You might have heard that SAT has had some changes over the past 2 years. Doubtlessly the most significant change is that the essay part isn’t obligatory anymore (guess someone’s prayers have been heard).
However, that innovation brought a great deal of disturbance. Both students and their parents still aren’t sure if the essay writing is really helpful and if it increases the chances of going to some fancy-schmancy Ivy League respectable college.
Fortunately, we are ready to answer all of your burning questions: what you should expect from writing the essay, is it really worth a shot and what is the best option for you.
SAT Essay: what’s all the noise about?
According to Captain Obvious, the SAT essay is a part of the SAT exam. Recently this essay has been demoted to the rank of an optional task making SAT look similar to the ACT examination.
- Basically, in the renewed SAT version you get:
- 50 minutes to accomplish the mission.
- An extract from a random piece of literature, in which the author reviews a particular social/cultural/political and other important issues.
Your job is to do some clever analysis, dissecting his opinion on it and explaining the reasons why the author picked specifically this problem.
The essay is evaluated separately from the rest of the exam. Your final grade depends on how well you perform on Analysis, Reading and Writing. For each of these subcategories you’ll be awarded a score on a scale from 2 to 8.
Do the colleges still want you to write the essay?
Well, the College Board doesn’t force you into writing the used-to-be mandatory essay anymore. Does it mean you can have a sigh of relief and finally relax? No, it doesn’t so hold the celebrations.
After it’s been made optional, some colleges stopped demanding the SAT essay indeed. However other colleges still want to know if you are capable of expressing your opinion eloquently and cleverly in writing, corroborating it with persuasive arguments.
It is worth noting that every college sets its own terms on the essay issue, so it cannot be predicted which ones will demand it from you and which won’t. And that goes for the top colleges in the US as well – even they approach this requirement differently.
Undeniably such a controversy stirs a considerable commotion. What if you’re applying to a college of your dream right after the exam? Should you take the essay-section or skip it, to gain some time for an extra Taco Bell visit?
Luckily we prepared for you some tips, especially highlighting all the pros and cons of writing the essay to help you make the most suitable and beneficial choice.
Concern número uno: inquire if the essay is required
Well, this tip is charmingly self-explanatory. Figure out if the college of your dream requires the essay or not during the admission procedure.
Here’s how you can do it:
- Launch your browser.
- Type in the Google’s search bar the name of your soon-to-be brainery.
- Scrutinize carefully the rules of the admission process, published in the respective section of the school’s site.
Voilà! You have all the necessary info only in a matter of a couple of mouse-clicks.
By the way, make sure you do that little Sherlock-roleplay on every single college that you see as your potential Alma Mater. And if there’s only one college in the whole bunch demanding the mandatory essay, well you know the drill - take the essay-part no matter what. This way you’ll do yourself truly a priceless favor.
First of all, you never know with which college you’ll have the best chances – it may be totally unpredictable and erratic. Second, taking only the essay, by itself is not allowed – in order to get that missing score you’ll have to go through the entire examination once again. It sounds nightmarish, appalling and devastating, I know.
As you can see, if at least one college demands the essay, you have no other choice but writing it. But in case your future Alma Mater doesn’t seem to care a bit about that little-written composition of argument and logic, don’t be too rapid to discard the opportunity of taking it.
And here are the reasons why.
Taking the essay: what’s the profit?
Okay, so you’ve figured out that any of the colleges you’re planning to apply to, do not expect you to have the essay score.
Nonetheless, you’d better spend extra 50 minutes of your time during the SAT exam, because…
1. You’ll have your back covered
In case there will be some unforeseen circumstances or you’ll just change your mind at the last minute and decide to apply to another school – your application will be valid regardless.
That stratagem may prove to be especially handy if you have an impressive number of colleges on your radar.
It’s cool, if the college you chose doesn’t have this requirement. But to avoid an unnecessary headache in the future, take the essay – view it as some sort of an insurance policy.
2. A good essay score will increase your chances of success
If the college you’re planning to matriculate at expects an influx of candidates for admission, you will want to use every tiniest and smallest advantage that you only have.
It will help you to win the competition if you display an outstanding talent for writing or have admirable English language skills. Especially if you aspire to study journalism, political science, classic English literature (or any other extremely useful liberal arts).
Keep in mind: you must use every opportunity to make your application stronger.
But what’s the loss?
However, every medal has its own reverse and every moon has a dark side.
The SAT essay-writing has three major flaws we feel obligated to inform you of.
1. More stuff to learn
Just to nail the essay, you’ll have to invest more blood, sweat and tears, making your preparation schedule more complex and exhaustive.
If you are running out of breath while cramming all the tasty knowledge and unsure about adding some extra work, you’d better put the essay-section aside. Otherwise, you risk ending up in a state of a nervous breakdown which in turn will destabilize you before taking the SAT.
You can’t risk the entire examination just for the sake of getting an extra score.
2. The examination will become seemingly never-ending
The essay-section will make you spend more time at the exam. Approximately you should expect about 1 extra hour, added to the 3 hours of a typical SAT test.
That’s why, before taking the essay-part, you should make sure that you have plenty of physical stamina, energy and also a developed skill of maintaining cognitive abilities intact for such a lo-o-ong intellectual marathon.
3. The essay isn’t free
This exam-section will pinch your parents’ wallet. Here’s the math: $46 without the essay and $60 with it. It’s not a monstrous difference though. Plus, if you are eligible to any fee waivers the essay will be free of charge to you as well.
To sum it up…
Now you know the advantages and drawbacks of the essay writing during the standardized SAT examination.
Let’s revise them quickly:
- You’ll be safe if you have an extensive list of colleges.
- You’ll be protected from unforeseen circumstances and consequently from retaking the entire SAT.
- You’ll have, though a slight, but still a probable chance to top the competition at the expense of the essay.
- Preparation for the essay writing will take you more time and some extra effort.
- The examination will become longer and more excruciating challenging as a result.
- You’ll have to pay extra 14 dollars, which is blatant extortion.
You should give some careful to the topic before making the final decision. Find out if any of the colleges you’re planning to study at demand an essay.
Some of them require it in a bossily manner, some don’t care in the slightest and others may award you some extra bonus points for a well-crafted, logically structured and eloquent essay.
So take all of these nuances into consideration before making up your mind. Plan your schedule, figure out if you’re ready for another hour of an intense examination, plan your budget – in other words, do all the important preparations in advance.
Search for the official, correct and up-to-the-minute information on the admission procedures of your potential Alma Mater and don’t be too shy to make a personal inquiry by the phone or e-mail if it’s necessary.
Don’t forget that writing the SAT essay will keep you safe from some serious problems in suture - retaking the entire examination is one of them.
And of course top of the luck to you!