Ivy League Schools Drop SAT/ACT Essay Requirements

Applying to college is hard. Use this new shift from SAT and ACT requirements by many colleges to your admissions advantage. Write strong essays; get trusted reviewers.

This month Barnard College, one of the top women’s colleges in the nation and an affiliate school of Columbia University dropped the subject test and ACT/SAT essay requirement for applicants. This comes on the tail of Columbia’s own announcement a few weeks ago in June.

These are just the latest schools to do away with requiring either all standardized testing or a part of standardized testing, like the essay or subject tests.

This will greatly impact the important of the other components of the college application at these universities.

What College Admissions Committees Look For?

  • Focus will shift particularly to:
  • The Common Application Essay
  • The School-Specific Essay
  • School-Specific Short Answers
  • High School GPA
  • Teacher Recommendations

This follows the trend set forth by admissions committees during this past year. There has been a shift toward holistic evaluations of applicants. A paper from the Harvard Graduate School of Education earlier this year noted this evolution as well and called for all colleges to follow suit. This is seen as a genuine improvement to the world of college admissions and as an effort to raise the fairness of the admissions process. This is a move from numbers to words, in a sense.

The dropping SAT/ACT requirement change is more than underway. There are nearly 900 schools who do not require SAT or ACT for admission at all.

Additionally, approximately 200 schools in the top tier don’t require the exams, or are test-optional admissions policies. This list includes: American University, Wesleyan University, Smith College, Goucher College, GWU, Bates College, Pitzer, Sarah Lawrence, Texas A&M, Connecticut College, Wheaton College, Brandeis University, Catholic University, The New School, Hofstra University, Temple University, and Ithaca College.

In fact, some top schools have been using a holistic approach for years. Highly selective colleges like Bowdoin, broke ground on this issue.

“Bowdoin was the first highly selective college in the country to make [the] SAT optional — we decided to do that 1969,” Scott Hood, Senior Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs of Bowdoin College, told MTV News.

What Does This Mean For You?

You need to double-down your efforts on the essay. “Fit” is a concept that colleges will evaluate based on your activities, coursework, internships, volunteerism, and—more than anything your essays and recommendations. You need a common application essay that highlights your strengths and demonstrates your writing ability along with your overall communication and analysis skills. You need a school-specific essay for each college that connects your profile to the school’s profile—using anecdotal evidence to support these claims. It is important to have help on these essays and to use a trusted review to ensure your college application to each school is the best it can be. As always, having the best grades possible in your high school classes will keep your options open.

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