For many colleges and universities, the jury is still out as to the overall usefulness of the essay component of the new or “redesigned” SAT (rSAT), scheduled for its first administration in March 2016.
But judging from those colleges that have already made views known to the College Board, some initial reactions to the optional 50-minute test have been not at all predictable and more than a little disappointing.
And most interesting of all has been the impact the new test is having on the ACT, which is also revamping its writing component starting in September 2015.
So far, solidly test optional colleges and those that never previously required the ACT with Writing are announcing policies not “requiring or recommending” the new SAT essay. No surprise there.
But in addition, a group of selective and highly selective colleges and universities are also not requiring or recommending the optional essay and are changing ACT requirements to correspond with rSAT policies. And that’s bad news for the ACT.
Both ACT and the College Board have webpages dedicated to tracking policies related to the writing components of their tests. But neither seems to have a complete handle on what’s going on.
In the absence of a better centralized source of information, applicants devising test strategies for the coming year need to go to the colleges themselves, either by reviewing websites or contacting admissions directly.
And even that doesn’t always produce answers because many colleges simply don’t know what to do with the new writing components of either the rSAT or the ACT.
Here is a sample of what 15 colleges have to say (Note: Since the publication of this article, Yale University has changed the language on its website so as to allow the “old” SAT for applicants to the classes of 2021 and 2022):
Brown University, RI
“We require either the SAT Reasoning Test and any two SAT Subject Tests or the ACT (with writing component) Note: We will not require applicants to Brown’s Class of 2021 and beyond who take the new SAT Reasoning Test to take the optional writing section, but they still must provide results from two Subject Tests. For applicants to the Class of 2021 and beyond who take the ACT: we strongly encourage, but do NOT require, the writing component.”
Columbia University, NY
“The redesigned SAT will consist of two sections, each graded on an 800-point scale and the writing portion will be separate. Columbia will not require the optional writing section. You will be evaluated on the highest score you receive in any individual section.
If you are applying for fall 2017 admission, results from the current SAT and/or the redesigned SAT will be accepted. When evaluating applicants, we will consider only the highest testing results reported from one version of the test, not across both versions.
You may alternatively take the ACT Assessment, graded on a 36-point scale; if you take the test more than once, you will be evaluated on the highest composite score you receive. If you are applying for admission for fall of 2016, the writing component offered by the ACT Assessment is mandatory. If you are applying for fall of 2017, Columbia will not require the writing component offered by the ACT Assessment.”
Cornell University, NY
“Will Cornell require the Optional Essay section on the new SAT?
No. Cornell University will not require students to submit the Optional Essay as part of the new SAT.
Will Cornell require the Writing section of the ACT for students applying for freshman admission?
Beginning with the entering Class of 2016, Cornell University will also no longer require the Writing section of the ACT for students applying for freshman admission.”
Dartmouth College, NH
“What is Dartmouth’s policy concerning the new SAT?
The College Board’s redesigned SAT is scheduled to launch in spring 2016 and will consist of two sections and an optional writing portion. If you are applying for admission to enroll at Dartmouth in the fall of 2017 or later, your results from either the current or the redesigned version of the SAT will be accepted, we do not have a preference. However, we will consider your highest “superscored” results from either the current or the redesigned SAT; we will not combine scores from both versions. The ACT will also remain an equally acceptable standardized test for application to Dartmouth.
Will the writing section of the new SAT be required?
Yes. Similar to the current SAT requirement, Dartmouth will require applicants to submit scores from the new SAT with writing.”
Emory University, GA
“Emory University applicants seeking admission for enrollment for fall semester 2017 are required to submit scores for the SAT or ACT with Writing Test. Applicants submitting SAT scores may choose to submit scores from either the “old” (prior to March 2016) or “new” (after March 2016) SAT exam. As with the ACT examination, Emory University applicants are required to take the optional Essay/Writing section on the new SAT.”
Fordham University, NY
“The Office of Admission will accept the current and redesigned SAT for the purpose of admission, scholarship and special program consideration. Applicants may submit scores from either the current or redesigned SAT (beginning spring 2016). Fordham will consider all sections of the new test, but will not require the essay portion. We do value the importance extended writing, and should you submit the essay, we will consider it as additional information. For students sitting for the old SAT, we do evaluate the writing score as part of our admission process.”
Harvard University, MA
“We require all applicants to complete the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT Test with Writing and will accept both the current and the redesigned SAT scores with writing for the foreseeable future.”
Princeton University, NJ
“We will accept either version of the SAT, or the ACT with Writing. We do not have a preference for the ‘old’ or ‘redesigned’ SAT. The ‘old’ SAT, or redesigned SAT with Essay and ACT with Writing are treated equally.
We will consider the highest component scores from either the old or new test. The two tests are significantly different and therefore we will not combine scores from the two different tests. Likewise, we do not ‘superscore’ the ACT to create a new composite score. We will consider the highest component scores across multiple sittings of the ACT, if the student submits the scores to us via a testing firm.”
Southern Methodist University, TX
“The College Board will begin offering its redesigned SAT exam in Spring 2016. SMU will accept scores from any one of three tests options (new SAT, old SAT, or ACT) in order to be considered for admission and scholarship consideration. The new SAT, like the ACT, will offer a writing component as an optional section of the test. SMU will continue the policy of not requiring a student to submit the optional writing component. In addition, SMU will continue to super score the old SAT with the old SAT and new SAT with new SAT. We will not mix old and new scores for the SAT in order to create a super score. SMU will continue to only look at the highest composite score for the ACT.”
University of California
“UC applicants must still write an essay. Although the essay section will be optional for most test takers, UC will require it for admission. The new essay will be 50 minutes (versus 25 minutes) and will require students to use evidence in order to make an argument about a written passage.”
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, NC
“While we will continue to require either the SAT or the ACT for first-year applicants and sophomore transfer applicants, we will accept scores from both the current and redesigned versions of the SAT. Please note that the current SAT (what’s offered this fall) will include the writing section so students will still submit these scores until the new SAT is offered in the spring. However, starting immediately, students taking the ACT will not be required to submit the additional writing score.”
University of Notre Dame, IN
“If you submit multiple SAT scores, we will superscore the tests for our evaluation. This means we will use your highest individual SAT Critical Reading and Math sub-scores from multiple testing dates to compute your composite score. For First Year applicants seeking Fall 2016 enrollment, the final acceptable testing date for the SAT is 1/23/16.
We will use your highest ACT composite score from a single testing date. We do not require the writing portion of the ACT. For First Year applicants seeking Fall 2016 enrollment, the final acceptable testing date for the ACT is 2/6/16.
The College Board will begin administering a redesigned SAT in March 2016. We will accept both the current SAT and redesigned SAT from students seeking Fall 2017 enrollment and beyond. The essay portion of the redesigned SAT will not be required, and we will superscore, using your highest individual SAT Evidence-Based Reading & Writing and Math sub-scores from multiple testing dates to compute your composite score. We will not superscore sub-scores from the current SAT with the redesigned SAT.”
University of Pennsylvania, PA
“Beginning with students applying for entry in Fall 2016, we will not require the writing portion of the ACT
Beginning with students applying for entry in Fall 2017, we will not require the essay portion of the Redesigned SAT
Penn will accept scores from both the current SAT and the redesigned SAT.
We will not require the essay portion of the redesigned SAT.
Current SAT scores will only be superscored with other current SAT results. Redesigned SAT scores will only be superscored with redesigned SAT test results.”
University of Virginia, VA
“All students applying for the Fall 2016 term must submit either the SAT or the ACT with Writing. Students who will be applying for Fall 2017 can chose to submit results from the current SAT, the redesigned SAT that debuts in the Spring of 2016, or the ACT. The SAT Essay and ACT Writing sections will not be required for those applying for the Fall 2017 term.”
Yale University, CT
“The redesigned SAT will not be available in time for consideration for freshman applicants to the Class of 2020. Therefore, applicants to the Class of 2020 should plan to take either the current SAT or ACT Plus Writing to fulfill their standardized testing requirement.
For freshman applicants to the Class of 2021, we will accept either the current SAT or the redesigned SAT and will require the optional Essay on the redesigned SAT.
For freshman applicants to the Class of 2022, we will require students to submit either the redesigned SAT with the optional Essay or the ACT Plus Writing. The current SAT (offered before March 2016) may not be used to fulfill our minimum testing requirements for the Class of 2022.” Note: This policy was changed after the publication of this article. The current SAT will now be allowed for the Class of 2022 but not beyond.