Applications to Brown University no longer have to take the essay portion of the SAT and ACT. Brown was the last Ivy League university to require the writing assignment after Princeton University dropped the requirement earlier this month.

This decision was taken to encourage applicants from low-income families. It’s common for these students to take advantage of the free SAT testing offered during the school day at nearly 8,000 schools across the country — but the problem is, not all of these free SAT tests also offer the essay writing portion. As a result, students were often dissuaded from applying to universities.

By eliminating the essay writing, Brown — and other universities who have taken a similar measure — hope to attract more talented applicants from low-income families.

“Given the significant growth in free school-day testing, it’s important to enable students from low-income families to take advantage of the tests already offered by their school districts and not place an undue burden on them to go in separately outside of normal school hours,” said Logan Powell, Brown’s dean of admission, in a news release. “Our goal is that for any talented student interested in Brown, the application process is not a deterrent — and we don’t want this test to be a barrier to their application.”

This type of essay tests emerged some 15 years ago and strived to reshape college admission testing, offering a tool to measure a student’s writing potential. However, while the benefits of this test are easy to see, its limitations are also apparent. Wayne Camara, the ACT’s Horace Mann research chair, said the company acknowledges these limitations, adding that he respects the universities’ decision.

“Colleges, universities certainly have freedom to decide what measures they want to use to evaluate candidates for admissions,” he said, adding about 50 percent of students who take the ACT opt for the writing assignment. “We always felt that the essay has benefits and limitations.”

However, you can still write an essay and submit it if you want to — it’s just not a mandatory requirement, but it’s an optional thing you can add to your application. Furthermore, Brown (as well as several other universities) recommend that applicants submit a graded paper from a humanities or social sciences course as part of their application. Students can also self-report standardized test scores, rather than paying to submit official scores but are required to submit official test scores prior to enrollment.

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