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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