Within the last week, Duke joined Stanford, Brown, and Princeton in announcing this summer that they will no longer require that applicants submit the SAT and/or ACT essay. As a result, almost no schools outside the California state school system require the SAT/ACT essay anymore.
The writing has been on the wall for these essays for a couple of years, as the SAT made the essay portion of their test optional with the rollout of the new SAT, and the ACT struggled to coordinate a redesigned essay whose new scoring system was almost immediately scrapped. Very few students will need to take these essays at all anymore.
Schools that do not require the essay will still look at it if submitted. So, if you think essay writing is major strength, then you can still prepare for and try to ace the essay on either test. That said, very few students achieve truly elite essay scores, so the vast majority of students are probably better off ignoring it altogether and focusing their efforts on other parts of the tests.
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