Stanford to stop requiring ACT/SAT essay scores

July 7, 2018, 12:43 p.m.

On Thursday, Washington Post reported that, beginning in fall 2019, Stanford and Princeton will no longer require applicants to submit an ACT or SAT essay score. They join the ranks of Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and University of San Diego in waiving the requirement this year.

University spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote in an email to The Daily that an ACT or SAT essay score is still “strongly recommended,” despite no longer being required.

“Coursework (such as accelerated honors, AP, IB, and writing courses) will receive more scrutiny and either the required SAT or ACT will be the focus,” Miranda wrote. “And, along with faculty, [the office of admissions] will look at alternatives to promote good writing.”

Applying to Stanford next year will be cheaper for students who choose not to fulfill the optional ACT/SAT portion of the application. Taking the SAT essay raises the total cost of the exam by up to $17, whereas taking the ACT essay raises the total cost by up to $16.50. Of the states and individual secondary schools that pay for their students to take the ACT or SAT, not all pay for the essay portion. Students at these secondary schools can now theoretically take one free exam and be eligible to apply to Stanford.

Stanford received total 47,450 applications, its most ever, for the the Class of 2022, and the University admitted 2,040 students. The resulting acceptance rate of 4.3 percent is the lowest in Stanford’s history, down from 4.65 percent for the Class of 2021. Additionally, 18.3 percent of Class of 2022 admits are first-generation college students, the highest proportion in Stanford’s history.

“This change makes Stanford more accessible to students who choose to apply to the university,” Miranda wrote. “The essay/writing section can be a barrier to under-resourced applicants who are unable to take that portion of the SAT or ACT either due to the higher cost or because some states do not give a version of those tests that includes that section.”

Although it also removed its ACT/SAT essay requirement, Princeton will now require all applicants to submit a graded writing sample from high school. 

Other high-ranking universities gave up the standardized testing requirement years ago. In 2015, Columbia, Cornell and Penn announced they would waive the essay requirement. Last month, University of Chicago waived its ACT/SAT testing requirement entirely.

The College Board provides a guide to different universities’ SAT essay policies online. According to the Princeton Review, 22 universities, including Duke and the UC System, still require an ACT or SAT essay.

Update: Brown, the last Ivy League to require an ACT or SAT essay score, announced on July 10 that it would no longer require applicants to take either of the essays.


Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’


This post has been updated to reflect that Brown no longer requires the essay portion of the ACT or SAT.


A previous version of this article misnamed University of San Diego as UC San Diego. The Daily regrets this error.

Holden Foreman '21 was the Vol. 258-59 chief technology officer. Holden was president and editor-in-chief in Vol. 257, executive editor (vice president) in Vol. 256, managing editor of news in Vol. 254 and student business director in Vol. 255.

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