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Monday, May 30, 2016
Avoiding the Optional Essay on the New SAT
People never like change. The Internet and higher education circles have been buzzing for months over the sweeping revisions made to the current SAT examination by its administrative body, the College Board.
Fortunately, most students taking it for the 2016-2017 admissions cycle won't know any different. One of the most notable changed was the addition of an optional essay. For students struggling with language or literature, it felt like a win, but critics have argued that it strips the test results of an important dimension. The College Board, for its part, claims that there are more writing requirements throughout the body of the exam, and that the overall test should not be diminished in value.
Does it make sense to skip the essay? Optional may sound like a huge relief for student, but what is the real cost of leaving those pages blank?
For a start, colleges may have differing requirements with respect to the optional essay. More competitive schools may want students to complete this component, regardless of whether or not it is mandatory.
Subject SAT exams, AP exams and even the ACT are not mandatory at many universities. Yet, given the fierce level of competition in college admissions, it's hard to see a scenario where a good student who skips all the non-mandatory testing metrics will measure evenly against the student who doesn't.
The new SAT was first administered earlier this year. Test-prep companies like Princeton Review and Kaplan have already begun offering instruction on the new format.
With all of the unknown in college admissions, it doesn't make sense to do less than what is expected. Unfortunately, this is the new admissions climate, and short-cutting rarely pays off.
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