Starting in Fall 2017, Emerson College began to allow students to submit an application as a Test Optional candidate. Students who feel that their standardized test scores will be beneficial to the review process are encouraged to submit their scores as part of the application process. However, students who feel that their standardized test scores do not effectively represent their skills and talents or effectively demonstrate their ability to succeed within the college environment, may opt to forgo submitting them for review.

Students who choose not to submit standardized test scores will be required to submit one of the following alternative evaluative components through their Emerson admission portal after application submission:

  1. A contemplative essay responding to a topic related to attributes that define the Emerson experience.
  2. A creative sample or portfolio that relates specifically to their chosen major. Take a look at some examples below by major.

Note for International Applicants: The Test Optional policy only applies to the SAT and ACT examinations. International applicants whose first language is not English and do not otherwise waive the requirement for an English language proficiency exam, are required to submit scores from one of the following examinations: TOEFL, IELTS, Pearson, Cambridge English, and Duolingo.

Test Optional Essay Topics

Please respond to one of the following in 300-500 words:

  1. Be Daring. Emersonians are not afraid to take risks. Share a moment in your life when you decided to challenge the status quo or step outside your comfort zone. How did you grow, and what did you learn from this experience?
  2. Have Attitude. Emerson students are focused, ambitious, and independent, and don’t need approval from others to follow their own path. Share a story about when you decided to forge your own path to achieve your goals. What influenced your decision to try something new, or go against conventional wisdom?
  3. Get Involved. Emerson is grounded in real-world, hands-on action. Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Please share an example from your own world where you were able to put her words into action and how it influenced your perspective on the importance of community.
  4. Be Expressive. Emerson students have unique voices and passionate spirits. What are some of the unique or unconventional ways that you express yourself, and why is it important to you to utilize these ways of communicating?
  5. Stand for Something. Emerson College is inclusive, progressive and has a strong commitment to justice. Talk about an issue or a cause that is important to you. How do you engage or educate others to support your cause, and how do you react to those who challenge your beliefs? 

Major-related portfolio submission examples

By submitting a sample of your work, you are able to put your best foot forward in showcasing your talents while providing us with insight into your potential to contribute to our academic community. The following examples are provided to help you to develop a submission that is individual to your interests in the field. Please use this as an opportunity to share with us, your skills and passions related to your chosen major that we would not be able to discern from other aspects of your application.

School of Communication

Business of Creative Enterprises

Given the creative nature of this major, applicants may choose to submit a sample that highlights their artistic pursuits (Ex., film, creative writing, script, photography or music samples) or may elect to provide a business-related sample like one of the following examples:

  • Sample business plan summary for a creative organization (up to 4 pages)
  • Sample grant proposal to fund a local arts related event (up to 4 pages)
  • Market (SWOT) Analysis for creative organization (up to 4 pages)

Communication Disorders

  • Essay on a topic related to the speech pathology or audiology fields
  • Lab report in related Communications Disorders fields (up to 5 pages)

Communication Studies

  • Sample public relations campaign for a non-profit organization (3-4 samples)
  • Sample political campaign advertising or polling analysis (3-4 samples)
  • Sample sports blog postings or event marketing materials (3-4 samples)


  • Portfolio of news articles published in school, local, regional or national publications (3-4 samples)
  • Video package of broadcast samples (up to 5 minutes)

Marketing Communication

  • Sample branding campaign for a local business  (3-4 samples)
  • Sample marketing pitch for a product or service (up to 5 pages)

School of Arts

Comedic Arts

  • A creative sample is required as a part of the application process for this program. We require students applying to these programs, as a Test Optional candidate, to select the Test Optional essay to satisfy the requirement.

Performing Arts

  • Performing Arts majors require an artistic review as part of the application process. We require students applying to these programs, as a Test Optional candidate, to select the Test Optional essay to satisfy the requirement.

Visual Media Arts

Media Studies

  • Essay that explores relationship between media and culture (up to 500 words)
  • Multimedia presentation on a topic of interest to the film industry

Media Arts Production

  • We require students applying to this program, as a Test Optional candidate, to select the Test Optional essay to satisfy the requirement. In addition, although not required, a creative sample is strongly encouraged as a part of the application process for this program.

Writing, Literature and Publishing

  • Creative short story (up to 500 words)
  • Collection of poems (3-4 samples)
  • Essay focused on literary analysis (up to 500 words)
  • Sample magazine page layouts (3-4 samples)

Global BFA in Film Art

  • We require students applying to this program, as a Test Optional candidate, to select the Test Optional essay to satisfy the requirement. An additional creative sample is required as a part of the application process for this program.


  • Please use any of the above examples to assist you in developing your submission. We encourage you to select a topic or sample that reflects your potential interests in any of our major options.

More Information


Q: How do I know if I should select Test Optional?

A: Test Optional is designed for students who perform well in the classroom but whose academic strength is not reflected in their standardized test scores. 

Q: Can I be homeschooled and apply Test Optional?

A: Typically, homeschooled students will be required to submit test scores as part of the application process. However, given the disruptive nature of COVID-19, the 2020-2021 application process will be test-optional for home-schooled applicants as well. However, we find it helpful to have work that is externally graded or examined, so we recommend submitting either SAT/ACT results, SAT subject exam results, AP exam results, transcripts from college courses or other accredited online schooling programs if possible.

Q: How is a Test Optional applicant evaluated during the admission process compared to a Test Score applicant?

A: Students applying Test Optional are evaluated similarly to those who apply using their test scores. Test Optional applicants are not at any disadvantage compared to Test Score applicants.

Q: If I apply through Test Optional, am I eligible for financial aid?

A: Yes, you can still apply for need-based financial aid. In addition, academic-based scholarships are available to all high-achieving, motivated students.

Q: How do I let the Admission Office know that I would like to apply using Test Optional?

A: After submitting your application to Emerson, please log into your admission portal and reply to a question on your checklist asking if you would like to apply Test Optional. After confirming your interest in Test Optional admission, you will receive a checklist item that prompts you to upload your Test Optional materials.

Q: What if I already submitted my test scores but I now want to apply Test Optional?

A: We will remove your test scores from consideration if you indicate that you are choosing to apply Test Optional on your application.

Q: Can I change my mind?

A: If you have already submitted an application to Emerson and would like to change your current testing option preference, please contact your admission counselor.