This blog is about paying for college; why am I writing about changes to the SAT? Simple: A strong performance on the SAT (or ACT) is one of the best ways to pick up additional merit aid dollars, so it’s vital that your student be prepared for it.

The SAT essay has been redesigned for the test beginning March 2016. The College Board’s website details the changes, and objectives in making the changes, here. One of the biggest changes: the essay is no longer required as part of the exam. However, many schools do require it and one might reasonably expect additional schools to begin requiring it. Because it’s not required, your student will need to sign up for the essay in addition to signing up for the regular SAT exam if they choose to take it.

A list of college policies on the new SAT essay is here. If your school of choice is among those that require or recommend the essay, make sure that you include that in your test prep. It’s clear from the list that many schools have not made up their mind about the essay so be sure to confirm your desired schools’ policies in advance.