Harvard College will no longer require applicants to submit scores from the optional writing portions of the ACT and SAT beginning with the Class of 2023, according to a statement last March.

“Harvard will accept the ACT/SAT with or without writing, starting with the Class of 2023, entering in August 2019,” Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane wrote in an emailed statement. “This change will add an additional component to the comprehensive outreach of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI), which seeks outstanding students from all economic backgrounds.”

Students who choose to take the writing portion of either exam pay an extra $14 for the SAT and $16.50 for the ACT, though fee waivers are available for both.

Harvard believes there are other ways applicants might demonstrate their writing skill, instead of on the standardized tests. The College accepts the Common, Coalition, and Universal College applications—all of which require a personal essay. Applicants also have the option to include an additional personal essay.

In 2014, the College Board, which administers the SAT, announced major revisions to its exam, which made the essay optional and scored it separately from the rest of the exam, among other changes.

Shortly after the announcement of the SAT’s redesign in 2015, Harvard continued to require applicants to submit writing scores. However, the College start evaluating the correlation between the writing scores and the academic success.

College counselors and higher education experts previously criticized the essay portions of the exams, arguing that writing scores do not strongly correlate with a student’s potential for success.

College Board announced that they stand behind the writing part of the test. The statement also reads: “The College Board remains steadfast in its commitment to the importance of analytic writing for all students.”

After the announcement at Harvard, neither SAT nor ACT have made any public statements. We at Damian SAT ACT Prep, we encourage students to hone their skills in essay writing not necessarily for the SAT ACT test itself but more like be prepared for College Application essays.

Despite the choice given to students, the majority of the few million test-takers each year choose to complete the writing portion of the exams. According to the Princeton Review’s blog, Harvard’s decision leaves only 28 schools requiring the essays.

In 2015, other Ivy League universities, including, Columbia, Cornell, and Penn, announced they were ending the essay requirement. This year Brown, Dartmouth, and Yale also dropped the requirement for the essay scores.

When Penn changed its policy, Eric J. Furda, the school’s dean of admissions, cited what he called the essays’ “weaker predictive power” in a 2015 statement.

“Our internal analysis as well as a review of the extensive research provided by the College Board showed that the essay component of the SAT was the least predictive element of the overall Writing section of the SAT,” Furda said.

At Damian SAT ACT Prep Center in North Palm Beach we discuss with our students the opportunity of taking the essay during the test. Preparing for the essay means preparing for the college application as well.

Some current students tend to agree, saying the essay portions of the exams may not be useful tools in the admissions process. The essay writing skills are useful when filling the applications for the college. Either way we recommend our students to practice the skills of taking essays. The writing skills are not well represented by an against the clock, under pressure, and after 3 hours of already testing material, essay. The writing skills are important, need to be coached, and need to be used at the right moment: the applications.


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