Knowing This Secret About the ACT and SAT Can Save You Money and Stress

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If you’ve taken the SAT or ACT before, you know the insta-anxiety induced by the essay portion that comes at the end of the test — and if you haven’t, you’re probably not looking forward to it.

But there’s good news for anyone who’s absolutely dreading test day for that very reason: It will probably be fine if you don’t even sign up for the essay portion, (which will save you money, too).

The Essay Portion of the SAT Doesn’t Really Matter

It’s true.

Most colleges and universities don’t care about your score on the essay portion of the SAT and ACT — or whether you’ve even taken that part of the test at all.

Last week, Yale University notified counselors who work with high school students that it will no longer require applicants to have completed the SAT or ACT essay sections.

Yale is the most recent university to make this decision.

Cornell and Columbia universities and the University of Pennsylvania also have said they will no longer rely on the essay portion of these standardized tests, either.

A few months ago, Harvard University announced the same decision, saying that while writing is still an incredibly important skill when it comes to considerations for college admissions, the SAT essay is a poor representation of an applicant’s mastery of the craft. The school will instead turn to an applicant’s admissions essay.

But it’s not just the Ivy Leaguers who don’t want to bother with your SAT or ACT essay score. The University of San Diego recently announced the same, and schools including the University of Florida and the University of Tennessee consider the essay portion of these tests optional.

The Princeton Review, which offers test prep, admissions advice and tutoring services, notes that “While over 70 percent of students taking the SAT and more than 50 percent taking the ACT opt in to the essay, not even 2 percent of colleges require an essay score.”

Save Money, Skip the Essay Portion of the SAT and ACT

The Princeton Review in June 2018 identified just 25 institutions that require scores from the essay portion of the SAT or ACT.

If your school of choice isn’t on that list, you’re probably safe to skip it.

And while you didn’t think the news could get any better than getting out of a 45- to 50-minute stretch of writing an essay by hand, the bonus is that you’ll actually save money, too.

For the 2018-2019 year, the fee to take the SAT with the essay portion is $64.50. The fee to take the SAT without the essay portion is $47.50.

The fee to take the ACT with the essay writing portion is $62.50, while the fee to take the ACT without the essay writing portion is $46.00. (If you’ve already signed up to take the ACT with the essay portion, you may be able to get a refund with a written request.)

Unfortunately, if your school of choice is on the list of schools that still require and care about a standardized test essay score, you’ll still want to sign up to take the essay portion of those tests.

Grace Schweizer is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.