Many universities, including recent additions the California Institute of Technology, Brown University, Princeton University, and Stanford University, have declared it optional for applicants to submit SAT or ACT essay scores. As a piece by The Editorial Board of “The Washington Post” points out, the essay portion of the SAT and ACT has been flawed for some time. It’s been found to be a poor predictor of academic success in college. It adds an additional cost when so many elite colleges espouse making it easier for students from low-income families to apply. And the scoring of these essays has been inconsistent over time. But does that mean students shouldn’t submit SAT or ACT essay scores to colleges that are essay-optional?
Applicants to SAT or ACT Essay-Optional Schools Should Still Submit Scores
No, no, no. Applicants to elite universities — like Caltech, Brown, Princeton, and Stanford — should absolutely still be submitting their SAT or ACT essay scores. When admission to these universities is so very difficult, submitting a great score can absolutely be to an applicant’s advantage. This is particularly the case at test-optional schools, when other applicants won’t be submitting such scores. When an applicant doesn’t submit a score, admissions officers don’t presume the student is hiding a great score from them; they presume the student is hiding a low score. It’s common sense. Come on now. People tend to flaunt their strengths and attempt to hide their weaknesses. Duh.
The SAT and ACT Essays Are Flawed, But Scores Still Matter
As The Editorial Board for “The Washington Post” correctly states in their piece entitled “How should admissions officials judge applicants’ writing skills?,” “The SAT and ACT essay tests have not become obsolete yet: Many students will continue to take them to make their college applications more competitive, or because they live in states that require these tests for school evaluations. But, as an experiment to evaluate writing skills and provide admissions departments with better information, they have largely flopped. Colleges and testing companies need to find better ways to measure how students construct arguments, marshal evidence and, well, write. Those are important skills, and not just in college.” So, yes, ACT and College Board, the maker of the SAT, have failed in creating an essay portion of their respective exams that accurately measures students’ writing skills. But that doesn’t mean students still shouldn’t report their scores on these sections — even when it comes to essay-optional universities.
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