More Colleges are Dropping the SAT/ACT Essay Requirement: 5 Things You Need to Know

Note: As of January 2021, the CollegeBoard has announced that it will be discontinuing the SAT Essay after the June 2021 SAT administration. 

You may have heard that an increasing number of schools have dropped the requirement to submit SAT or ACT essay scores with college applications. This can naturally leave room for confusion, so we thought we’d summarize the main points to know:

1) The essay portion of the SAT and ACT is optional.

Most colleges do NOT require students to submit scores from this portion of the test. However, a small handful of schools do require it.

2) The number of schools that *DO* require essay scores is shrinking.

Over the past year or so, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Dartmouth, the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, CalTech, the University of San Diego, Duke, and Brown have dropped the requirement.

Reasons cited include admissions offices saying the scores do not help them with assessing applicants, to the likelihood that requiring the scores disadvantages lower-income students, since it often costs students extra to take the test, outside of school.

3) It *can* still be beneficial to take the essay portion of the SAT or ACT.

After all, you may want to leave the option open to apply to colleges that still require it. Moreover, some schools that no longer require the scores will still look at them if students submit them, and if you think you will do well on the test, that could certainly add a small boost to your application.

4) As of early 2019, the main schools that still require the SAT and ACT essay are the United States Military Academy (West Point) and the University of California school system (e.g. UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz).

5) Make sure to check the individual policy of each school you apply to, since they can vary. Each school’s individual policy should be findable on their website.

For example:


Like what you read? Subscribe to our mailing list, and we’ll let you know when we release similar articles and other in-depth guides.

At PrepMaven, our mission is not only to help your child increase their test scores and get into a great college but also to put them on the right track for long-term personal and professional success.

Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg Wong and Kevin Wong

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.