We are an independent, solution-oriented think tank at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy.Learn More.

Essay Content is Strongly Related to Household Income and SAT Scores

While there is a wealth of research connecting students’ household income to their scores on standardized college admissions tests, there is little analysis of the connection to written essays typically required in applications to selective U.S. colleges and universities. 

In a recent paper from the Center for Education Policy Analysis, researchers from Stanford University and Mount Holyoke College measured the relationship between application essay content, reported household income, and SAT scores for 240,000 admissions essays submitted by 60,000 applicants to the University of California in November 2016. After quantifying essay content, they found that essays have a stronger correlation to household income than SAT scores do. 

This study emphasizes the need to find more equitable approaches to college admissions. While standardized tests have been roundly criticized as favoring more affluent students, essays share the same bias.

-By Brooke LePage