If the thought of writing a college essay fills you with terror, you might be wondering: are there any colleges that don't require essays?
The answer is yes, there are! This guide will give you an overview of colleges that don't require admissions essays, how to find these schools, and whether you should apply to one or not. We'll wrap up with a list of 64 colleges with no essay requirement that you can apply to.
Why Do Some Colleges Not Require an Essay?
In general, college essays help schools get a sense of you as a person—beyond your academic record, GPA, and test scores. They give you a chance to clearly articulate your goals and also give admissions officers a better idea of how you'll fit within the school's community. Finally, essays are helpful because they provide schools with concrete evidence of your writing ability.
However, there are many colleges that don't require essays for admissions. What are some reasons why? Let's take a look at the three biggest ones:
#1: Limited Resources
It takes a lot of admissions officers' time and energy to read and evaluate college essays.
At smaller schools with fewer resources, and even at larger schools that enroll tens of thousands of students, the resource costs associated with reading each essay for every single student might outweigh the benefits of getting additional information on applicants beyond GPAs, test scores, and transcripts.
Schools sometimes balance these concerns by requiring essays only for the most competitive programs (usually things such as engineering and nursing) or for scholarships, for which the additional information might be more instrumental in making decisions.
They need to use those limited resources for coffee.
#2: Specific Admissions Cutoffs/Criteria
Many colleges, particularly public schools, admit students based on a type of selection index, which tabulates some combination of GPA, test scores, and/or class rank.
If students meet the minimum index score cutoff, they will be admitted. In this case, the school might simply feel that additional information from an essay isn't necessary for making a decision regarding whether a student will be successful or not.
Selection indices are also often different for in-state and out-of-state students, with the latter being subject to more stringent academic criteria.
In addition, the selection index is sometimes used for scholarships, with students with higher index scores being awarded more money.
Schools with selection indices do often require or recommend college essays for borderline candidates so that students can provide additional information on why they'd be a good fit at the school in spite of not meeting the stated academic criteria.
#3: Make Admissions Process Easy and Appealing
Some colleges hope that by making the admissions process easy and requiring only a transcript, test scores, and basic demographic information, they'll attract a wider variety of applicants.
By presenting their application process as a simple alternative to more intensive processes that require letters of recommendation, essays, and so on, they can attract students who are on the fence about applying to college at all.
They could even potentially motivate highly qualified applicants to use them as one of their safety or match schools because the students won't need to write additional essays or do extra work to apply.
Some applications seem like you just have to click to apply!
How to Find Colleges That Don't Require Essays
According to data compiled by the US Department of Education, there are 4,583 degree-granting postsecondary educational institutions in the US as of 2018. This figure includes both two-year institutions (1,579) and four-year institutions (3,004).
The truth, though, is that a huge number of these schools don't require essays for admission.
If you want to know whether a particular school requires an essay for admission, Google "[School Name] freshman admission requirements" or "[School Name] admissions essay." This should pull up pages from the school's official website, with links to guidelines on admission essays.
If, however, you're looking more generally for schools that don't require essays, you can check out our comprehensive list of 64 schools below or try one of the following starting places:
Public Universities in Your State
A huge number of public universities don't require essays for admissions.
Even if the major public schools in your state (such as the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign or UCLA) require essays for admission, you might find that the smaller campuses and smaller or more specialized state schools (such as Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago State University, etc.) might not require essays. So be sure to check those out!
You can actually get a pretty robust list of schools in your state by simply Googling "[State Name] colleges." Do this and a list of colleges will appear across the top of your screen. Thanks, Google!
Schools With Automatic Admissions Criteria
A school that has criteria for automatic admission (e.g., if you live in-state and have a particular class rank, GPA, and/or test score profile) might not require applicants who meet the automatic criteria to submit essays with their applications.
However, don't assume that just because you meet automatic admissions criteria that you won't need to write an essay.
At UT Austin, for example, all students must submit an essay, regardless of whether they meet the automatic admissions criteria. Although you could probably write just a straightforward paragraph in the essay section and still get admitted (since you meet the criteria), you'd likely be hurting your scholarship potential, not to mention jeopardizing your chances of being let into your desired major.
Small Private Liberal Arts Institutions
Another group of schools that might not require essays are smaller, private liberal arts institutions. These types of schools often serve a fairly niche market and might simply not get a high enough application volume to need essays to differentiate applicants.
Local community colleges do not require essays for enrollment, since most allow anyone to enroll. Some even have automatic transfer agreements with local four-year universities. However, if you want to transfer to a particular four-year university after you finish at a community college, you might very well have to write an essay—so you could just be putting off the inevitable!
You can find a lot of no-essay colleges for your basket!
Complete List: 64 Colleges That Don't Require Essays
The following chart contains 64 colleges with no essay requirement, organized by state. I've also included information on application requirements and the US News ranking for each school (though, of course, there are limitations to these rankings.)
Note that these are far from the only no-essay college applications—just some of the most notable. Follow our guidelines above for finding additional essay-free colleges.
|State||School||Essay Requirement||Notes on Admission Criteria||US News Ranking|
|Alabama||University of Alabama||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - #143|
|Alabama State University||None||Primarily determined by GPA and test scores||Regional Universities South - #94;|
|Alaska||University of Alaska Anchorage||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||Regional Universities West - #75|
|University of Alaska Fairbanks||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - Tier 2|
|Arizona||Northern Arizona University||None||Primarily determined by GPA and test scores||National Universities - #284|
|University of Arizona||Optional for "Comprehensive Review" admission||Assured admission for in-state applicants who meet criteria; comprehensive review process for all other applicants||National Universities - #97|
|Arizona State University||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts, class rank||National Universities - #103|
|Arkansas||Arkansas State University||None||Primarily determined by GPA and test scores||National Universities - Tier 2|
|University of Arkansas||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts, class rank||National Universities - #160|
|California||California State University||None||Primarily by eligibility index; some majors/campuses have more stringent requirements||Ranking depends on campus|
|Colorado||University of Colorado - Denver||None (though UC Boulder does require an essay)||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - #227|
|Connecticut||University of Bridgeport||Only required for dental hygiene students; otherwise, encouraged but not required.||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - Tier 2|
|Delaware||Delaware State University||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities North - #284|
|Florida||University of Central Florida||Strongly encouraged but not required||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - #160|
|University of South Florida||None||"Each applicant is considered individually, taking into account grades, rigor of curriculum and standardized test scores"||National Universities - #103|
|Georgia||Georgia State University||Optional||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - #206|
|Hawaii||University of Hawaii Manoa||None||Primarily determined by GPA, transcripts, test scores, class rank||National Universities - #170|
|Idaho||University of Idaho||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - #170|
|Illinois||Illinois State University||Optional personal statement||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - #206|
|Indiana||Indiana Wesleyan University||None||Meet GPA and test score cutoffs||Regional Universities Midwest - #15|
|University of Southern Indiana||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||Regional Universities Midwest - #98|
|University of Indianapolis||Writing samples are encouraged but not required||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts, class rank||National Universities- #227|
|Iowa||Iowa State University||None||Primarily through the Regent Admission Index||National Universities - #118|
|University of Iowa||None||Different requirements for different schools in the university||National Universities - #88|
|Kansas||Kansas State University||None||Students must meet GPA/test requirements and complete Precollege Curriculum||National Universities - #170|
|University of Kansas||Short answers only for those who don't meet Assured Admission criteria||Meet Assured Admission criteria through GPA/test score requirements||National Universities - #124|
|Kentucky||Kentucky State University||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||Regional Colleges South - #36|
|Louisiana||Louisiana State University - Baton Rouge||None||Primarily determined by GPA and test scores||National Universities - #153|
|University of Louisiana - Lafayette||None||Guaranteed admission for in-state applicants who meet criteria; primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - Tier 2|
|Maryland||Bowie State University||Optional||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||Regional Universities North - Tier 2|
|Massachusetts||Bridgewater State University||Encouraged but not required||Primarily determined by test scores and transcripts||Regional Universities North - #105|
|Michigan||Eastern Michigan University||None||Admissions index based on test scores and GPA||National Universities - Tier 2|
|Western Michigan University||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - #258|
|Minnesota||University of Minnesota - Twin Cities||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts, class rank||National Universities - #66|
|Mississippi||University of Mississippi||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts, class rank||National Universities - #160|
|Mississippi State University||None||Assured admission for students who have completed prerequisite coursework and meet a combination of GPA/class rank/test score criteria||National Universities - #206|
|Missouri||University of Missouri||None||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts, class rank||National Universities - #124|
|Missouri State University||Essays required only if you don't meet the selection index criteria||Meet selection index criteria and have completed prerequisite coursework||National Universities- Tier 2|
|Montana||University of Montana||None||Meet primary requirements and have completed prerequisite coursework||National Universities - #258|
|Nebraska||University of Nebraska - Lincoln||Required only for scholarship consideration||Assured admission if you meet performance requirements and have completed prerequisite coursework||National Universities - #133|
|Nevada||University of Nevada Reno||None||Meet GPA or test score requirement and have completed prerequisite coursework||National Universities - #227|
|New Jersey||Kean University||Recommended but not required||Primarily determined by test scores, transcripts, and any supplementary documentation submitted||Regional Universities North - #132|
|New Mexico||University of New Mexico||None||Primarily determined by test scores and transcripts||National Universities - #187|
|New York||Siena College||Optional writing sample||Primarily determined by transcripts; test scores are optional for most programs, as is the essay||Regional Universities North - #15|
|CUNY-Baruch College||Recommended but not required||Primarily determined by test scores, transcripts, and any supplementary documentation submitted||Regional Universities North - #16|
|CUNY-Hunter College||Optional||Primarily determined by test scores, transcripts, and any supplementary documentation submitted||Regional Universities North - #17|
|North Carolina||West Carolina University||Recommended but not required||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts, class rank||Regional Universities South - #25|
|North Dakota||University of North Dakota||None||Meet GPA and test score requirements and have completed prerequisite coursework||National Universities - #258|
|Ohio||Ohio University||Optional||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts, class rank||National Universities - #176|
|Oklahoma||Oklahoma State University||Essay required only if you need comprehensive application review||Assured admission by combination of GPA/class rank/test scores; otherwise comprehensive application review||National Universities - #187|
|Oregon||Southern Oregon University||Optional writing sample||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts; students who feel they might not meet academic requirements can submit supporting documentation||Regional Universities West - #75|
|Western Oregon University||Required only for students who don't meet minimum academic requirements||Admission primarily via GPA (3.0+) and recommendation; test optional except for students applying for scholarships and honors, or for those who don't meet minimum academic requirements||Regional Universities West - #68|
|Eastern Oregon University||Required only for petitioning students||Automatic admission for students who meet basic coursework/test requirements and have a GPA of 2.75||Regional Universities West - #88|
|Pennsylvania||University of Pittsburgh||Optional short-answer questions||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - #58|
|South Carolina||Clemson University||Optional||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - #74|
|University of South Carolina||Only required for Honors College application||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - #118|
|South Dakota||University of South Dakota||None||Meet GPA, test score, or class rank cutoff and have completed prerequisite coursework||National Universities - #249|
|Tennessee||Tennessee State University||None||Meet GPA/test score cutoffs and have completed prerequisite coursework||National Universities - Tier 2|
|Utah||University of Utah||Only required for Honors College application||Primarily determined by GPA, test scores, transcripts||National Universities - #97|
|Utah State University||None||Meet GPA/test score cutoffs and have completed prerequisite coursework||National Universities - #241|
|Washington||Washington State University||None||Meet College Academic Distribution Requirements; assured admission for top 10% of class or 3.5+ GPA||National Universities - #176|
|West Virginia||West Virginia University||None||Meet GPA/test score cutoffs and have completed prerequisite coursework||National Universities - #241|
|Wyoming||University of Wyoming||None||Meet GPA/test score cutoffs and have completed prerequisite coursework||National Universities - #196|
|Canada||McGill University||Essay only required for some programs and scholarships||Primarily determined by test scores and transcripts||Global Universities - #49|
Is this all the paper you've got? No problem for no-essay college applications!
Should You Apply to a College That Doesn't Require an Essay?
If you're reading this article, you're clearly worried about writing application essays for one reason or another. Maybe you're concerned about having enough time to finish everything. Or maybe you think your writing is terrible.
Here are some reasons to write college essays in spite of your misgivings:
#1: You Want to Apply to the Most Selective Schools
If you're hoping to apply to the most selective schools, you'll almost certainly have to write at least one essay. The most highly ranked no-essay school that I could find was Clemson—a great school. But if you're going for UChicago, MIT, Stanford, or an Ivy League-level school, you'll have to write an essay.
#2: You Want a Scholarship
Even if you do apply to a school that doesn't require an essay, you might still have to write an essay if you want to apply for the most competitive scholarships.
#3: You Have Special Circumstances to Explain
If you have any kind of special circumstance to explain—say, a dip in your grades one year due to a family illness—you definitely want to write about it in an essay. This will help you compensate for any perceived deficits in your academic record and also prevent you from being penalized in the admissions process for the vagaries of life.
There's value in telling your story to the admissions committee.
#4: You're a Good Writer
I'm thinking that most strong writers are going to actively want to write college essays, but just in case: if writing is one of your strengths, definitely write an essay. You want to show off your best qualities to admissions officers, after all! If your primary concern is time, use something like the Common Application so you don't have to write a new essay for every school.
#5: The Essay Prompt Is Short
Some college essays are barely essays at all. Some required essays have just a 250-word limit, and 500 words is pretty standard. For reference, the first section of this article—"Why Do Some Colleges Not Require Essays?"—is about 450 words, including sub-headings. That's not so bad!
#6: You Can Get Help
Although it's important that your college essays are your own work, you're allowed to get help with them! Colleges expect you to put your best foot forward, so if that means discussing ideas with parents and teachers, and having someone else look over your rough drafts and offer suggestions, that's completely fine. You don't have to go at it completely alone.
#7: You Can Reuse an Essay for All Your Schools
For schools that use the Common App, Coalition App, or Universal College App, you can generally use one essay for all your colleges. Some schools might require additional supplemental essays, though, so be sure to look that up in advance to avoid being blindsided later.
The majority of college applicants are high school seniors, and most of the college application advice out there is aimed at them. But what do you do if you don't fall into this narrow category? Our eBook on how to prepare for and apply to college as a nontraditional student will walk you through everything you need to know, from the coursework you should have under your belt to how to get letters of recommendation when you're not a high school senior.
So Should I Write an Essay?
If it happens that all the schools you want to apply to don't require essays, then great! But overall, I'd say don't let the fact that a school has one (or even two) essays stop you from applying if you're genuinely interested in going there.
If you find writing essays stressful or if you're time-limited, there's nothing wrong with using some strategies to limit the number of polished essays you need to produce (such as using the Common App) and applying to a mix of essay and no-essay schools.
Sometimes the pen really is mightier than the sword.
Key Takeaways: Colleges That Don't Require Essays
There are actually tons of colleges that don't require essays. Here are some common reasons why a college might not require an essay:
- Limited resources—it takes a lot of time and effort to read an essay by each applicant
- They might have certain GPA and/or test score admissions criteria and feel as though the information provided by an essay isn't necessary
- To make it more appealing to students by having an easier application process
So how can you find college applications without essays? Here are some places to start:
- Public schools in your state, especially smaller ones in case the bigger ones do require essays
- Schools with automatic admissions criteria—if you qualify for admission, you might not need to write an essay
- Smaller liberal arts institutions
- Community colleges
When it comes down to it, though, should you apply to colleges with no essay requirement? Here are some reasons you might want to write a college essay, even if you're apprehensive:
- The most selective colleges usually do require essays
- Scholarship applications for particular schools often require essays
- If you have special circumstances to explain, plan on writing an essay
- Strong writers should write essays to put their best foot forward
- Word limits are often very short—think 250-500 words (that's just a few paragraphs!)
- You're allowed (and encouraged) to get help with brainstorming ideas and revising drafts
- If you use an application system that can send applications to multiple schools, such as the Common App, Coalition App, or Universal College App, you might be able to write just one essay for all the schools you're applying to
Don't forget to also check out our list of 64 colleges that don't require essays!
No essay, no tears!
Decided to write an essay after all and need some help? Check out our comprehensive guide to writing a college essay and our guide to writing the "why this college" essay. Be sure to avoid these 10 college essay mistakes, too.
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Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.