Planning to take the SAT? Before you sign up, you need to decide whether you’re going to take the test with or without the optional Essay. How should you pick? Well, some colleges require that you apply with the SAT with Essay; others don’t care whether you submit an SAT score with or without the Essay.
In this article, I’ll provide you with a complete list of colleges that require or recommend taking the SAT with the Essay.
What Is the Optional SAT Essay?
The redesigned SAT debuted in March 2016 along with a now-optional Essay section. For the Essay, you have 50 minutes to read a passage (similar to those you see on the Reading section) and write an essay dissecting how the author made the argument. Did the author use evidence to support the main claim? Appeals to emotion? Specific word choice?
If you take the SAT without Essay, the test length is three hours. However, if you take the SAT with Essay, the optional Essay adds 50 minutes. It also costs more to take the SAT with Essay: $64.50 vs $47.50 without the Essay.
Don't automatically assume you must take the Essay. Whether it's important for you depends on which schools (and scholarships) you're applying to, and what the rest of your application looks like. I'll go into more depth later about how to decide which version of the SAT to take.
See if you need to take the SAT with Essay to end up here!
List of Schools That Require the SAT With Essay
Below, I’ve compiled a list of colleges that require or recommend taking the SAT with Essay. Info comes from the College Board and some individual schools who we consulted separately.
NOTE: This list is subject to change, so make sure to double-check with each school you’re applying to.
Require or Recommend
|Abilene Christian University||TX||Recommend|
|Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences||NY||Recommend|
|Art Institute of Houston||TX||Recommend|
|California State University, Northridge||CA||Recommend|
|Central Connecticut State University||CT||Recommend|
|Central Michigan University||MI||Recommend|
|Cheyney University of Pennsylvania||PA||Recommend|
|City University London||UK||Require|
|Coastal Carolina University||SC||Recommend|
|College of Wooster||OH||Recommend|
|Colorado School of Mines||CO||Recommend|
|Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art||NY||Recommend|
|Dallas Christian College||TX||Recommend|
|Delaware State University||DE||Require|
|Dominican University of California||CA||Require|
|Eastern Illinois University||IL||Recommend|
|Eastern Nazarene College||MA||Recommend|
|Five Towns College||NY||Recommend|
|George Washington University||DC||Recommend|
|Georgia Highlands College||GA||Recommend|
|High Point University||NC||Require|
|Holy Family University||PA||Recommend|
|Indiana University Southeast||IN||Recommend|
|Indiana Wesleyan University||IN||Recommend|
|Inter American University of Puerto Rico: Barranquitas Campus||Puerto Rico||Recommend|
|John Wesley University||NC||Require|
|Kentucky State University||KY||Require|
|Martin Luther College||MN||Require|
|Marymount California University||CA||Recommend|
|Massachusetts Maritime Academy||MA||Recommend|
|Montana Tech of the University of Montana||MT||Recommend|
|Mount Saint Mary College||NY||Recommend|
|Mount St. Joseph University||OH||Recommend|
|New Jersey City University||NJ||Recommend|
|North Park University||IL||Recommend|
|Oregon State University||OR||Recommend|
|Purdue University Northwest||IN||Recommend|
|Reading Area Community College||PA||Recommend|
|Rutgers University—Camden Campus||NJ||Recommend|
|Saint Michael's College||VT||Recommend|
|Seton Hill University||PA||Recommend|
|Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania||PA||Recommend|
|Silver Lake College of the Holy Family||WI||Recommend|
|Soka University of America||CA||Require|
|Southern California Institute of Architecture||CA||Require|
|Southern Illinois University Carbondale||IL||Recommend|
|Southern Oregon University||OR||Recommend|
|Spring Hill College||AL||Recommend|
|Sul Ross State University||TX||Recommend|
|SUNY Farmingdale State College||NY||Recommend|
|SUNY University at Stony Brook||NY||Recommend|
|Texas A&M International University||TX||Recommend|
|Texas A&M University||TX||Recommend|
|Texas A&M University—Galveston||TX||Require|
|Texas State University||TX||Recommend|
|The King's College||NY||Recommend|
|United States Military Academy (West Point)||NY||Require|
|University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)||CA||Require|
|University of California, Davis (UC Davis)||CA||Require|
|University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine)||CA||Require|
|University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)||CA||Require|
|University of California, Merced||CA||Require|
|University of California, Riverside||CA||Require|
|University of California, San Diego (UCSD)||CA||Require|
|University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)||CA||Require|
|University of California, Santa Cruz||CA||Require|
|University of Evansville||IN||Recommend|
|University of La Verne||CA||Recommend|
|University of Mary Hardin—Baylor||TX||Recommend|
|University of Massachusetts Amherst||MA||Recommend|
|University of Minnesota, Twin Cities||MN||Recommend|
|University of New England||ME||Recommend|
|University of North Texas||TX||Require|
|University of the Virgin Islands||Virgin Islands||Recommend|
|University of Toledo||OH||Recommend|
|University of Washington Bothell||WA||Recommend|
|VanderCook College of Music||IL||Recommend|
|Virginia Union University||VA||Recommend|
|Webber International University||FL||Recommend|
|West Virginia University||WV||Require|
|West Virginia University Institute of Technology||WV||Require|
|Western Carolina University||NC||Require|
|William Jessup University||CA||Recommend|
|William Jewell College||MO||Recommend|
Surprisingly (and in contrast to how it's been in the past), top schools mostly do not require the SAT essay. Currently, no Ivy League School requires students to take the SAT with Essay; the same is true for Caltech, Duke, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Northwestern, NYU, and UChicago. Many of these schools no longer even recommend students take the SAT with Essay, which is a huge turnaround from even a couple of years ago.
Most liberal arts colleges do not require or recommend the SAT with Essay. However, there are a few exceptions: Soka University requires it, and Amherst College and Occidental College both recommend it.
In general, most state schools also do not require the SAT with Essay, although there's still a significant portion which do. There tends to be some weird variance even within states. For example, all University of California schools require the SAT with Essay, but most of the California State University schools do not.
Regardless of the types of schools you're applying to, don’t assume that they all ask for the SAT with Essay. Check with every school to make sure you understand their testing requirements.
To take or not to take, that is the question.
How to Decide Whether to Take the SAT Essay
When making your decision about whether to take the SAT with Essay or the SAT without Essay, you'll need to consider the following four questions:
#1: Do Any Schools I Want to Apply to Require the SAT Essay?
If you’re applying to any school that requires the Essay, then you must take the SAT with Essay. If you take the SAT without Essay, your application will be incomplete and you won't get admitted. By contrast, if you apply to any schools that don't require the SAT Essay, you can still take the SAT with Essay since these schools will accept both types of SAT scores (with or without Essay).
To reiterate, colleges that require the SAT Essay won't consider your score if you took the SAT without the Essay. The last thing you want to do is take the SAT without the Essay and get a good score—but then find out that one of your target schools requires you to take the SAT with Essay.
Remember that some colleges change their application policies from year to year, so make sure to double-check the testing policies of the schools you’re applying to.
#2: Do Any Schools I Want to Apply to Recommend the SAT Essay?
If you're not applying to any schools that require the SAT Essay section but are applying to some that recommend it, then I'd still suggest taking it. This gives you another dimension schools can use to evaluate your application. However, there are some cases in which you shouldn't take the SAT with Essay as well.
If, for some reason, you do not qualify for SAT fee waivers and paying the extra cost to take the SAT with Essay would be a financial burden to you, then please don't feel like you have to take it; in this case, it's fine to take the SAT without Essay instead.
In addition, if you really struggle to write essays under time constraints (due to anxiety), you might want to opt out of the Essay. However, I only recommend this for students who normally have strong English and writing skills but struggle to write coherent essays when there's the added pressure of a time constraint.
For example, do you get As on essays you can work on at home but Cs on in-class essays because you get easily nervous? If that's the case, taking the SAT with Essay might not be a good idea.
#3: Am I Applying to Any Scholarships That Require an SAT With Essay Score?
Therefore, be sure to check the requirements of each scholarship you're planning on applying for. While scholarships that don’t require or recommend the SAT Essay should still accept your SAT with Essay score, scholarships that require the Essay section will not consider your SAT score if you took the no-essay version.
#4: Will the SAT Essay Enhance My Application in Other Ways?
Generally speaking, taking the SAT Essay if it's not required won't add a lot to your application. In truth, colleges that don't recommend or require the Essay really don't pay much attention to it.
However, the Essay might be helpful for international students who want to prove they have strong English skills and who think they'll do especially well on it. If you fall into this category and feel confident that you'll get a high score on it (after doing practice essays, for example), definitely consider taking the SAT with Essay.
On the other hand, if you don't think you'll do well on the Essay, I recommend against taking it.
Want to learn more about the SAT Essay? Check out our step-by-step guide to writing a great Essay.
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As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.