Does UCLA need an essay

Should students who drop the requirements for SAT / ACT essays still attend?

Each year, millions of students choose the optional essay section in SAT and ACT, many of whom invest significant time and money in preparation.

But should they?

The vast majority of colleges and universities have never required applicants to submit grades for these sections. And recently the number of schools has become even smaller.

Just last year, Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Duke, Brown, the California Institute of Technology, MIT, the University of Michigan, and others joined the long list of schools that use SAT and ACT essays as " optional "classify.

Some of these schools have justified their decision on the grounds that the requirement for an essay section, which now costs extra, puts an unnecessary financial burden on low-income students and may even prevent some from applying.

“When it comes to admissions, schools are increasingly trying to remove obstacles, not to increase them. So you don't want students to feel like they have to pay more money to attend the writing section, ”she explained to Joe Korfmacher, a director of counseling at Collegewise.

Although low-income students in many states have free access to the SAT or ACT on the school day, the subsidized exams usually do not include the essay. If a student wants to do the essay, they usually have to pay for it.

“With the sharp rise in free school day tests, it is important to give students from low income families the opportunity to take advantage of the tests already offered by their school districts, and not to burden them with having to attend separate hours outside of normal school hours “Said Logan Powell, Brown's dean for admission statement.

In addition, schools and applicants have had problems grading SAT and ACT essays in the past. In contrast to the rest of the test, essay sections are rated by real people, which means that they are not as "standardized".

"There were times in the past when the grades students received didn't make sense," Korfmacher said. Students would do very well on the remainder of the test and see a significant drop in the essay section.

And since most schools - especially the selective ones - require applicants to submit other essays that tend to better reveal their interests, passions, and writing skills, students really don't need to write an essay on their SAT or ACT.

"I don't think the writing department will tell you that much," said Allen Koh, CEO of Cardinal Education. “You seldom write such essays in college. I like the trend that some schools don't want this area anymore. "

Instead of the Princeton SAT or ACT essay, applicants must now submit a graded homework assignment. Other schools, including Brown and Michigan, recommend applicants do the same.

"All of these tests combined can add up to the cost of a family. We don't want the application process fees to cause students to not apply to Princeton," said Janet Rapelye, Princeton's dean of admissions in a statement .

Should applicants still opt for the SAT / ACT essay?

Overall, only a handful of colleges and universities - including those on the University of California system - currently require applicants to take the SAT or ACT essay.

Most test takers still choose to do this, however. Of the nearly 2 million students who took the SAT in 2019, 68 percent of them chose to write the optional essay. And last year almost half of ACT test takers did the same.

According to Koh, reading the essay is still a good idea - whether it is required or not.

"If you're trying to go to the local state school, you don't have to take it," he said. "If you're trying to go to your state's flagship university or a more competitive university - public or private - then you absolutely need it."

"Taking it doesn't really help you, but it really hurts you not to take it," Koh continued. “There's not much to do to prepare for it. Why don't you take it It's almost like trying to hide something. "

Even if a school might not need the essay section, that doesn't mean other students aren't submitting it, he explained. And the students don't want to come out as the one who decided against it.

If a college or university "recommends" students for the essay area, as Duke, Stanford, and many others do, Koh recommends not skipping it so that the students are not considered odd by admissions officers.

However, Koh suggests that students shouldn't spend a lot of time preparing for the writing section.

Students should "spend almost no time doing (preparing)," Koh said. "When a student gets A's and B's in their English and history courses, they don't have to spend long preparing to write."

Allen Cheng, the co-founder of PrepScholar, reinforces this.

"It's a small part of the test," he said.

Cheng agrees that it is usually a good idea for students to choose the written part of SAT and ACT. In order to make the right decision, students must first have an idea of ​​their planned schools.

“The student should make a list of schools to apply to and research their SAT / ACT writing requirements. If every school that the student knows she wants to apply to does NOT need the essay and she is sure that she will not add other schools to her list, she does not need to take it, ”Cheng said. "In all other cases we recommend taking it."

In general, however, Cheng believes that most of the time students should focus on preparing for the SAT and ACT core courses. Students should only focus on improving their score if it is particularly low compared to scores in the other sections of the tests, he said.

However, Korfmacher takes a more objective approach as to whether the students should take the written part of the SAT and ACT. Because of the small percentage of schools that require the test, he considers it unnecessary in most cases.

"The vast majority, like 99.5 percent of universities, no longer need any written parts," said Korfmacher. “If a student says to me, 'I live in New Jersey, there is no way I can apply to the University of California system. It's not on my radar, and I'm not particularly good at writing, "I'm going to tell you save your time, save your money, and don't take it."

"If a student is excellent at writing, graduating from journalism or English, and pushing the writing department out of the park, then yes, go ahead," he continued.

Colleges and universities should take a definitive stance

There are some schools that take a definitive stance on whether or not to have students take the essay portion of the SAT and ACT. For example, Caltech and the University of Chicago make it clear that they do not consider the results of SAT and ACT essays.

However, the vast majority of schools recommend students either take the SAT and ACT essays, or worse, they are optional.

And this often leaves students at a loss. You don't want to spend time and money preparing and approving essays with admissions officers just revising them. At the same time, they don't want to skip the essays and see admissions officers as being lazy or trying to hide their lack of writing skills.

According to Korfmacher, it "is misleading when SAT and ACT essay sections are optional and puts pressure on students to do so when it is not required".

"I think they should either be required or not," he continued. "And it should be clear that the writing section will not be part of our new process." "