Testing Optional, College Changes, Essay Section

Matt Larriva
Oct 26, 2015
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The College Landscape Is Changing

As the blessing/curse goes, “may you live in interesting times.” In terms of the admissions process, we certainly are. College changes are prolific: The SAT is switching formats, the ACT is revising its writing section, colleges are becoming “testing optional,” and admissions committees are actively debating the merit of the essay section of the standardized tests. Here’s what that means for you:

The SAT Is Changing:

College Changes, Testing Optional
December’s SAT will be the last time the SAT will be in its current form. After that, The College Board is releasing the New SAT. There are a plethora of changes being enacted, the details of which are neither interesting nor pertinent. Our recommendation: avoid it. The College Board will need to take at least a year to standardize its grading process, and publishers will need at least as much time before they release quality, reliable curriculum. In the meantime, lean in to the ACT which is remaining constant except for…

The ACT Essay Is Changing:

Not to be left behind, the ACT decided it needed a slight revision to maintain market share with the SAT, so it decided to change the Essay portion. It calls its new essay, the Enhanced Essay. It’s a more challenging, less coachable essay, but one that you need not concern yourself with because…

Top College Are Debating the Merits of the Essay Section:

The Ivys are divided over whether or not they will continue to consider the SAT and ACT essays.
Kaplan questioned college admissions officers to understand how they would approach the introduction of the new generation of SAT and found that many of the top tier institutions would no longer require the essay submission. Those include, according to reporting by Bloomberg Business, Columbia University, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. Among the ones that will continue requiring the optional essay section are Harvard University, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth College.

But remember: even if schools still require it, it will not factor into your overall SAT or ACT test score. That is, if you score a perfect score on the ACT and bomb the essay, you still get a perfect 36; ditto the New SAT. But do these standardized tests even matter anymore? It seems like every other week….

More Schools Are Becoming Testing Optional:

Take this with a grain of salt. FairTest.org would have you believe that this is a rapidly growing trend, but don’t be fooled. Many of the 800-or-so Testing Optional schools are music conservatories, seminaries, or art schools—schools that never cared about test scores in the first place. As for the Tier 1, 2, and 3 schools, these tests are only becoming more important than ever, as more students compete for the same number of seats in next year’s class.

That’s where we come in.