The Role Of The ACT® Writing Section In College Admissions

Close up of high school student researching which colleges require the ACT writing section
ACT® Writing scores can play an significant role in your college admissions. Find out why it is crucial and which colleges require ACT Writing in this guide.
Close up of high school student researching which colleges require the ACT writing section
Quick Links

The ACT® Writing section is an optional component of the ACT. Students are provided a prompt regarding a current issue and various points of view regarding that prompt. They must then examine the different perspectives, formulate their own, and write a cohesive and organized essay. But if the ACT is optional, why take it? This article covers which colleges require the ACT Writing section and provides insights that will help you decide whether taking it is the right decision for you. 

Does the ACT Writing Matter?

If the admission requirements of your desired college(s) require an ACT writing score, then it matters. However, even if it isn’t required, it may make your application more competitive. The ACT Writing score indicates your ability to write clearly and concisely, and a good score may give your application an advantage over one without a writing score (all things being equal). This advantage may be more important if you’re majoring in the humanities, as it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your academic potential and linguistic skill.

Check your desired college(s) admission requirements as there are many across the U.S. that require an ACT Writing score and ELA score. Furthermore, the writing section is mandated in some states, especially those that require you to take the ACT as part of your high school graduation.

How colleges use ACT Writing scores

Colleges may use your ACT Writing score in three ways:

As part of college admission requirements

Some colleges use ACT Writing scores to evaluate a student's writing, analytical, and critical thinking skills.

As a supplementary score to boost your college application

A high ACT Writing score may give you an advantage over those who took only the mandated sections of the ACT, especially if you plan on majoring in the humanities.

Course placement and academic advising

An ACT Writing score provides a benchmark that can help admissions officers gauge the appropriate course level for new students.

Scholarship programs may require an ACT Writing score as part of their selection process. Check out our ACT Writing tips if you’re considering taking this section.

Which Colleges Require ACT Writing?

In response to the pandemic, most U.S. colleges, including Stanford and Harvard, have adopted the “test-optional” policy for the 2022-23 admission cycles. Colleges like Pomona and Tufts have even extended this policy into 2024. To date, only two colleges require an ACT Writing Test score for admission:

Do Ivy League schools require ACT Writing?

As of February 2023, the eight Ivy League schools (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale) do not require you to submit your ACT Writing scores. Additionally, all of these schools have declared themselves as test-optional for the 2022–23 admission cycles.

Why are some colleges still accepting the ACT Writing essay?

Some colleges still require the ACT Writing section as a tool to evaluate a student’s academic potential, as writing requires students to exercise reason, think critically, develop their ideas, and persuade an audience. 

Does the requirement for the ACT Writing test vary by state or region?

At the high school level, ACT Writing test requirements vary by state. 

Are there any alternative tests or assessments that can be used instead of the ACT Writing test at colleges that require it?

The SAT’s optional essay section is an alternative to the ACT Writing Test.

Study smarter with UWorld and focus on the areas where you need to improve.
Reporting in UWorld that breaks down the overall ACT score
Follow Us For Daily Video Tips
View More...

Latest From the UWorld CollegePrep Blog

Scroll to Top