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I have been helping students prepare for the SAT and the ACT for almost 10 years. When I first started, a perfect score on the SAT was 2400 and writing an essay was part of the test. Now, a perfect score is back to 1600 (as it was in my day) and the essay is optional. If you want to take the SAT and add on the essay, you stay longer at the test site and you pay extra. The essay has always been optional for the ACT.

When I first talk with parents about test prep needs, the question always comes up: Should he/she do the essay too?

Good question! Here are some thoughts on the matter:

1. Since you are already there...

The essay adds additional time to your morning; this could be up to 50 extra minutes. Since you are already there, you might as well tack it on to your day. It is better to have it completed and a part of your testing profile, just in case a school you are interested in (or become interested in) requires it. However, the trend is that less schools are requiring it, but it is always better to be safe rather than sorry.

2. Once is probably enough.

Adding the essay once is usually sufficient. If you are nervous about it, you can get help. "The essay is coachable and can demonstrate writing skills and college readiness," Admit U founder Melanie Talesnick said. "The goal is to reduce stress in the college application process. Having the essay checked off of your list is one way to avoid scrambling later."

3. Seniors can skip it.

Seniors who are already locked in on their college list can skip the essay, as long as they know they do not have any schools that require it.

4. The Test Essay vs. "The Essay"

There is a lot of talk about "the essay" when applying to colleges. The "big" one that many people are referring to is the personal statement that is required for the Common Application ("Common App") and comparable applications for schools that do not use the Common App or Coalition Application. This essay is one of the most important pieces of the college application process. (Check out our previous blog post on this topic!) 

Even though they are completely different, some colleges/universities find them related. So, if you are required to send your essay score from your standardized testing, be sure that the writing in your test essay reflects the same language/effort in your personal statement. It’s never going to hurt you to demonstrate college-level writing skills!

Have more questions? Feel free to reach out to the Admit U staff. We are here to help!


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