You’ve just signed up for the ACT. But did you know that there is an optional writing test for the ACT? Do you know if your dream schools require it or recommend it?
Check out our regularly updated list of schools to find out if the Writing ACT is worth your time and money. Then learn how you're going to ace the ACT Writing section.
What Is the ACT Writing Test?
The ACT Writing test is an optional essay test you can take immediately after the other sections of the ACT. It costs an additional $16.50 and 40 minutes of your time. It's available to take after the ACT on all seven national testing dates in the USA. Keep in mind when deciding to take it or not that you cannot just take the ACT Writing test on its own—you can only take it while suitably exhausted after taking all the other sections of the ACT!
The writing test is meant to measure the writing skills that you should have learned in your English classes in high school. It also claims to be a measure of how you might do in entry-level composition classes in college.
So, what exactly is the test like? First, you will be given a prompt that tells you about an issue. You will also be presented with three possible points of view on said topic, and will be asked to write an essay about your point of view. You can either borrow and elaborate upon one of the ones that are given, or offer up a fourth viewpoint. Sound tough? See this article for some top ACT essay strategies.
Your ACT Writing score (which is out of 12 points) is not part of your composite score, which will still consist only of your English, Math, Reading, and Science subscores. Instead, your essay subscore will be added to your English and Reading scores and averaged for a combined English/Language Arts score. For a full breakdown on how the ACT is graded, read this guide.
Why Do Schools Require ACT Writing?
You may be surprised to learn that not all schools require the ACT Writing test! But those that do think they have a pretty good reason. These schools think that your essay score, combined with your English and Reading ACT scores, can help them understand your grasp of English and your ability to produce a sample of writing under pressure.
This is quite a different skill compared to what they see when you submit your personal statement and essays in your application. They are assuming that those have been proofread by 50 of your closest friends and family members, and that they have been heavily edited and reviewed for hours on end. So while your personal statement is more like a heavily photoshopped selfie in flattering lighting, ACT Writing is like a candid snapshot of your writing abilities.
Specifically, these schools want to get a better idea of your ability to defend a point of view and your reasoning skills. Can you write logically and coherently? Can you use proper sentence structure without Word telling you what you have done wrong? The Writing Test is your chance to prove all those skills.
And, apart from your application, the combined English/Language Arts ACT score has another use for many schools. They may actually use your score on this test to help place you into different levels of English classes—so it can potentially save you the trouble of taking a placement test once you arrive at college in the fall!
What Kind of Colleges Require ACT Writing?
The answers may surprise you — read on to learn more about which schools require the Writing section of the ACT.
Not All Top Schools Require It!
Top schools that do not require the ACT Writing test include Columbia, Penn, and Cornell.
However, other elite schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, CalTech, Brown, and Dartmouth all require it. Top public colleges like UC's, the University of Michigan, and the University of Texas require it as well. So if you are aiming high, you may want to take ACT Writing!
Do Top Journalism, Humanities, and English Programs Require ACT Writing?
Some do, but there are a few notable exceptions. Pepperdine and George Washington University, which are known as great journalism schools, recommend but do not require it.
Georgetown and the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts offer great English degrees and do not require the ACT with Writing.
Hamilton College in New York, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Iowa, and Colorado College all have great writing programs and do not require the Writing ACT.
Several well-known, smaller liberal arts colleges do not require (although they may recommend) the ACT with Writing, including Amherst, Bowdoin, Pomona, Haverford, and Davidson College. And the University of Chicago is great all around for humanities, and they do not require it.
Do Top Technical/Math/Science Schools Require ACT Writing?
Despite what you might expect, a number of the top tech/math/science schools do require the ACT Writing — including CalTech and the University of Michigan.
Yes, tech schools also care about your writing ability.
Why Should You Care?
Below we have broken down by state and territory every college that either requires or recommends the ACT Plus Writing.
Keep in mind that although you don't have to take the ACT with Writing unless you want to apply to a college on the list below, you still have the option to.
You can usually submit the Writing test to colleges, even if they do not require it. By doing so, you allow them to consider your essay along with the rest of your application. Some will choose to treat ACT Writing as equally important to the other sections, while others will give it less weight.
But the bottom line is, a strong writing score will almost always help you out. If you opt to take the test and score well on it, it could be a great way to enhance your application and give you an edge!
Fortunately, this is a real possibility because just like every other part of the ACT, the essay can be taught so that you can excel on it. So if you are thinking about taking the ACT Plus Writing, either because you have to or if you just want that extra bright point in your application, it is definitely worth your time to study and practice. See this guide for step-by-step instructions on how to master the ACT essay.
Another point: you may change your mind about where you want to apply, and that is another reason it's a good idea to take the ACT Plus Writing. If your plans change, you don't want to have to re-take the whole test just because you didn't think ahead!
Full List of Colleges That Require ACT Writing
Where are your dream schools on the list?
This list of 4-year universities is broken down by state. The first colleges in each section are those that require the Writing ACT, followed by those that recommend it. "Recommend" means that the college does not require it, but that scoring well will improve the strength of your application and help you reach equal footing with other applicants who do take it.
To find your favorite schools, either scroll down to the state in which they're located, or use Ctrl+F to type in the school name to see if it shows up.
Keep in mind that school requirements frequently change (especially with the recent rise in test-optional admissions), so it's always a good idea to check with individual universities before you apply.
- Alabama A&M University
- Alabama State University
- Auburn University
- Miles College
- Oakwood University
- Spring Hill College
- Troy University
- Alaska Pacific University
- University of Alaska Fairbanks
- Grand Canyon University
- University of Arizona
Grand Canyon University, Arizona
- California Institute of Technology (CalTech)
- Chapman University
- Claremont McKenna College
- Golden State Baptist College
- Harvey Mudd College
- Scripps College
- Soka University of America
- Stanford University
- UC Berkeley
- UC Davis
- UC Irvine
- UC Los Angeles
- UC Merced
- UC Riverside
- UC San Diego
- UC Santa Barbara
- UC Santa Cruz
- University of La Verne
- University of San Diego
- Westmont College
University of California at Berkeley
- California Christian College
- California Lutheran University
- California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo
- California State University - Bakersfield
- California State University - Northridge
- Cogswell Polytechnical College
- Columbia College Hollywood
- Dominican University of California
- Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising - Los Angeles
- Fresno Pacific University
- Holy Names University
- Loyola Marymount University
- Mills College
- New School of Architecture & Design
- Notre Dame de Namur University
- Oak Valley College
- Occidental College
- Pepperdine University
- Point Loma Nazarene University
- Pomona College
- Providence Christian College
- San Diego Christian College
- San Francisco Art Institute
- Simpson University
- St. Katherine College
- Thomas Aquinas College
- University of Northern California
- University of Redlands
- Whittier College
- William Jessup University
Pepperdine University wins for most dramatic location
- Art Institute of Colorado
- Colorado School of Mines
- Johnson & Wales University
- Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design
- United States Coast Guard Academy
- Yale University
- Central Connecticut State University
- Eastern Connecticut State University
- Lincoln College of New England
- New England Baptist College
- Post University
- Quinnipiac University
- Trinity College - Connecticut
- University of Bridgeport
- Gallaudet University
- George Washington University
- Trinity University
- University of the District of Columbia
American University doesn't require the ACT Writing
- Florida A&M University
- Florida Atlantic University
- Florida International University
- Trinity Baptist College
- University of Miami
- Ave Maria University
- Bethune-Cookman University
- College of Central Florida
- Embry-Riddle Aueronautical University - Florida
- Emmaus Baptist College
- Florida Baptist College - Tampa
- Florida College
- Florida State University
- Hobe Sound Bible College
- Johnson & Wales University - North Miami
- Keiser University - Pembroke Pines
- Naaleh College
- Palm Beach Atlantic University
- Reformation Bible College
- Rollins College
- Saint Leo University
- Trinity College of Florida
- University of Tampa
- University of West Florida
- Webber International University
- Berry College
- Georgia Southern University
- Life University
- Morris Brown College
- Armstrong State University
- Covenant College
- Emmanuel College - Georgia
- Emory University
- Fort Valley State University
- Georgia College and State University
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)
- Morehouse College
- Oglethorpe University
- Toccoa Falls College
- University of West Georgia
- Wesleyan College (Georgia)
- University of Hawaii at Manoa
- Hawaii Pacific University
- Morthland College
- St. Joseph College Seminary
- Benedictine University
- Christian Life College
- Columbia College Chicago
- DanEL Christian College
- East-West University
- Eastern Illinois University
- Greenville College
- Illinois College
- Illinois Institute of Technology
- Illinois State University
- Lake Forest College
- Lincoln Christian University
- Methodist College of Nursing
- Northwestern University
- Northern Illinois University
- Olivet Nazarene University
- Robert Morris University
- Southern Illinois University - Carbondale
- University of Illinois - Chicago
- VanderCook College of Music
View of the Loop from University of Illinois Chicago campus
- Fairhaven College
- University of Evansville
- American Conservatory of Music
- Anderson University - Indiana
- Art Institute of Indianapolis
- Ball State University
- Crossroads Bible College
- Franklin College
- Holy Cross College
- Huntington University
- Indiana State University
- Indiana University Bloomington
- Indiana University East
- Indiana University Northwest
- Indiana University South Bend
- Indiana University Southeast
- Indiana University - Purdue University at Columbus
- Indiana University - Purdue University at Indianapolis
- Indiana Wesleyan University
- Marian University - Indiana
- Purdue University
- Purdue University - North Central
- Taylor University
- Union Bible College
- University of Indianapolis
- University of Notre Dame
- University of Southern Indiana
- Valparaiso University
- Wabash College
University of Notre Dame
- Ashford University
- Divine Word College
- Faith Baptist Bible College
- Grand View University
- Iowa Wesleyan College
- Mercy College of Health Sciences
- Morningside College
- Barclay College
- Haskell Indian Nations University
- Kansas City College and Bible School
- McPherson College
- University of Saint Mary
- Campellsville University
- Centre College
- Northern Kentucky University
- Louisiana State University A&M - Baton Rouge
- Loyola University New Orleans
- Tulane University
You never know where Mike the Tiger is going to show up at LSU. Derek Jensen/Flickr
- Husson University
- Maine Maritime Academy
- University of Maine at Fort Kent
- University of Maine
- University of New England
- University of Southern Maine
- Washington Adventist University
- Antietam Bible College
- Maryland Institute College of Art
- Atlantic Union College
- Harvard College
- Olin College of Engineering
- Springfield College - MA
- Wellesley College
- Amherst College
- Bard College at Simon’s Rock
- Bay Path University
- Becker College
- Bridgewater State University
- Elms College
- Endicott College
- Gordon College - Massachusetts
- Lesley University
- Massachusetts College of Pharmacology and Health Sciences
- Massachusetts College of Art & Design
- Massachusetts Maritime Academy
- Mount Ida College
- Northpoint Bible College
- Regis College
- Simmons College
- UMass Amherst
- UMass Boston
- Wentworth Institute of Technology
- College for Creative Studies
- Michigan State University
- University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
- Andrews University
- Baker College Online
- Baker College at Allen Park
- Central Michigan University
- Cleary University
- Compass College of Cinematic Arts
- Concordia University - Ann Arbor
- Cornerstone University
- Grace Baptist College
- Grace Bible College
- Grand Valley State University
- Great Lakes Christian College
- Madonna University
- Marygrove College
- Sacred Heart Major Seminary
- Spring Arbor University
- University of Michigan - Flint
- University of Minnesota - Rochester
- Augsburg College
- Bethany Lutheran College
- College of Saint Benedict
- Concordia College - Moorhead
- Gustavus Adolphus College
- Hamline University
- Martin Luther College
- McNally Smith College of Music
- Saint John’s University
- St Olaf College
- University of Minnesota - Morris
- University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
- University of Northwestern - St Paul
- College of the Ozarks
- Urshan College
- Baptist Bible College
- Drury University
- Hickey College
- Missouri Baptist University
- St Louis Christian College
- Webster University
- William Jewell College
- University of Montana Western
- Carroll College
- Montana State University - Bozeman
- Montana Tech of the University of Montana
- University of Great Falls
- University of Montana
- Yellowstone Christian College
University of Montana Western wins second most dramatic campus location
- Saint Gregory the Great Seminary
- Summit Christian College
- Union College - Nebraska
- York College - Nebraska
- Art Institute of Las Vegas
- Western Nevada Community College
- Dartmouth College
- University of New Hampshire
- Keene State College
- New Hampshire Institute of Art
- Northeast Catholic College
- Plymouth State University
- Saint Anselm College
- Caldwell College
- Princeton University
- Westminster Choir College of Rider University
- Centenary College
- Rider University
- Rutgers - State University of New Jersey
- University of New Mexico
- University of the Southwest
- CUNY - John Jay College of Criminal Justice
- Concordia College - New York
- Five Towns College
- LIM College
- List College - Jewish Theological Seminary
- Molloy College
- Pratt Institute
- SUNY College at Old Westbury
- SUNY Maritime College
- Syracuse University
- US Military Academy
- University at Buffalo - SUNY
- Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
- Barnard College
- Binghamton University - SUNY
- CUNY - Medgar Evers College
- Canisius College
- College of Mount Saint Vincent
- College of New Rochelle
- Cooper Union
- Culinary Institute of America
- Dominican College
- Eugene Lang College, New School of Liberal Arts
- Farmingdale State College
- Fordham University
- Globe Institute of Technology
- Hobart and William Smith Colleges
- Iona College
- King's College, The
- Manhattanville College
- Mercy College - New York
- Morrisville State College
- Parsons The New School for Design
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- Rochester Institute of Technology
- St John’s University
- SUNY College at Buffalo
- Stony Brook University - SUNY
- Touro College
- Vassar College
- Webb Institute of Naval Architecture
- Wells College
- Duke University
- Elizabeth City State University
- Fayetteville State University
- North Carolina Central University
- Queens University of Charlotte
- University of North Carolina at Greensboro
- University of North Carolina at Wilmington
The chapel at Duke University
- Barber-Scotia College
- Bennett College
- Brevard University
- Chowan University
- Davidson College
- Grace Baptist Bible College
- Johnson & Wales University - Charlotte
- Meredith College
- North Carolina State University at Raleigh
- North Carolina Wesleyan College
- Salem College - North Carolina
- University of North Carolina at Pembroke
- Western Carolina University
- Winston-Salem State University
- Dickinson State University
- Mayville State University
- Trinity Bible College
- God’s Bible School and College
- Lake Erie College
- Allegheny Wesleyan College
- Bowling Green State University
- Cedarville University
- Chamberlain College of Nursing
- Cleveland Institute of Music
- College of Wooster
- Heidelberg University
- John Carroll University
- Kent State University - Salem
- Kent State University - Stark
- Kent State University - Trumbull
- Kettering College of Medical Arts
- Miami University - Middletown
- Mount St Joseph University
- Ohio University - Athens
- Ohio Wesleyan University
- South University - Cleveland
- Tiffin University
- University of Rio Grande
- Urbana University
- Ursuline College
- Walsh University
- Wilberforce University
- Youngstown State University
- Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College
- Oklahoma Wesleyan University
- Saint Gregory’s University
- Spartan School of Aeronautics
I wonder if you can still send this in?
- Portland State University
- Western Oregon University (for students with below a 3.0 GPA)
- Delaware Valley College
- University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
- Villanova University
- York College of Pennsylvania
- Allegheny College
- Arcadia University
- Bryn Athyn College
- Bryn Mawr College
- Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
- Delaware Valley University
- Elizabethtown College
- Gettysburg College
- Gwynedd Mercy University
- Keystone College
- Lafayette College
- Lancaster Bible College
- Lehigh University
- Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania
- Lycoming College
- Messiah College
- Millersville University of Pennsylvania
- Muhlenberg College
- Rosemont College
- Saint Francis University
- Seton Hill University
- Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
- Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
- Temple University
- University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg
- Waynesburg University
May Day at Bryn Mawr
- Brown University
- Rhode Island College
- Rhode Island School of Design
- Johnson & Wales University
- University of South Carolina - Columbia
- Wofford College
- American College of the Building Arts
- Charleston Southern University
- Coastal Carolina University
- College of Charleston
- Furman University
- Lander University
- Newberry College
- North Greenville University
- South Carolina State University
- Southern Methodist College
- University of South Carolina - Aiken
- Voorhees College
- Black Hills State University
- National American University
- Bethel University
- Bryan College
- Carson-Newman University
- Cumberland University
- Fisk University
- Lincoln Memorial University
- Lipscomb University
- Martin Methodist College
- Maryville College
- Memphis College of Art
- Mid-South Christian College
- O’More College of Design
- Tennessee State University
- University of the South
- Hardin-Simmons University
- Midwestern State University
- Paul Quinn College
- Southwest School of Art
- St. Edward’s University
- Stephen F Austin State University
- Tarleton State University
- University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
- University of North Texas
- University of St. Thomas - Texas
- University of Texas at Austin
- University of Texas at Dallas
- Abilene Christian University
- Arlington Baptist College
- Art Institute of Houston
- Austin College
- Baylor University
- Dallas Christian College
- Huston-Tillotson University
- Jarvis Christian College
- McMurry University
- Messenger College
- Mexican American Catholic College
- North American College
- Schreiner University
- Southwestern Assemblies of God University
- Texas A&M International University
- Texas A&M University - Main Campus
- Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi
- Texas Independent Baptist School
- Texas Southern University
- Texas State University
- University of Houston - Main Campus
- University of Houston - Victoria
- University of Incarnate Word
- University of Texas at San Antonio
- University of Texas at Tyler
- Brigham Young University
- George Wythe University
- Neumont University
- Westminster College
- College of Saint Joseph
- Johnson State College
- Middlebury College
- Norwich University
- Saint Michael’s College
- Vermont Technical College
- Emory and Henry College
- Hollins University
- Old Dominion University
- Radford University
- Randolph College
- Randolph-Macon College
- University of Mary Washington
- University of Virginia
- Washington and Lee University
- University of Washington Tacoma
- Art Institute of Seattle
- DigiPen Institute of Technology
- Northwest University
- Saint Martin’s University
- Seattle Pacific University
- Seattle University
- University of Puget Sound
- University of Washington (Seattle)
- University of Washington Bothell
- Bluefield State College
- Salem International University
- West Virginia State University
- West Virginia University Institute of Technology
Very dramatic, West Virginia.
- Cardinal Stritch University
- Carroll University
- Marquette University
- Saint Norbert College
- Silver Lake College
- University of the Virgin Islands
Now that you know whether you need to take ACT Writing, make sure you do well. Learn the prompts that ACT Writing tests, 15 strategies to improve your ACT Writing score, and how to get a 12 on the essay.
Ready to work for a killer ACT English/Language Arts Score? Make sure to remind yourself of what’s actually tested on ACT English and on ACT Reading.
For top strategies for scoring a 36 on ACT English, check out this article.
Don’t forget the rest of the test—here are tips for getting a perfect SAT score, by a 36 Full Scorer.
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If you want to advance your skills and education but are unsure if a traditional four-year college is for you, you may want to consider a trade school. Attending a trade school can be an excellent option for those who want to get the necessary training to secure a good job quickly.
In this article, I'll explain the benefits and potential disadvantages of trade schools. Also, I'll thoroughly describe the differences between trade schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges.
What Is a Trade School?
A trade school, sometimes referred to as a vocational school, technical school, or vocational college, is a post-secondary institution that’s designed to give students the technical skills to prepare them for a specific occupation. Examples of trade schools include UEI, American Career College, and ITT Technical Institute. Trade schools can be public or private, but many are for-profit businesses.
At a trade school, you can get a degree in fields like information technology, nursing and health sciences, automotive technician training, and medical assisting. Program lengths vary, but typically, they can range from anywhere from eight months to two years.
Unlike a four-year college, you don’t graduate from a trade school with a bachelor’s degree. Usually, upon completion of the program, you'll receive a diploma or trade certificate acknowledging you successfully finished. For some programs you can earn an associate degree, which is the degree you get from a two-year college.
What Can You Do With a Degree From a Trade School?
After completing a trade school program, you can get a job directly related to the field you studied in your vocational school program. For example, once you complete a dental assisting program, you can get a job as a dental assistant. If you complete a program in plumbing, you can get a position as a plumber. Again, these schools are designed to prepare you for a job in a specific field.
Here are some of the jobs you can do with a degree from a trade school:
- Dental hygienist
- Graphic Designer
- Computer technician
- Aircraft mechanic
- Marine mechanic
- Construction manager
- Massage therapist
- Pharmacy technician
The Differences Between Trade Schools, Community Colleges, and Universities
When you're deciding your path, it's important that you know the major differences between trade schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges. I'll outline the biggest differences between each type of school for you here.
Trade school programs are the shortest; they run from less than a year to up to two years. As opposed to community colleges and four-year colleges, many trade schools are for-profit businesses. The focus of trade schools is on giving students hands-on experience directly related to a specific job. At the end of a program, you can get a diploma or certificate, prepare for a licensing exam, or become an apprentice or journeyman in a skilled trade. Admission is mostly open enrollment.
There's really no extracurricular involvement or on-campus culture at trade schools. Students just attend their classes and get their professional training.
Community colleges award associate degrees at the end of two years. Most community colleges are public, but there are private ones, which are usually referred to as junior colleges. Like trade schools, some community colleges give diplomas or certificates to students who complete a program to practice in a specific field like cosmetology or nursing. Admission is mostly open enrollment: high school graduates or students 18 or older can attend.
Community colleges tend to be the cheapest of all the college options. The average tuition and fees for a year at a public two-year college for in-district students is $3,347, and the average at a public four-year college for in-state students is $9,139. The average cost to complete a trade school degree (1-2 years) is $33,000.
Socially, there are more options for students at community colleges than there are for students at trade schools. However, there are fewer options compared to students at four-year colleges. Community colleges often have sports teams, clubs, and on-campus residents, but many community college students commute and are only at school for their classes.
Also, you have the option of transferring from a two-year community college to a four-year college. Many students start at a community college and then transfer to get a four-year college degree. If you take this option, make sure the courses you take are transferable and that you're doing the necessary work to make yourself eligible to transfer.
Bronx Community College
Four-year colleges can be public or private, and the vast majority are non-profit.
After successfully finishing a program at a four-year college, you get a bachelor's degree. This is the most versatile and highest degree you can get compared to degrees at trade schools and community colleges. On average, those with bachelor's degrees make more money than those with associate degrees or trade school diplomas. Furthermore, bachelor's degrees are required to go on to graduate school or professional schools like law school, medical school, or dental school.
Even though four-year colleges do have pre-professional majors and programs, the focus is more on acquiring academic knowledge.
Socially, four-year colleges offer the most opportunities for students. There are varsity sports, intramural sports, campus clubs, fraternities, sororities, guest speakers, campus traditions, and a greater percentage of students who live on or near campus.
Benefits of Attending a Trade School Over a Four-Year College
Going to a trade school does offer some undeniable benefits.
The most obvious benefit of going to a trade school is that trade schools require less time to complete. Almost all trade school programs can be finished in less than two years. Meanwhile, getting a degree from a community college normally takes two years, and getting a traditional four-year college degree usually takes at least four years to complete, and many students need a fifth or sixth year to get their degrees.
Less time in school allows you to get more job experience and progress faster in your career. Furthermore, if you're not in school, you won't have to pay for those additional years of college tuition and may have to take out fewer student loans.
Another advantage of trade schools is the hands-on preparation you’ll receive for a specific job. Many four-year colleges and programs at four-year colleges focus more on scholarly learning than on job preparation. For example, if you graduate with a degree in philosophy or theater, you may have difficulty finding a job that’s directly related to your major. At a trade school, the focus is on learning the skills that you’ll be using in your job when you graduate.
Similarly, because the goal at a trade school is to acquire the skills for a certain job, it may be easier to initially find a job in that field. Also, many trade school programs are geared toward fields in which there is high demand for workers.
Additionally, there are lucrative jobs you can get with a trade school degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for dental hygienists was $72,330 in 2015. Meanwhile, the median starting salary for four-year college graduates was $50,651 for students from the class of 2015.
Finally, if you go to a trade school, you don’t have to stress about the traditional college application process. Because the application requirements are much less strict at a trade school, if you decide to go to one, you won’t have to spend the time or money associated with four-year college applications. You won't have to take the SAT/ACT. You won’t have to stress about your grades. You won’t have to worry about joining clubs just to enhance your college applications.
A trade school may be a good idea for you.
Disadvantages of Attending a Trade School
While trade schools do offer some benefits, there are significant drawbacks, especially when compared to traditional 4-year colleges.
Even though there are financial benefits to going to a trade school, college graduates, on average, make more money than trade school grads. According to College Scorecard, the salary after attending, which is the median income for students receiving federal financial aid 10 years after graduating, for American Career College in Los Angeles is $29,800. Comparatively, the salary after attending for UCLA is $59,200. Even after accounting for the additional time spent in school, the average UCLA graduate is going to come out well ahead financially in the long run.
Also, four-year colleges tend to offer more generous financial aid. After financial aid, the average cost for ITT Tech in Corona, California is $22,631. Meanwhile, the average cost for an in-state student at CSU Long Beach, a California State University, is $9,699.
Furthermore, if you go to a trade school, you’ll miss out on the traditional college experience. At trade schools, there’s no real on-campus culture, and there's limited social interaction. At a four-year college, you can join clubs, attend campus parties, go to sporting events, join Greek life, and live in dorms with your peers. For many people, the college experience gives them wonderful memories and helps them form long-lasting friendships.
Much of the learning you do at a traditional college takes place outside of the classroom. You can attend lectures by famous politicians and prominent academics, and you're able to socially interact with students from all over the world.
At a trade school, the focus is on the job preparation you receive inside the classroom, and that's basically the extent of your education.
Additionally, traditional colleges offer a more broad, well-rounded education. Again, at a trade school, the education you receive is almost exclusively focused on preparing you for a specific job. At a traditional college, you’ll have general education requirements that will expose you to a variety of different subjects, and even in many majors, you’ll learn about a wide variety of topics.
In college, I was an American Studies major, which is an interdisciplinary major that focuses on the United States. I was able to take classes in sociology, education, religion, history, psychology, and political science that counted towards my degree. Outside of my major, I was able to take classes in numerous subjects like human biology, anthropology, statistics, and Spanish.
Traditional colleges pride themselves on not just preparing you for a specific job, but also teaching you critical thinking skills and making you an informed citizen who will be able to have a positive impact on society outside of your profession.
Finally, there's more job flexibility with a traditional college degree. Trade schools prepare you for very specific jobs, but there are a wide variety of jobs you can get with a bachelor's degree, regardless of your major.
If you study medical assisting at a trade school, your program will only prepare you to be a medical assistant. If you end up deciding that you want to do something else or can't find a job as a medical assistant, your trade school degree won't be of much value.
On the other hand, a degree from a four-year college offers you many more job opportunities. There are sales, education, and consulting jobs that are open to four-year college graduates from a wide variety of majors. Furthermore, you can pursue graduate school and professional schools like medical school and law school with a four-year college degree. On average, with more education and advanced degrees, you'll make more money and have more job security.
Know about your options to make a wise decision.
Should You Go to a Trade School or a Four-Year College?
There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to go to a trade school or a four-year college. Generally, I encourage all students who are capable to go to a four-year college.
You’ll give yourself the most opportunities by graduating from a four-year school, and you’ll likely have a more fun, enriching experience at a traditional four-year college. Also, by going to a four-year school, you’ll have more earning potential and job flexibility.
A trade school is a good option if you can’t spend the time to get a four-year degree or you’re very sure that you want to do a job that you can prepare for at a trade school. Sometimes, family or financial situations make it too challenging for students to spend four years in school, so they opt to complete a much shorter program at a trade school.
Also, some students just don't like traditional schooling. They struggle to do well in school because they detest reading and writing papers. They prefer doing something more active and don't want to spend at least four years in college to end up with a desk job.
If you know you want to be an automotive technician, you may benefit more from completing a trade school program than going to a four-year college. You’ll get hands-on experience and be able to start your career in a short period of time.
Keep in mind that if you don’t have the grades or test scores to go to a four-year college, you have options other than a trade school. If you want to go to a four-year college, but you’re worried that you don’t have the qualifications to get admitted, check out the colleges with the highest acceptance rates. You still may be able to get in with sub-par grades and test scores.
Also, you can go to a community college and then transfer to a four-year college. Most community colleges are open enrollment, so you don’t have to worry about being admitted.
If you want to fix cars, maybe you should go to a trade school.
How to Apply to a Trade School
For the majority of trade schools, the application process is relatively simple. Most schools have a basic online application on their websites, or you can contact the school for admissions information. Also, there tend to be no application deadlines. You can apply at any time, but you may need to wait for the beginning of your program of interest before you can enroll.
Additionally, after you fill out the application, you may have to interview or speak with an admissions representative. These conversations are meant to be informational and help guide you to the program that would be best for you.
Trade schools aren’t considered selective, and most are open enrollment. For the majority of schools and programs, you don’t have to take the SAT/ACT, and you don’t need to write an essay. Furthermore, trade schools won’t require recommendations or consider your extracurricular activities when determining admission.
Now that you're familiar with trade schools and the differences between trade schools and other types of colleges, there are a few articles you may want to check out.
If you're considering going to a four-year college, learn more about the college application timeline and if it matters where you go to college.
If you're interested in community colleges, find out how to apply.
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