Should I Write the Optional SAT or ACT Essay?

Last updated May 7, 2021 

Copy of Parents FAQ 1 (4)To write or not to write: that was the question. Not long ago, the essay portions of the SAT and ACT were optional in the same way extra credit is optional; therefore, the question of whether to do the essay was why not? Now, however, the question is shortened to why?

Previously, strict guidelines for the essay were not in place; students were unsure of whether the essay would improve their chances of admission to a particular school or not. Questions arose: will the end result be worth the outlay of time and energy? Could this backfire on me? What are colleges really looking for in my SAT or ACT essay? 

Thankfully, the mind-game is over. The number of colleges asking students to submit one of these essays has continued to dwindle over the past few years.

We have put together a national list of all colleges and universities who either require or recommend that students submit the essay portion of the SAT or ACT. Notably, it’s a very short list! In fact, in Pennsylvania there are no colleges at all on this list. And there are only a handful of colleges in the entire Northeastern US on the list. Note that you should consider colleges that “recommend” submitting an essay as requiring it.

Click here to see the list.

If you are not applying to a college that is on this list you can focus all of your test prep efforts on the other portions of the test. That will be the case for most students. However if you are applying to one of the colleges on this list you will have to prepare for the SAT or ACT essay.

What are the college admissions folks who read your essay looking for? As with your English teacher, they are looking for unity, coherence, and excellent grammar and punctuation. They want your essay to have an appropriate tone, your argument to address the topic provided, and your critical reasoning to be supported by textual evidence.

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, we specialize in helping students navigate the testing process. That includes helping you with essay writing! If you need instruction or practice in any aspect of the SAT or ACT essay, we have experienced writing tutors who will work with you until you feel confident.

If you would like more information, our Client Service Directors Anne Stanley and Susan Ware are available to answer questions and provide solutions. You may reach either of them by calling A+ Test Prep and Tutoring at 215-886-9188.



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