Students applying to be a part of Brown’s class of 2022 are now required to complete the essay and writing portion for the SAT and ACT, respectively. This change, made in early 2017, comes after the Office of Admission’s previous decision to make the essay portion optional for applicants in the class of 2021, The Herald previously reported.
For the class of 2021, applicants were required to send either their SAT score and two SAT subject test scores, or their ACT score. For the class of 2022, applicants are required to send scores for the SAT with essay or the ACT with writing, and are recommended, but not required, to send scores for two SAT subject tests, according to Dean of Admission Logan Powell.
The Office re-evaluates its policies every year, and the decision to change testing requirements was partly made in response to some applicants not scheduling the subject tests in time for application deadlines. “They realize only in December that the previous requirement was for them to take two SAT subject tests,” Powell said. “The next time they’re available is in May.”
As a result, these students were not able to apply to the University, but “they’re applying to our peer institutions,” many of which all share the same application requirements, Powell said. Among the Ivy League and Stanford University, Brown was the only school that required two SAT subject test scores from all its applicants. Now, the University’s policies are aligned with Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford and Dartmouth, Powell said.
With that policy in place, now “students don’t have to do more work to apply to Brown than they to do to apply to Yale, Harvard and Stanford,” Powell said.
But some, like Herald opinions columnist Owen Colby ’20, have argued that extra testing requirements can exclude students from low-income backgrounds.
Both the SAT and ACT are more expensive if taken with the additional writing portions. The Admission Office kept this price difference in mind when changing its policies, Powell said. For applicants with financial need, the College Board offers fee waivers, he added.
Cassandra T-Pederson ’21, who submitted the ACT with writing when applying to the University, does not see this new policy as a big change. But she also does not think the writing portion of a standardized test is as useful as other portions of the application. “I can see where the University is coming from in terms of wanting to get a gauge on the writing skills of applicants,” T-Pederson said. “Perhaps looking more at their English grades and their essays that they’re already submitting … might be a better gauge” of writing skills than a section of a standardized test, she added.
The essay portion is meant to show if students “can craft strong, logical, evidence-based arguments,” Powell said. The Office wants to “see how the scores line up with (its) sense of the student’s writing ability.”
Claire Kim-Narita ’21, who submitted her ACT score with writing, thinks requiring writing scores is beneficial. “It’s nice to provide the extra dimension,” Kim-Narita said. “I think that a lot of people learned how to take the multiple choice test rather than learn the information. For the writing, there isn’t a way to fake writing — you have to know some sort of skills in order to do well on the test.”
When it comes time to re-evaluate admission policies again, “we may adjust our policy accordingly,” Powell said.