Is the SAT/ACT Essay really optional?
A major shift is taking place in essay requirements for the SAT and ACT. We expect that fewer than one-third of selective colleges will require a standardized test essay for the fall of 2017 admission class. Several notable schools will require essays while several other notable ones will not.
High profile schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Stanford, and the University of California system affirmed their commitment to the SAT Essay and and the recently revamped ACT Writing. Meanwhile, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Cornell, Northwestern, and Boston College adopted policies that dropped or will drop the ACT essay and made clear that the New SAT Essay would not be required. Other schools such as University of Chicago and Georgetown never adopted ACT Writing in the first place, ignored the original SAT essay, and will ignore the New SAT Essay. Hundreds of other schools are now starting to publish their policies.
Despite the decline in colleges requiring an SAT or ACT essay, we still recommend that students make the essay a part of their testing plans given the number of UC-bound students we happen to serve. Skipping the essay can leave a student scrambling to fit in an additional test date should his or her college plans change. Colleges requiring the essay will typically not superscore test dates without the essay.
For specific college requirements please check out this link for a searchable database: http://www.compassprep.com/act-writing-and-sat-essay-requirements/