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Essays: Recommended but not Required

It seems that college admission boards are finally realizing what students knew all along: essay questions on tests are more hassle than they’re worth. As a recent article in the Washington Post points out, Princeton and Stanford have finally joined a long list of schools that have made the essay on the SAT and ACT optional. It’s as though they’ve realized that good writing requires thinking, reflecting, and discussing ideas, and that measuring a student’s writing ability based off of an essay written in under an hour may not be the best way to do so. Yet this is exactly what the ACT and SAT try to do with their essay sections, and colleges are waking up to how little skill this essay reflects: the same Washington Post article noted that “Fewer than 25 schools now require the essay scores, according to some tallies, including nine in the University of California system. Brown University, as of Friday, was the lone holdout in the Ivy League”. While more schools are removing the essay as a requirement, schools like Stanford still strongly recommend students take and submit the essay section.

So what does that mean for students? Until the essay sections go the way of the dodo, we recommend that students still take it, but spend less time preparing and worrying about it. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: a bad score won’t hurt you, and a good score can only help you; an extra $15 and 50 minutes on a Saturday is a small price to pay if it means the difference between an acceptance or rejection letter. However, if students now think that they don’t need to worry about their writing skills to get into college, they need to think again.

If fewer and fewer colleges are measuring a student’s writing aptitude using ACT and SAT essay sections, then how are admissions teams determining who the superior writers are? Well, by scrutinizing other writing samples that students provide: personal essays, essays completed for english classes, and even their teachers’ letters of recommendation. Admissions boards believe that this approach offers a more holistic view of a student’s writing abilities than an essay written in under an hour ever could. This means that the time students don’t spend preparing for the essay section should be focused on these other aspects of their application as well as improving their overall writing abilities.

Yet knowing what type of writing admissions boards prefer is perhaps more challenging than the essay section on the SAT. While the ACT and SAT spit out a number that scores the essay on a discrete scale, personal essays and teacher recommendation letters are much more open to interpretation. This is why we also recommend that students stop by our offices and sign up for college counseling, as we can assist you in every step of the application process. From essay editing, helping students think of which teachers they should ask for letters, as well as determining the right programs to apply to, Streamline’s team of experts will eliminate the hassle of students getting into the college of their dreams.

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