Harvard to stop requiring SAT and ACT writing section for Class of 2023 Admissions
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
Harvard College will no longer require students applying to the college to take the SAT and ACT writing section. Harvard College
It just became easier to apply to Harvard College. Harvard announced on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, that it will no longer require students applying to the college to take the writing section of the SAT and ACT standardized exams used for college admissions. Harvard will look for students applying to submit other forms of writing samples with their applications. Now a majority of Ivy League colleges do not require the writing section.
College spokesperson Rachel Dane told the Harvard Crimson in an emailed statement about the policy change. Dane explained, “Harvard will accept the ACT/SAT with or without writing, starting with the Class of 2023, entering in August 2019. This change will add an additional component to the comprehensive outreach of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI), which seeks outstanding students from all economic backgrounds.”
The majority of high school students taking the exam opt for completing the writing portion. More universities, however, are not requiring the essay section. Only 28 schools want the section completed among them three Ivies; Brown, Dartmouth, and Yale. While Ivies, Columbia, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania cease to require the section in 2015.
Among the other elite universities the Massachusetts Institute of Technology does not require it, but Stanford, the most coveted and selective university still wants applicants to take the writing component. Removing the exam element is meant to attract more diverse and economically challenged students. The section is an additional cost as the Crimson reports it costs “$14 for the SAT and $16.50 for the ACT, though fee waivers are available for both.”
When the College Board revised the SAT exam they commented on the optional writing section in their official statement. Even the College Board diminished the importance of the section. The Board expressed, “One single essay historically has not contributed significantly to the overall predictive power of the exam. Feedback from hundreds of member admission officers was divided: some respondents found the essay useful, but many did not. The College Board remains steadfast in its commitment to the importance of analytic writing for all students.”
Removing another hurdle with no doubt increase the number of applicants to the most popular Ivy. This past cycle, Harvard saw a record number of applications with 42,742 students applying. The college credits the increase on their financial aid packages and consideration for more low-income students applying. For the Class of 2022, there was as the Harvard Gazette notes, an “increase of 8.2 percent from the 39,506 applicants for the Class of 2021.”
Harvard’s dean of admissions and financial aid, William R. Fitzsimmons explained how unique their aid program is for students. The dean said, “Harvard’s revolutionary financial aid initiative (HFAI), begun 15 years ago and enhanced since then, led the way again this year in attracting students of excellence from throughout the nation and around the world. Applications have doubled since the inception of the program — and each year more and more students are excited to learn that Harvard is open to outstanding students from all economic backgrounds.”
For the majority, Harvard’s cost of tuition and fees is almost the same as public universities, because of their financial aid program. As the Gazette indicates, “More than half of Harvard students receive need-based financial aid, and the average grant is $53,000.” Students with families that make up to $150,000, pay only “10 percent or less of their annual incomes.” There are even allowances in certain cases for students whose families annual incomes are above that amount.
Students coming from the lower income brackets earning less than $65,000 a year can now access a “start-up” grant of $2,000 to help them as they start their studies. The Gazette pointed out for the Class of 2022, “Preliminary measures of economic diversity among applicants rose, with 75.5 percent applying for aid and 25.9 percent requesting an application fee waiver.”
Removing the writing requirement will only continue the trend of helping students reach their potential and attend Harvard regardless of their economic situation. This year’s applicant pool is the most diverse for the college, 50.3 percent are women, a 18.7 percent increase of African-American students, and 14.9 percent more Asian-American student applications. Harvard will notify the Class of 2022 of their admission decisions on March 28.
Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.