Should You Take the SAT Essay?

In March of 2016, the once-required SAT essay became optional. Should you choose to do the essay? Read below to help you decide! 

The Essay: A Quick Breakdown

The SAT essay is an additional section of the SAT, scored separately from the math and the EBRW (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing) sections.

The SAT essay gives you fifty minutes to write a rhetorical analysis essay based on a given passage. You job is to explain—with well-chosen evidence and deep analysis—how the author of the passage effectively constructs his or her argument. You might consider: what evidence did the author use? Which of Aristotle’s appeals—logos, pathos, or ethos—did the author rely on and why? How did the author use language to create sound reasoning and, ultimately, move an audience? 

Your essay is then assessed under three skill categories: reading, analysis, and writing. For each category, you can score anywhere from 2-8. 

Doesn’t sound too bad, right? So should you do the essay? The quick answer: it depends.

While many colleges still recommend that students submit SAT essay scores, the number of colleges requiring the SAT essay is on the decline. In fact, in July of 2018, Princeton University was the last of the Ivy League colleges to forego the SAT essay as an admission requirement. 

However, just because a school doesn’t require a SAT essay score, it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be submitted. In fact, many schools still recommend students take the SAT essay. Take Stanford University as an example. According to a July 2018 Washington Post article, Stanford University’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Shaw “strongly recommends” that students submit an essay score. 

Stanford University’s example is a great reminder that you should spend time researching the precise admission requirements for schools that you are interested in applying to. If a school you plan to apply to requires the SAT essay or even strongly recommends it, then the decision is clear: you have to take the essay.

What Else Is There To Consider? 

Although it may no longer be a requirement for many schools, a strong score on the SAT essay may work in your favor, as many schools will still consider the score in the application process. 

You might also want to reflect on how certain you are about which schools you will apply to. If  there is even a slim chance that your list of schools may change, then taking the SAT essay might be a good choice. You would never want to regret not taking it, or have that one single admission requirement be a deciding factor in whether or not you apply to a school. 

And don’t forget: you can’t take the SAT sections ´a la carte. If you want to take the SAT essay, you have to take the entire SAT again. 

Bottom line: Do you research and remember that you never know when and how your plans for college may change. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! 

Click on the link below from the College Board for a comprehensive list of SAT essay admission requirements for specific colleges and universities.

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Make the Most of Your Spring Break - Visit Colleges!

For some students, Spring Break means a time to relax and enjoy the the longer and warmer days.  But if you are a Junior, Spring Break likely means a whirlwind family trip visiting college campuses far and wide.  Some will load up the SUV and take a road trip, others will book flights and battle airport security, but no matter how you get there, college visits during spring break is an important step in the college application process.  

It’s one thing to see a well crafted promotional video showcasing all the great aspects of a potential college, but quite another to actually see and feel a college campus for yourself.  Your gut reaction to a college is important and you can’t have one unless you visit. College visits also help you narrow down your interests (think size, location, etc) and let potential schools know you are interested in them. So if you are looking forward to a college visiting trip this spring break, consider the following advice before you go.

  • Register ahead of time for an official tour through the admissions office.  Once you arrive, you will join a small group and be assigned a tour guide.This is your chance to ask all the questions you can!

  • Make sure the college you want to visit isn’t on spring break, too!  It’s much better to visit a school when students are on campus, if you can help it.  

  • Do some research on the college beforehand and write down all the questions you have.  

  • If you know what academic department you would apply to, try to arrange to sit in on a class in that department or meet with a professor.

  • Take notes and photos!  After your tour, collect your thoughts and insights so when it comes time to create your college list, you will be able to remember your impressions.

And above all, have fun and enjoy the journey!  It’s the start of something great!


Tips for Studying a Foreign Language

We asked Ashley our Spanish tutor to give us some advice about studying a foreign language. Ashley has a M.A. in education and taught Spanish for several years at a local high school.

1. Pay attention in school and complete all homework assignments.  Homework reinforces what you learned that day in class and helps to solidify the concept. When reviewing homework in class, always be sure to correct your mistakes so you can use the assignment as a study tool later (block out the correct answers and see if you can complete the assignment again). 

2. Immerse yourself in the language. Speak in the target language as frequently as possible. If you have a friend or family member who is fluent, converse with him or her.

3. When it comes time for the test, see your teacher with any questions you may have. Be sure you have all class notes, previous quizzes and tests, and homework assignments so that you can use them as study guides. Use outside resources such as, and for extra practice with both grammar and vocabulary.

4. Learn your vocabulary words! Foreign languages are cumulative meaning that each chapter builds upon the next. You must keep up with the vocabulary in order to best learn the language. When memorizing vocabulary, make flashcards. Draw a simple picture on each card – doing so will help you remember the word’s meaning.

5. Practice, practice, practice. Note the repetition; writing, speaking, and listening to the target language will help you best retain the information.

SAT Versus ACT 101

Junior year of high school can be one of the busiest and most stressful years in the lead-up to college. This is the year when most students take their college entrance exams -- either the SAT, the ACT, or both. Deciding which test to prepare for is an important decision that requires some forethought. It is helpful to check the admissions requirements of schools your child will be applying to in advance, but there are other factors to weigh in making this decision as well. How do the SAT and ACT differ? Which test is the right one for your child?

A (New) Look at Extracurricular Activities

It was not that long ago that students looking to get into college pushed themselves to be involved with everything from the school paper to the hand bell choir. The popular idea at the time was something like this: The more crowded the schedule, the more appealing the applicant.

No longer.

Today everyone from deans of admissions and college counselors and consultants to parents and pediatricians are challenging the idea that getting into college is a matter of scheduling a child to his or her ears and are offering an alternative: A path as unique and different as each child herself that emphasizes less pushing, more passion.

Vocabulary Building

It's finally test day, and you're feeling great. You got a full night's sleep last night, you had Wheaties for breakfast this morning, and you've just written a killer essay on the assigned topic that would bring your English teacher to tears. You are just a few short sections away from your ideal test score, and you can already taste victory.

And then it hits you.

"Fetid." The word looks familiar. You know you've seen it before. Maybe you even used once it in a paper for school. But in this pressure-filled situation, the precise definition escapes you. You scan the other questions, and many of their answer choices are also loaded with vocabulary words you just can't quite remember. "Prodigal." "Serene." "Trepidation." Why didn't I study harder? you ask yourself.

The Rules of the Game: Early Action and Early Decision

What high school senior would not like to know where she is going to college well before her peers do?

Both Early Decision and Early Action--admissions policies that allow students to apply months before regular admissions deadlines--can be good options for well-prepared high school seniors who know what they want in a college. These early options offer students the opportunity to get a jump on the college admissions process.