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Top-Tier Schools Replace SAT Essays With Graded Papers

In a change in admissions policies announced earlier this year, two Ivy League universities, Princeton and Brown, stated that they’ll require applicants to submit graded papers as part of the 2018-2019 cycle. These new policies closely follow the announcements that the two institutions have dropped the requirement for submission of SAT or ACT essay scores, which were made optional. These two Ivy League institutions join many other elite schools in making such policy changes.

At this time, more than 50 Common Application member colleges, including Amherst, Emerson, Franklin & Marshall, Oberlin, Brandeis, and Sarah Lawrence, require the submission of marked-up graded papers via upload, mail, fax, or email, and evaluate them as part of a student’s application. The Coalition Application has built-in capacity for receiving and storing graded papers online to a student’s application locker for subsequent submission to colleges as needed.

You should become familiar with a college’s admissions requirements by reviewing their website. Many Common Application member colleges note on their websites which application platforms enable students to substitute graded papers for SAT/ACT essays even though the Common Application itself does not have this feature. For example, this year Yale University and the University of Chicago allowed a graded paper to be substituted for an essay only by students using the Coalition Application.

IvySelect advises underclassmen to collect graded papers throughout high school that fit the profile of those required by institutions to which you may eventually apply. The exact requirements for the graded paper to be submitted vary from school to school and are stated in the admissions materials on each school’s website. For example, the requirements for Amherst College are quoted below from

Option B:  Submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year that best represents your writing skills and analytical abilities. We are particularly interested in your ability to construct a tightly reasoned, persuasive argument that calls upon literary, sociological or historical evidence. You should NOT submit a laboratory report, journal entry, creative writing sample, or in-class essay. Also, if you have submitted an analytical essay in response to the “essay topic of your choice” prompt in the Common Application writing section, you should not select Option B. Instead, you should respond to one of the four quotation prompts in Option A.

We advise our students to submit an SAT or ACT essay score along with your graded paper even if you’re given the option to submit one or the other. Since top-tier institutions admit only a small fraction of applicants, the term “optional” shouldn’t be construed as an “either/or” proposition. Do both. Regardless of a school’s official position that essay scores are optional, the failure to submit an essay score may alert an application reviewer to the possibility that your essay scores may have been unsatisfactory.

IvySelect is a college admissions consulting firm that specializes in Ivy League and other top-tier institutions. We provide superior comprehensive and individualized counseling based on years of experience in guiding students to success in meeting their educational goals.

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