Penn's Admissions Office announced Friday that it will no longer consider the essay scores of applicants' writing SATs, a change that will take effect this fall.
“The decision to no longer require the essay portion of the SAT or ACT is one we considered carefully,” Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said in a press release. “Our internal analysis as well as a review of the extensive research provided by the College Board showed that the essay component of the SAT was the least-predictive element of the overall writing section of the SAT.”
Furda explained that the changes in Penn's policy reflect the College Board's imminent redesign of the SAT, which will make the essay portion optional. The new test will be released in March 2016, and until then, the Admissions Office will continue to consider the overall writing score without the essay component. However, the Admissions Office will continue to use writing as an important way to judge applicants.
"Writing is critically important for college success,” Furda said. “We look for evidence of strong writing ability in applicants’ academic records and their self-representation throughout the application. The decision to not require the essay was really a matter of what was best for students.”
The new requirements simplify a test preparation process that can be long, arduous and costly. John McLaughlin, senior associate director for research and analysis, believes that the changes will benefit students from underrepresented groups who may lack access to resources that make the process easier.
“Our research shows that first-generation, Latino and black applicants were two to three times less likely to have complete testing profiles, often due to not having timely counseling and other critical information about the college process," McLaughlin said. "With the new policy, and greater flexibility, these students will now meet our testing requirements.”
"We aim to make a Penn education accessible to the world’s most promising and impactful young scholars,” Furda added.
The Admissions Office has also altered its requirements for SAT subject tests: it recommends all applicants submit two, regardless of whether they took the SAT or the ACT.
"This change reflects our research that shows that, when considered in the full context of the application, the SAT Subject Tests are strong predictors of performance at Penn,” said Yvonne Romero Da Silva, the Director of Admissions. “For many students the Subject Tests allow them to showcase areas of academic strength by subject matter which is something we value.”
Penn is the first of its Ivy League peers to remove the SAT essay requirement for all applicants. Harvard and Dartmouth require two subject tests regardless of whether the applicant took the SAT or the ACT, and Princeton recommends that applicants submit two in either case. Columbia, Yale and Brown do not require any subject tests if the applicant took the ACT with writing, and Cornell's requirements vary by school.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Penn is no longer considering the essay portion of the SAT writing section, not the entire writing section. The DP regrets the error.
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