Can You Use ChatGPT for College Admissions Essays?

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Kate Sliunkova

AdmitYogi, Stanford MBA & MA in Education

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6 min read

Can You Use ChatGPT for College Admissions Essays?

ChatGPT, an AI-powered chatbot developed by OpenAI, has become a topic of great interest since its official launch in November 2022. This advanced technology has the ability to engage in conversations, provide answers, and even generate complete pieces of writing. However, its relevance and responsible use in college admissions essays have sparked debates and concerns. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of ChatGPT and explore its impact on college applications.

Understanding ChatGPT and Schools' Concerns:

What is ChatGPT and Why Are Schools Talking About It?

ChatGPT, short for "Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer," is an AI chatbot developed by OpenAI. It utilizes a neural network trained on vast resources to predict word relationships and generate text. However, schools are concerned about the misuse of ChatGPT, particularly in terms of academic dishonesty and plagiarism. The reliance on AI-generated content undermines the importance of originality and intellectual property, which are vital principles upheld by educational institutions.

Why Schools Are Concerned About ChatGPT:

The writing and research capabilities of ChatGPT raise significant concerns for schools. By delegating these tasks to the chatbot, students bypass the essential process of critical thinking, research, and personal growth. Moreover, ChatGPT's limitations in understanding personal experiences and emotions hinder the authentic expression of an applicant's unique qualities. This lack of insight and genuine human touch detracts from the purpose of college admissions essays, which is to showcase an individual's character and potential.

The Limitations of ChatGPT in College Admissions Essays:

ChatGPT Lacks Insight:

ChatGPT's inability to comprehend personal experiences limits its capacity to accurately reflect an applicant's unique qualities. Its guesses and predictions fall short in capturing the essence of an individual's passions, goals, and aspirations. Consequently, using ChatGPT in college admissions essays not only violates ethical standards but also puts applicants at a disadvantage by hindering the effective portrayal of their true selves.

The Risk of Plagiarism:

Entrance essays that focus on commonly shared experiences fail to leave a lasting impression. Utilizing ChatGPT introduces the risk of inadvertently submitting similar essays as other applicants. As ChatGPT relies on predictive algorithms based on existing text data, there is a chance that portions of the generated content may already be present in other essays. Moreover, the continuous learning capability of ChatGPT means that subsequent users may end up with content generated by a previous applicant, further complicating the issue of originality.

The Lack of Emotional Understanding:

Emotions play a pivotal role in personal storytelling and self-expression. ChatGPT's inability to comprehend and convey emotions limits its capacity to create meaningful and impactful essays. A successful entrance essay should explore experiences or topics that genuinely excite and inspire the applicant. By using ChatGPT, applicants risk producing essays that lack the human touch and fail to effectively convey their genuine passions and accomplishments.

Mediocre Results and Admissions Committee Perception:

A study conducted by Business Insider sought to assess the quality of ChatGPT-generated college entrance essays. Admissions readers regarded these essays as mediocre and on par with the writing of a middle school student. This indicates that despite potential successful impersonation, ChatGPT-generated content fails to meet the expectations of admissions committees, especially at more selective institutions. Submitting a ChatGPT-generated college essay could have a detrimental effect on an otherwise strong application.

The Detectability of ChatGPT and Responsible Integration:

Can Colleges Detect ChatGPT?

In today's technological landscape, colleges are equipped with tools to detect the use of AI-generated content. Software such as Turnitin's AI Innovation Lab can distinguish between AI-written and human-written text with a high level of confidence. Additionally, human readers, including teachers and admissions committees, can identify discrepancies in writing style and vocabulary, providing further means of detecting the use of ChatGPT in college essays.

Responsible Integration of AI Tools:

While ChatGPT presents challenges, it can be a valuable tool when used responsibly. Students can leverage ChatGPT as a supplementary resource to expand their knowledge, find relevant sources, brainstorm ideas, and check their own work for errors and clarity. However, transparency is essential. Students should seek guidance from teachers and include an acknowledgment of their use of AI tools in their writing process. Responsible integration ensures that students maintain academic integrity while benefiting from the advantages of AI technology.

Alternative Resources and Strategies for College Essays:

Emphasizing Personal Skills and Time Management:

One of the most effective strategies for crafting exceptional college essays is to allocate ample time for the writing process. This includes brainstorming ideas, drafting, revising, and polishing. By giving oneself sufficient time, students can engage in critical thinking, reflect on personal experiences, and produce compelling narratives that truly represent their individuality.

The Role of Teachers and Feedback:

Teachers serve as invaluable resources in the essay writing process. Seeking feedback from teachers allows students to gain insights into focus, clarity, and correctness. Engaging in a dialogue with teachers fosters a more interactive and engaging learning experience compared to relying solely on AI tools. Leveraging the expertise of teachers enhances the quality and authenticity of college essays.

Using Examples of Successful Essays:

While it is important to avoid having others write essays on behalf of students, it can be beneficial to seek inspiration from successful essay examples. Platforms like AdmitYogi provide a vast database of thousands of successful applications, allowing students to read through examples and gain insights into effective essay-writing strategies. Exploring these examples can help students understand different approaches to essay topics, structure, and storytelling techniques, ultimately aiding them in crafting their own unique and compelling essays.

Conclusion:

As ChatGPT and other AI technologies continue to evolve, educational institutions are likely to revise their policies to address their responsible use. While ChatGPT may have some merits, its limitations, potential for plagiarism, and impact on personal expression make it unsuitable for college admissions essays. Students should focus on their own unique experiences, ideas, and skills to craft compelling application materials that reflect their true selves. By embracing responsible practices and leveraging alternative resources, such as personal skills, teacher feedback, and examples of successful essays, students can navigate the evolving landscape of AI technology while maintaining the integrity of their academic journey.

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