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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.


  • Amy says:

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

    • Art Sawyer says:

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

  • Liza says:

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

    • Art Sawyer says:

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

  • Olga says:

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

    • Art Sawyer says:

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

  • Surj sondhi says:

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

    • Art Sawyer says:

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

    • 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.

  • 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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • dane says:

    very helpful. thanks so much.

  • 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.

  • Annie says:

    I appreciate your reply. Thank you!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.