Should I Register for the SAT or ACT with the Essay or Without?

This is the second most popular question we get asked, right behind “Should I take the ACT or SAT?”

The good news for most students is that the essay section of these two tests is of little or no importance. The essay scores do not get factored into your composite scores for the SAT or ACT. The majority of colleges will ignore these scores completely, and those who do consider essay scores often view them as far less important than other aspects of your application.

In 2017, 71% of students taking the SAT and 54% of students taking the ACT opted to write the essay; however, fewer than 30 schools required the essay, with another 30 or so recommending the essay. What this means is that many students spent time on essay scores that were likely never looked at by the schools reviewing their applications.

Further, schools that were early champions of the newly designed essay sections of the two tests, such as the University of Michigan, Yale, Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton, have stopped requiring the essay section (although some still recommend it).

A Smarter SAT/ACT Testing Plan

Start by taking a look at the list below of schools and their SAT/ACT essay policies. You can search for specific schools by typing their names into the search box. Or try filtering the list to show just the schools that require the essay (type “required” into the search box).

If you are unlikely to apply to any schools that require the essay, search “recommended” to see a list of schools that recommend the essay. This is where it gets a little bit trickier. For many of these schools, a mediocre essay score is not going to significantly alter how they view your application; most just want to make sure you are adequately prepared for college writing. That said, these schools are clearly interested in seeing how you write under standardized testing conditions, and you are taking a risk by not providing them with this data. If there is a school on this recommended list that you are applying to and you are worried about writing the essay, you may find it helpful to reach out to the school’s regional representative for their advice.

If you are not planning on applying to any of the schools that require or recommend the essay, you are in a great position to take the time and energy you would have spent preparing for the essay and redirect them toward other goals.

Note: Because schools frequently change their admission policies, it is always worthwhile to review the testing requirements for each school you are thinking of applying to, which are easily accessible on their admissions pages.

If You Opt for the Essay

If you are opting to write the essay for the SAT or ACT, one of your best resources will be the model essays available on their official websites (ACT/ SAT).

School SAT Essay ACT Writing
Adelphi University Optional Optional
Allegheny College Optional Optional
American University Optional Optional
Amherst College Recommended Recommended
Arizona State University—​Tempe Optional Optional
Auburn University Optional Optional
Babson College Optional Optional
Bard College Optional Optional
Barnard College Optional Optional
Bates College Optional Optional
Baylor University Optional Optional
Bennington College Optional Optional
Bentley University Optional Optional
Binghamton University—​SUNY Recommended Recommended
Boston College Optional Optional
Boston University Optional Optional
Bowdoin College Optional Optional
Brandeis University Optional Optional
Brigham Young University—​Provo Optional Optional
Brown University Optional Optional
Bryn Mawr College Optional Optional
Bucknell University Optional Optional
Butler University Optional Optional
California Institute of Technology Optional Optional
California State University–Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Monterey Bay, Northridge Optional Optional
Carleton College Optional Optional
Carnegie Mellon University Optional Optional
Case Western Reserve University Optional Optional
Claremont McKenna College Required Required
Clark University Optional Optional
Clarkson University Optional Optional
Clemson University Optional Optional
Colby College Recommended Recommended
Colgate University Optional Optional
College of Charleston Optional Optional
College of the Holy Cross Optional Optional
College of William and Mary Optional Optional
Colorado College Optional Optional
Colorado School of Mines Optional Optional
Colorado State University Optional Optional
Columbia University Optional Optional
Connecticut College Optional Optional
Cornell University Optional Optional
Creighton University Optional Optional
CUNY—​Baruch College Optional Optional
Dartmouth College Optional Optional
Davidson College Optional Optional
Denison University Optional Optional
DePaul University Optional Optional
DePauw University Optional Optional
Dickinson College Optional Optional
Drew University Optional Optional
Drexel University Optional Optional
Duke University Recommended Recommended
Duquesne University Optional Optional
Elon University Optional Optional
Embry-​Riddle Aeronautical University Optional Optional
Emerson College Optional Optional
Emory University Optional Optional
Fairfield University Optional Optional
Fairleigh Dickinson University Optional Optional
Florida State University Optional Optional
Fordham University Optional Optional
Franklin and Marshall College Optional Optional
Furman University Optional Optional
Gallaudet University Optional Optional
George Mason University Optional Optional
George Washington University Optional Optional
Georgetown University Optional Optional
Georgia Institute of Technology Recommended Recommended
Gettysburg College Optional Optional
Gonzaga University Optional Optional
Goucher College Optional Optional
Grinnell College Optional Optional
Hamilton College Optional Optional
Hampden-​Sydney College Optional Optional
Harvard University Optional Optional
Harvey Mudd College Optional Optional
Haverford College Optional Optional
High Point University Optional Optional
Hobart and William Smith Colleges Optional Optional
Hofstra University Optional Optional
Howard University Optional Optional
Indiana University—​Bloomington Optional Optional
Iona College Optional Optional
Ithaca College Optional Optional
James Madison University Optional Optional
Johns Hopkins University Optional Optional
Kenyon College Optional Optional
Knox College Optional Optional
Lafayette College Optional Optional
Lake Forest College Optional Optional
Lawrence University Optional Optional
Lehigh University Optional Optional
Lewis & Clark College Optional Optional
Loyola University Chicago Optional Optional
Loyola University Maryland Optional Optional
Macalester College Optional Optional
Manhattanville College Optional Optional
Marist College Optional Optional
Marquette University Optional Optional
Maryland Institute College of Art Optional Optional
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Optional Optional
Mercy College Recommended Recommended
Miami University—​Oxford Optional Optional
Michigan State University Recommended Recommended
Middlebury College Optional Optional
Mills College Optional Optional
Morehouse College Recommended Recommended
Mount Holyoke College Optional Optional
Muhlenberg College Optional Optional
New School Optional Optional
New York University Optional Optional
North Carolina State University—​Raleigh Optional Optional
Northeastern University Optional Optional
Northwestern University Optional Optional
Oberlin College Optional Optional
Occidental College Recommended Recommended
Ohio State University—​Columbus Optional Optional
Ohio Wesleyan University Optional Optional
Pace University Optional Optional
Pennsylvania State University—​University Park Optional Optional
Pepperdine University Optional Optional
Pitzer College Optional Optional
Pomona College Recommended Recommended
Pratt Institute Optional Optional
Princeton University Optional Optional
Providence College Optional Optional
Purchase College Optional Optional
Purdue University—​West Lafayette Optional Optional
Quinnipiac University Optional Optional
Randolph-​Macon College Optional Optional
Reed College Optional Optional
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Optional Optional
Rhode Island School of Design Optional Optional
Rice University Optional Optional
Rochester Institute of Technology Optional Optional
Rollins College Optional Optional
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey—​New Brunswick, Newark Recommended Recommended
San Diego State University Optional Optional
San Francisco State University Optional Optional
San Jose State University Optional Optional
Santa Clara University Optional Optional
Sarah Lawrence College Optional Optional
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Recommended Recommended
Scripps College Optional Optional
Seton Hall University Optional Optional
Sewanee—​University of the South Optional Optional
Siena College Optional Optional
Simmons College Recommended Recommended
Skidmore College Optional Optional
Smith College Optional Optional
Southern Methodist University Optional Optional
Spelman College Optional Optional
St. John Fisher College Optional Optional
St. John’s College Annapolis Optional Optional
St. John’s University (NY) Optional Optional
St. Joseph’s University Optional Optional
St. Lawrence University Optional Optional
St. Mary’s College (IN) Optional Optional
St. Michael’s College Optional Optional
St. Olaf College Optional Optional
Stanford University Recommended Recommended
Stetson University Optional Optional
Stevens Institute of Technology Optional Optional
Stonehill College Optional Optional
Stony Brook University—​SUNY Recommended Recommended
SUNY—​Geneseo Optional Optional
Susquehanna University Optional Optional
Swarthmore College Optional Optional
Syracuse University Optional Optional
Temple University Optional Optional
Texas A&M University—​College Station Optional Optional
The Citadel Optional Optional
Trinity College (Hartford) Optional Optional
Tufts University Optional Optional
Tulane University Optional Optional
Union College (Schenectady, NY) Optional Optional
United States Air Force Academy Optional Optional
United States Coast Guard Academy Recommended Recommended
United States Military Academy Required Required
United States Naval Academy Optional Optional
University at Albany—​SUNY Optional Optional
University at Buffalo—​SUNY Recommended Recommended
University of Alabama Optional Optional
University of Arizona Optional Optional
University of California—​Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz Required Required
University of Central Florida Optional Optional
University of Chicago Optional Optional
University of Cincinnati Optional Optional
University of Colorado—​Boulder Optional Optional
University of Connecticut Optional Optional
University of Delaware Optional Optional
University of Denver Optional Optional
University of Florida Optional Optional
University of Georgia Optional Optional
University of Hawaii at Manoa Optional Optional
University of Illinois—​Chicago, Urbana-Champaign Optional Optional
University of Iowa Optional Optional
University of Kentucky Optional Optional
University of Maryland—​College Park Optional Optional
University of Massachusetts—​Amherst Recommended Recommended
University of Miami** Required Required
University of Michigan—​Ann Arbor Optional Optional
University of Montana Required Optional
University of New Hampshire Optional Optional
University of North Carolina—​Chapel Hill, Wilmington Optional Optional
University of Notre Dame Optional Optional
University of Oklahoma Optional Optional
University of Oregon Optional Optional
University of Pennsylvania Optional Optional
University of Pittsburgh Optional Optional
University of Puget Sound Optional Optional
University of Redlands Optional Optional
University of Richmond Optional Optional
University of Rochester Optional Optional
University of San Diego Optional Optional
University of San Francisco Optional Optional
University of South Carolina Optional Optional
University of South Florida Optional Optional
University of Southern California Optional Optional
University of Texas—​Austin, Dallas Optional Optional
University of the Pacific Optional Optional
University of Vermont Optional Optional
University of Virginia Optional Optional
University of Washington Optional Optional
University of Wisconsin—​Madison Optional Optional
Valparaiso University Optional Optional
Vanderbilt University Optional Optional
Vassar College Optional Optional
Villanova University Optional Optional
Wake Forest University Optional Optional
Washington and Lee University Optional Optional
Washington University in St. Louis Optional Optional
Wellesley College Optional Required
Wesleyan University Optional Optional
Westmont College Optional Optional
Wheaton College (IL) Optional Optional
Whitman College Optional Optional
Williams College Optional Optional
Worcester Polytechnic Institute Optional Optional
Yale University Optional Optional
Yeshiva University Optional Optional

 

Search