Essay optional: What does that mean?

The SAT essay has recently become an optional portion of the exam, and for some students, that choice has become confusing; after all, if it’s optional, what does that mean for applications? The essay is still required or highly recommended by many schools and so while it may not be the right choice for every student, it is an option that is important to keep in mind. This article will go through which schools make the essay optional, why a student should consider completing it, and how much extra the essay portion costs.

Related resource: 50 Great Value Colleges for Statistics

What Schools Require It

The list of schools that require the essay changes from year to year. Since the College Board has made the essay optional, more and more schools are choosing to drop the requirement altogether or simply recommend that the score is submitted during the application process. This can make it difficult for students to know which schools require it and which don’t.

The best way for a student to determine whether any of the schools they want to apply to require the SAT essay is to simply google the school and the essay requirement. This takes just a few seconds and often it will be listed alongside the application requirements on a school’s admissions page.

It may be possible to find lists of schools that recommend or require the essay online. Simply search for “list of American schools that require the SAT essay.” There are some great lists for this, but students are advised that schools not on the list may still require the essay; the best way to check this is to go to school’s admissions page to look at the application requirements.

Why Some Do And Some Don’t Make the Test Optional

Now that the essay is optional, some schools find it a useful tool for competitive programs. For example, a school that puts a high standard on applications may highly recommend or require the essay to supplement a student’s application. The thinking is that the essay may offer the admissions office more information on a student’s ability to comprehend a prompt and follow through on instruction in written form. So if a group of students has the same score on their SAT but the essay scores differ, this might be enough to admit a student who otherwise would be lost in the selection process.

Some schools continue to require the essay because it is a part of their application and selection process. Other schools find it just as simple to only recommend the essay, making it possible for students with precarious financial situations to forgo the price of the essay and still be in contention for placement. A student may be best suited to find out why the schools they want to apply to require the essay by contacting the admissions office directly.

Should I Do It?

The question of whether a student should take the SAT essay is one that can be determined by looking at the schools on a student’s application list. As PrepScholar points out, a student will want to consider the application requirements for schools that they wish to apply to; schools will list the SAT essay as a requirement if it is necessary for the selection process. It is important to double-check application requirements prior to sitting for the SAT.

If a student wants to apply to just one school that requires the SAT essay, then it is best if they undertake it, even if other schools do not require or want the score from the essay. This provides students with the best chance possible to get into their dream school and may provide them with extra leverage in applications in which the school does not require the essay but does consider the score.

Other schools may recommend the essay but the absence of the score will generally not affect a student’s application. If the school tends to be competitive, then students should take the SAT essay; the score may give them an advantage in the selection process. This is especially helpful if the student’s academic record is less than desirable.

Most scenarios will point towards a student taking the SAT essay; the only situation in which it would be inadvisable is when a student has a list of schools that do not require or recommend the essay as part of the application. This is usually a scenario that takes place after students have compiled a list of schools they wish to attend and they have checked all of the requirements to find that the essay is not required.

A final note is that the SAT essay is recommended for students who have not yet chosen the schools they will apply to and will take the SAT prior to making their final decision on applications. This is because they may choose a school that requires the SAT essay after having sat for the exam. If they do not take the SAT essay at the same time as the test, they will need to retake the entire exam; the SAT essay cannot be taken separately from the exam.

Extra Cost

The current cost of sitting for the SAT exam alone is approximately $46. Adding on the SAT essay, which is now optional, costs an additional $14, making the total cost of the exam $60. It is possible for students who do not have the financial means to pay for the exam with or without the essay to apply for an SAT waiver; PrepScholar discusses the eligibility requirements in full in the linked article.

Students getting ready to head off to college have a lot to consider: choosing schools that fit their needs, putting together their applications, making sure they have everything they need, and moving forward with the process. While there are many things to consider when getting into a college or university, the SAT exam is one of the most important to keep in mind. This article provides all of the information for those who are wondering if the SAT essay is optional and what that means, making it a great resource to keep on hand when prepping for this very important exam process.