We’ve had several parents ask whether their students need to do the Essay. ACT and SAT both make it optional and most colleges do not require the Essay. Here’s why doing the Essay is a must for all students serious about improving their admissions chances.*
  1. It’s required at SOME colleges.
  2. It’s desired by SOME colleges (which pretty much means required).
  3. It’s a possible “tip” even at colleges that do not request Essay scores.

The Essay takes the shortest time to coach. Ivy Bound’s tutors typically need just 2 – 4 hours to cover the tips, build good writing skills and help students game-plan for Test Day. Students also send Ivy Bound evaluators up to six essays and receive individualized evaluations by email. The evaluations include a score and comments; they occasionally include a prescription for making the next essay better.

Relatively High Reward for a Short Time Investment

Since so few students study for the Essay, your moderate diligence is likely to pay off. Students who study minimally for the Essay are likely to get a score that brings down their test average. Students who study adequately are likely to meet their average and possibly even raise their average with a really high Essay score. Yes, a low score could dilute your high multiple choice score, but a student who studies enough to get a high multiple choice score is likely to get an equally high (or close) Essay score. The problem is NO score. At colleges that require the Essay, an applicant who lacks an Essay score will not be considered.

What About Taking the Essay On a Later Date?

Skipping the Essay on your first test and doing the Essay on a later test is allowed. However, we do not recommend this. Since study time for the Essay is low, we want students to write the Essay on the same day they are trying to crush the multiple choice. Nailing the multiple choice and not doing the Essay would be sad. You could be DONE, but now you’ll still have to sit for another complete test a few months later, just to do the Essay that you could have wrapped up.

What About Taking the Essay Early?

If you write the Essay and get a score that you don’t think you could ever beat, then taking the multiple choice without the Essay the next time might be wise. Almost all colleges that demand the Essay also “superscore”(meaning they combine the best Essay score with the best multiple choice scores an applicant submits). If all your target colleges superscore, then your one great Essay score holds up. But, if even one target college does not superscore, then you need to write the Essay each time.

Test Day Advice

The Essay is given at the end of both the SAT and ACT. The majority of students will leave, even some who signed up to do the Essay but now want to clear out. Do NOT join them. You can work diligently for another 45 – 50 minutes and thus, give yourself a meaningful credential for college.

*There are some students, typically seniors, who are only trying to improve their SAT/ACT scores for scholarship purposes, not admissions. They may be already accepted to a desirable college and the SAT/ACT is needed for scholarships or the financial aid office. The financial aid offices are probably not influenced by the Essay score, thus they do have a low likelihood of referencing the Essay score, good or bad. Still, since good is more likely than bad, even for financial decisions that might still reference your Essay, it makes sense to take it and get a good score than to omit it.