A.I.- Generated Admissions Essays: Bountiful Feast or Forbidden Fruit?

Full disclosure: I attempted to use ChatGPT to come up with a pithy title for this article. While the chatbot provided some helpful context, at the end of the day, it wasn’t able to adequately paint the picture of the conundrum facing college applicants and admissions officers that I was envisioning. I tried a few different prompts but they all fell flat. So I dug deep and came up with this headline on my own. While it may not resonate with all readers, it is authentic and, for me, exemplifies the internal conflict I was trying to convey.

Herein lies the crux of the A.I.-generated application essay discussion and perhaps the optimal solution:

  1. Is it “cheating” to use A.I. in any capacity when writing the essay?  Are there degrees of reliance on the technology that are acceptable and others that would be deemed plagiarism?
  2. If the use of ChatGPT or other GenAI is permitted, can you actually trust it to tell your story in a way that admissions officers will find to be authentic and compelling?
  3. Is there a middle ground in which A.I. provides value by assisting with brainstorming, outlining and polishing without crossing the line into the “cheating” sphere?

Amongst U.S universities, there is little consensus on the guidelines that should apply to the use of A.I. tools in the essay drafting process. A New York Times article, “Ban or Embrace? Colleges Wrestle with A.I.-Generated Admissions Essays,” compared the manner in which three different top universities were viewing the utilization of ChatGPT and other tools like it. “The University of Michigan Law School recently issued guidelines saying that ‘applicants ought not use ChatGPT or other artificial intelligence tools as part of their drafting process.’” However, applicants are permitted to have their essays proofread by friends, teachers or counselors. Yet another conundrum.

Arizona State’s Sandra Day O’Connor Law School took a far more lenient position, allowing the use of A.I. tools as long as they “‘use this technology responsibly’ and certify that the information they submit is true.” The use of the word “responsibly” seems to leave much open to interpretation.

Finally, Georgia Tech chose a more middle-of-the-road approach. “The university’s website recently posted guidelines ‘encouraging high school applicants to use A.I. tools as collaborators to ‘brainstorm, refine and edit’ their ideas,’” while cautioning them against submitting the exact ChatGPT essay as their own.

Applicants are grappling with not only the permissibility but also the value of the technology in the writing process. Poets & Quants highlighted a recent Manhattan Prep/Kaplan survey of more than 300 aspiring business school students in the U.S. who were asked whether, if allowed, they would use GenAI for their essays. “Of those surveyed, 60% said they would likely use AI in their admissions essays if the schools they were applying to allowed it; 24% said they were unlikely to use it; 16% said they were unsure.”

By most accounts, GenAI alone is not yet capable of drafting the caliber of essay that most admissions officers expect to see. Taking the easy way out and relying on ChatGPT to tell your story to universities is likely to backfire even if use of the technology is permitted. Only the person who has lived the experience can tell the authentic tale in a way that will truly resonate with a reader. It would be foolish to waste what is often the sole opportunity to connect on a personal level with an admissions committee just to save a few hours of work.

Circling back to my title creation, there is certainly some benefit to employing GenAI to get your creative juices flowing, create an outline, or proofread. In fact, I would always recommend putting the essay prompt into ChatGPT to see what it generates, if only to know what you should not submit.

There truly is no substitute for your authentic voice.  Contact PREMINENTE today to get on the path to the essay that will get you noticed by admissions officers.






Stay Up To Date