fbpx Skip to main content

student writing an essay in class

*Update: this post was in early 2020. In January 2021, the College Board announced that the SAT essay will no longer be available after June 2021. The ACT still offers an optional essay section, but we no longer recommend that students take it.*

Should I Take the ACT/SAT Essay?

As you’re registering for the ACT or SAT, you have several decisions to make. One of these decisions is whether or not you plan to take the “optional” essay section of the test. While the College Board and the ACT have made the essay component optional, there are still some schools that require or recommend students take the essay component for the college application package.

At Mindfish, we recommend that you take the essay component of the test unless you have finalized the list of where you plan to apply to college and confirmed that none of the schools on your list require or recommend you take the essay. Skipping the essay can leave you ill-prepared to try to fit in an additional test date if your college application plans change. Additionally, if you received your goal score or higher on your first test date, retaking the test long after your study plan is completed can result in a lower score the second time around. The essay is rarely a negative factor in a student’s application package because with just a little practice most students can reach at least the 50th percentile range for even more elite colleges. Therefore there are few drawbacks to simply registering for and taking the essay in the first place.

What Schools Still Require the ACT/SAT Essay?

The following list of schools includes only schools that Mindfish students commonly apply to that require or recommend the ACT or SAT essay section as part of their application process. The list is not exhaustive and colleges regularly reevaluate their admissions requirements, so we recommend that you check the admissions websites for all colleges to which you plan on applying.


  • United States Military Academy
  • University of California—Berkeley
  • University of California—Davis
  • University of California—Irvine
  • University of California—Los Angeles
  • University of California—Merced
  • University of California—Riverside
  • University of California—San Diego
  • University of California—Santa Barbara
  • University of California—Santa Cruz


  • Abilene Christian University
  • Berry College
  • Chapman University
  • Colby College
  • Duke University
  • Michigan State University
  • Oregon State University
  • Stanford University
  • Stony Brook University—SUNY
  • University at Buffalo—SUNY
  • University of Minnesota—Twin Cities