern.

  • AndyW says:

    Hi Art. My son who is class of 2018 took the SAT w/o the essay, scored well at a 1460. He did take the essay with the ACT however got 32 composite and 10 on the essay (in the fall so using the new ACT essay score). If he’s applying to one of the colleges that requires an essay, will the fact that he did take the ACT essay fulfill the essay requirement? Or will he HAVE to submit an SAT essay score too?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Thanks for a new and interesting twist on this question. I’m quite sure that I haven’t seen any college specifically address the it — other than, perhaps, the UC system which has always demanded that scores be from a single administration (so an ACT essay won’t be combined with an SAT total score). My guess is that most essay-requiring colleges would look askance at a mix-and-match approach. His ACT score is just as strong has his SAT score, though, so I’m not sure that it is much of a concern. If he decides to repeat the SAT, I would advise him to take the essay.

  • kelly says:

    Trying to add to the info on your site, because your site has helped me. My son (in FL) scored 1540 on the first SAT but 17/24 on the essay. He retook the test on the “SAT School Day” (so it was free) . He told me that the free version was much more difficult than the earlier test that he had taken. His recent score of 1460 reflected his assessment. But we looked into the essay and what we learned is below. His essay score on the recent SAT was 24/24. He went from a 17/24 to a 24/24 after doing this. (I am not associated with anyone, just a parent trying to help my son.)

    Maybe this info will help some other parents or kids taking the SAT. I am no expert, and my son’s writing did NOT improve in 2 months time. He just gave the reviewers what they wanted in a format to allow them to check boxes.

    Write longer… +700 words if possible
    Be positive about the speech / work that you are reviewing (never negative)
    Don’t analyze the speech (what they could have done better), point out how he/she elicited or what they did/said to elicit the response that he/she wanted.

    Looks like the easiest/best way to do this is: (intro/body/conclusion style)
    – Paragraph 1 = Introduction, short summary of how he/she elicits reaction
    – Paragraph 2-4 = pick a few specific examples and elaborate on those examples from your introduction (how they elicited the response/ or intended to)
    – Paragraph 5 = conclusions say what a great job they did, and confirm some of the introduction

    You may want to quickly outline your 3 body paragraphs first – then start on your introduction, so you don’t miss something in your introduction and are erasing/trying to go back and include it.

    Watch the videos in this series:

    Look at these essay examples:

  • 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.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I’ve confirmed with Brown that the requirement of SAT w/Essay or ACT w/Writing is new for the class of 2018. The College Board information is outdated. We’ll be changing the information on our site, of course. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  • 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).

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • Sophea says:

    Boston University no longer requires the ACT writing.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 tests.pl 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.

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