On January 19th, 2021, the CollegeBoard announced that it would stop offering the optional SAT Essay after June 2021.
This is a big change, and students are curious about how this may impact the college admissions process. In this article, we’ll cover these new changes to the SAT Essay testing process and help you understand what they mean for you.
Here’s what you need to know.
The College Board No Longer Offers the SAT Essay
As of June 2021, the College Board will no longer offer the SAT Essay to high school students. That means high schoolers will no longer be able to schedule or take the SAT Essay exam after the 2021 June SAT date (June 5, 2021).
There’s one exception to the no-more-SAT-Essay rule. If you’re required to take the SAT Essay as part of the high school graduation requirements for your state, you may still have to take the essay test!
States that require students to take the SAT to graduate also participate in SAT School Days. SAT School Days is when students are able to take the SAT for free during...well, a school day! The College Board will continue to administer the SAT Essay to students on School Days in participating states.
There’s a good chance that these states may drop the SAT Essay requirement in the future. Be sure to check with your high school administrators or guidance counselors for the most up-to-date information on whether you have to take the SAT Essay to graduate.
SAT Essay Options for Currently Registered Students
If you’re already scheduled to take the SAT Essay exam in 2021, you have a few options going forward.
First, if you've already registered for the SAT with Essay in March, May, or June of 2021, you can still take the essay test! You can write your essay, have it scored, and send it to your colleges...no changes necessary.
But you might decide you no longer need to take the SAT Essay as a result of these new changes. The College Board is letting students who’ve already registered for the SAT Essay cancel their registrations free of charge.
To do this, just log into your College Board online account and cancel the essay! In order to avoid any additional charges, make sure you cancel your SAT Essay test prior to the registration deadline.
Why End the SAT Essay?
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a tough year for both high school students and the College Board. Not only were SAT tests cancelled repeatedly, many universities dropped the SAT requirement entirely for 2020-2021...and in some cases, beyond.
In their official statement about dropping the SAT Essay test, the College Board acknowledged how hard circumstances have been for high school students because of the pandemic. The College Board explains that by dropping the SAT Essay, they're helping to “reduce demands on students” both now and in the future.
While the desire to help students is sincere, experts point out that the College Board may have made this decision for more practical reasons as well. In his article for Forbes, journalist Akil Bello points out that most universities don't require SAT Essay scores as part of the admissions process. That means the SAT Essay has been optional for most college-bound students.
As a result, many students had already stopped taking the SAT Essay—in 2020, only 57% of SAT test takers also took the essay portion of the exam. So the College Board may have dropped the SAT Essay for financial and operational reasons, too.
What Does This Change Mean for Students?
Starting in June 2021, students taking the SAT will no longer be able to take the SAT Essay exam (unless it’s part of an SAT School Days requirement).
Not being able to take the SAT Essay is most impactful for students who’d planned to use their essay scores to make their applications stand out. For instance, if you’d hoped your essay score would help overcome a low SAT Math score—or even a less-than-stellar GPA—then you’ll have to make your college application stand out in other ways. We recommend making sure your application has a spike, but you can also add extracurricular activities to your resume, boost your GPA, and raise your SAT score!
Additionally, if your college required the SAT Essay in the past, you may see some differences in the admissions process. Some schools may simply drop the essay requirement, while other schools may ask you to submit additional writing samples to fulfill that requirement.
The same will be true for departments that used the SAT Essay to determine whether to admit students. Students applying to degree programs that involve lots of writing—like English, History, or Journalism—may end up having to submit additional samples, or even take a department-specific placement test.
But what if the colleges you’re applying to never required the SAT Essay? If your dream school didn’t require the SAT Essay or consider SAT Essay scores, this change won’t really affect you. The admissions processes at these schools aren’t impacted by the College Board’s new policies, so your chances of getting in are the same as before the College Board’s announcement.
Our advice? Check with your potential schools to see how the new SAT Essay policies will affect your admissions process and chances. Admissions counselors will be happy to help you out!
- Now that the SAT Essay test is going away, you’ll need to think of new ways to make your college application stand out. Here are seven things that look amazing on college apps.
- Another great way to stand out from the crowd? Make a perfect score on the SAT. That’s not an impossible goal if you follow our advice to getting a perfect score.
- Maybe you’re new to the SAT in general. Don’t worry! Here’s a primer on the SAT to get you started.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.