Some colleges, such as Columbia and Brown, require the ACT essay for the class of 2016, but won’t be requiring the SAT or ACT essay for the class of 2017. The rationale seems to be consistency: because the current SAT includes a required essay, some colleges require the optional ACT essay. Because the SAT essay will be optional starting in March, some colleges are already revising their SAT/ACT essay requirements for the class of 2017.
But there’s also a lack of consistency: Penn is an example of a school where the ACT Writing has been required until this year, but is ACT Writing-optional starting with the class of 2016. Currently, there are several selective colleges that don’t require the ACT essay, such as U Chicago, WashU, Rochester, Reed, and more.