Why You Shouldn’t Use ChatGPT to Write Your College and Grad School Admissions Essays

Why You Shouldn’t Use ChatGPT to Write Your College and Grad School Admissions Essays was originally published on Vault.

We’ve been covering the unfolding story of the use of artificial intelligence in education, as well as in various industries, so if you want to catch up you should check out our two-part entry on its effects on education. Today, we’re going to be talking about the use of AI programs such as ChatGPT in college and grad school admissions essays, and why you should seriously consider holding off on jumping on that bandwagon. Let’s begin.

You’re Missing Out on the Experience

The old adage goes “Anything worth doing is difficult,” which is not only true, but writing a college admissions essay is a great example of something that is worth doing. When you enroll in college, you’re taking your first major steps toward your personal development, your career, and your life—it should be challenging. One of the many ways in which we grow as people is when we walk directly into challenges and face them head on.

If you use an AI program like ChatGPT to write your college or grad school admissions essay, you’re robbing yourself of the opportunity to examine yourself and your experience, and to harness these things in an effective way in order to advance your life as an adult. The satisfaction of succeeding and being accepted into a great college is one of life’s first great achievements, so don’t let it be squandered by a lazy shortcut.

You’re Not Being Authentic

You could sit and feed an AI program all kinds of information about your life, your education, and other experiences, but it will only be able to generate a wooden, generic version of what a flesh and blood human with even meager writing skills could manage. In other words, an effective essay is one that comes straight from the heart, and AI programs like ChatGPT lack that all-important component.

Colleges aren’t necessarily looking for golden perfection in an admissions essay. They’re looking for honesty, and an eagerness to learn and grow. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t obsessively check your essay for spelling and grammar mistakes, because you should, but the way you describe your story is what makes it unique. AI can’t tell your story effectively for you, regardless of how many details you give it.

AI Can’t Recognize Important Details

Along with the previous entry in our list, it’s worth mentioning that there are often seemingly small details about our lives that have had a tremendous impact on who we are, what we believe in, and what our goals are. For example, you might be going to school to become a doctor or a nurse because you’re interested in the medical field, but where did that interest come from? Did a family member’s illness spark a drive in you to help others?

The bottom line is, we all have our motivations, and they can sometimes be deep-seated and heartfelt. AI programs can’t feel those experiences and motivations, and thus cannot speak to them effectively or with human emotion. The chances are that the person who reviews your admissions essay will catch on to this lack of emotional depth very quickly, which will inevitably lead to your application being terminated (see what I did there?).

You’re Going to Get Caught

If the other reasons on this list still haven’t dissuaded you from using ChatGPT or similar programs to write your college admissions essay, consider this—there are tools colleges can use to detect AI-generated work. In fact, one such tool was created by OpenAI, the company that famously unleashed ChatGPT onto the world. If you dedicate even an hour a day to your admissions essay, it won’t take very long to write. Is the shortcut worth it to you?

You could make the argument that programs such as ChatGPT are a good starting point for a first draft; however, the amount of editing that will need to be done in order to make the essay sound like you would take about the same effort as simply drafting it yourself. Additionally, any initial work generated by an AI program might stick in your brain, causing you to mimic its robotic, unfeeling voice. If you need help, it’s far better to ask a trusted friend or family member with strong writing skills, or get a coach to guide you through the process.

The possibility exists that you could still squeak by with a ChatGPT-generated admissions essay, but where will that leave you? Getting accepted under false pretenses is not a good way to start your journey, and consistently taking the dishonest route can and will lead to moral bankruptcy. We spend a lot of time here speaking about developing our skills, taking on challenges, and walking our authentic paths toward success, and those practices are what make great leaders and great people—put the time and effort in, and you’ll get there.