The essay portion of the SAT and the Writing section of the ACT are both optional. According to the Prep Scholar blog (as of May 2019), only 28 colleges require the SAT Essay although a number of other schools recommend it. Just a note – ALL of the University of California System schools require the SAT Essay. However, odds are that if you are applying to colleges outside of California it’s unlikely that they require the essay.
There are additional schools that recommend submitting the SAT Essay or the ACT Writing – and some schools do use this part of the test for placement purposes or other consideration. Therefore, it’s important to check with each school regarding their standardized test policies. You don’t want to find yourself shut out of applying to a school, or being considered for a scholarship that requires the SAT Essay or ACT Writing. But if you do your research, you may save yourself time and money by skipping the SAT Essay or the ACT Writing.
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If one of your colleges requires or recommends the SAT Essay or ACT Writing, be sure to register for that optional section of the test. Read up on the SAT Essay or ACT Writing so that you are prepared for this additional section.