Currently, the top colleges and universities around the country are split over whether to require or even recommend the new SAT essay. What does this mean for test-takers?

Ivy League schools Columbia, Cornell, UPenn, and Brown are camp “neither require nor recommend”, while Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, Stanford, and the UC System Schools flat out require it. The reasons are varied. Members of the former group believe the essay is a waste of time, citing research that it is the least predictive element of college success. Supporters of the essay, however, insist that analytical writing is a crucial skill for college students and should be assessed in multiple ways, including under a timed setting.

Your decision to take the essay should depend on several factors. First and foremost, do any of the schools you’re applying to require it? You’ll need to research each of the schools on your list individually. If even one does, then you must take it. If you aren’t sure yet which schools you’re going to apply to, then take the essay just in case. Keep in mind though, that if you choose to take the essay, then your score report will include it.


If you’re certain that none of the schools on your list require the essay, here are a few secondary factors to consider:

  1. Taking the test with the essay raises the price by $11.50, taking it from $43 to $54.50. If you qualify for a fee waiver, then the essay is covered as well. In that case, even schools such as Cornell that don’t require the essay suggest you take it.
  2. Taking the essay is a good idea if you’re a strong writer, as it gives you another opportunity to display your strength.
  3. The essay adds about an hour to the exam (give or take 10 minutes for students to settle after the required portions of the exam and 50 minutes for the actual essay), so it’s important to build your endurance for the extended length.
I hope this helps! I’m also working on a post in which I share my personal opinion on the new essay format. Stay tuned!
New SAT Essay: How optional is it really?
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