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Do I Need to Write the Optional SAT Essay?

Sunday, June 09, 2019

THIS POSTING HAS BEEN REVISED TO REFLECT FREQUENTLY-CHANGING SAT ESSAY POLICIES.

The optional SAT essay, requiring an additional 50 minutes of test takers' time, focus and energy, is swiftly becoming an artifact.  

Like the vestigial human appendix, at one point in time this component of the standardized testing landscape had its purpose. Today, more often than not, the essay score is simply disregarded, serving no true function in evaluating applicants, so says the testing policy at the vast majority of colleges and universities.  Still, every year we grapple with the wisdom of signing up for the optional essay.  

Testing Requirements Run the Gamut

How should students approach the decision of whether or not to sit for the optional essay?  General wisdom has long suggested that the smart and safe move would be to write the essay because without it colleges that do require this component will regard the main two-part SAT score, consisting of Evidence-Based Reading and Writing plus Math, to be incomplete.

So what are the policies that colleges hold around the essay?  Schools such as Bates, NYU, Quinnipiac, Connecticut College, UConn neither require nor recommend the optional essay and will not consider its score at the time of application review.  No longer does the College of Charleston or Occidental even recommend the essay, a relatively recent change.  As of last year, Duke stopped requiring it. None of the Ivies require the essay.  So who does?   

Look West

Primarily, the University of California system institutions (ex. UCLA; UC San Diego; etc.) and Stanford still ask for the essay.  A student applying to these schools will need to submit their essay score in order to complete their application. 

Future Tense

Another possible rationale behind writing the essay is as a back-up in the event a student later decides to transfer colleges, and the destination college is one that requires the SAT essay score for admission -- including transfer admission.  Without a complete score, the SAT two-part score may be regarded as insufficient.

International applicants whose language of instruction is not English may consider writing the essay to lend another perspective to their TOEFL or IELTS score.

In the present timeframe, if a student feels that they will likely have remaining mental focus to satisfactorily write the essay after completing the main SAT sections, then they might just pay the extra $15 fee and register for the essay.  And after once completing the essay and if satisfied with the two-part score, the student may not need to write the essay again in future testing scenarios.  In other words, when it comes to the essay more often than not it's "one and done."    

If a student wants to learn more about the essay section (highly-recommended prior to test day), click here to learn more about the approach to writing the essay and the skills assessed.

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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com

Tips for the ACT Reading Section

Monday, March 04, 2019

The ACT is commonly known at the "sprint" test: Test takers need to move quickly and steadily to make it through the race. Of the four required sections of the ACT, including Math, Reading, English and Science plus the optional essay, the Reading section typically challenges students' pacing and focus.  With 35 minutes available to answer 40 supporting-evidence questions across several passages, test takers need to rely on their skills in efficient and active reading to achieve solid performance in this section.

Thanks to the generosity of the good folks at Method Test Prep, a standardized test preparation tutoring service, AchieveCoach College Consulting blog readers can access here highly helpful tips and suggestions for effectively managing the Reading section of the ACT.

Even if the ACT is not their thing, students can still put to use these tips relating to organization and focus whether sitting for the SAT or actively reading short or long essays as part of school-related assignments.  Through these helpful suggestions, readers and learners of all ages could benefit from the pacing and strategy suggestions in The ACT Reading Quick-Tip Guide.
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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com

Another Shift in the SAT/ACT World

Monday, June 18, 2018

When registering for the SAT or ACT, students are asked to consider whether or not to sign up for the optional essay. Since the number of colleges actually requiring the essay has been steadily decreasing as of late, it has been something of a toss up as to whether or not to advise students to spend the extra time and money to complete the essay component of standardized testing.  

Since students typically sit for these tests well before settling on a final list of colleges, there was no telling early in the game which of their intended colleges would ultimately require the essay. Thus, the safe bet has been to just sign up for and write the essay in the event that an intended college does in fact require it.

Recent Trend

Increasingly, the trend of late has been for colleges to no longer opt in to review the essay score. Over just the last two months with Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth deciding to drop their essay requirement, there are now only 25 colleges that still require the score.  It is worth noting that nine of these -- over a third --are universities of the California system.

However, there are a few colleges that still recommend the essay portion specifically for placement purposes (ex. Manhattan College and the University of Miami), however seemingly ignoring the score when considering a candidate for admission. While there is a larger number of schools that have a policy of recommending the SAT/ACT essay, the intended purpose is, however, unclear.

As to the list of colleges requiring the essay score, the names are likely to change as schools continue to re-evaluate their policies.  

Image credit:  Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images

________________________________________________________________
Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com  





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