Ivy League Schools
Are Divided Over Whether to Require SAT Essay
By Janet Lorin
Yale’s in favor;
Brown is opposed.
Ivy League is in a dead split on requiring the SAT’s optional essay, leaving
the country’s top students little option but to take that part of the test.
Princeton and Dartmouth are lining up with Yale in telling applicants to submit
results from the essay portion of the revamped
SAT entrance exam, according to a Bloomberg poll of the schools. Columbia,
Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania, along with Brown, are taking the
the tie is Stanford -- too far West to be an Ivy member. The country’s most-selective
school weighed in in favor of the “optional” writing exercise.
currently write an essay on a topic provided, based on their own ideas and
without need for accuracy, in 25 minutes. After March, when the new version of
the exam is introduced, students will need to show they understand a text by
writing an analysis of it in 50 minutes. Those in the “Yes” camp say the new
version would resemble the work students will do in school.
writing is an important component of college-level work at Yale,” said Jeremiah Quinlan,
dean of undergraduate admissions at the school in New Haven, Connecticut.
“Hopefully we can use this in our process.”
SAT essay has attracted scorn since its introduction a decade ago. The National
Council of Teachers of English panned the test then, saying it would “add
little or nothing to what can usefully be determined about a student’s writing
Hesse, president-elect of the group and a professor of English at the
University of Denver, isn’t optimistic that the revised exam will produce
kinds of things that you can measure in impromptu writing are pretty limited,”
the essay optional gives both colleges and students more flexibility, said
Cyndie Schmeiser, chief of assessment at the College Board, which administers
changes for the new SAT include dropping esoteric words and eliminating
penalties for wrong answers, as the College Board aligns the exam with the
competing ACT. ACT’s writing test is also optional.
tutors said the SAT’s new essay section will be an improvement over the old
is clearly a superior assessment of a student’s ability to analyze and expound
upon a text,” said Jed Applerouth, founder of Applerouth Tutoring Services in
Ivy League remains divided, most colleges won’t ask for the essay test,
according to a preliminary survey by Kaplan Test Prep. Of almost 300 schools
responding to the poll, more than two-thirds said they will neither require nor
recommend students submit the essay.
opted not to require writing because research showed it the least predictive
exam element, according to Eric Furda, dean of admissions.
won’t require the test, partly because of the increased cost to students, said
Jessica Marinaccio, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid. The
price is $43 without the essay and $54.50 with it.
the College Board does offer fee waivers to eligible students, we do not want
the perceived expense of testing costs to be a barrier, especially given the
opportunities elsewhere in the application for students to demonstrate their
writing ability,” Marinaccio said in a statement.
said essays in the Common Application and Columbia’s writing supplement provide
sufficient examples of an applicant’s skills.