The college admissions process is stressful and complicated, and it's understandably tempting to want to take a shortcut. But using ChatGPT to write your college application essay for you is a bad idea, and it won’t be as beneficial as you think. Here’s why.
But first, what is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is an AI language model which is designed to generate human-like text by guessing what the next sentence should be in a text. It’s similar to Smart Compose in Gmail, which is that gray text that shows up after what you're currently typing. ChatGPT can answer questions, write essays and emails, and assist with other tasks, based on the input that you give it.
In this blog, we’re going to discuss why using ChatGPT to write your college application essay for you is a bad idea. Then we’ll discuss how you can use ChatGPT as a tool to help you write your own essay (note the important distinction!), and finally, the three qualities of a successful college application essay.
Using ChatGPT To Write Your College Application Essay For You Is Unethical.
Using ChatGPT to write your college application essay for you is a bad idea because it’s unethical. Admissions officers expect that all of the work that you do on your application is yours. The Common App even explicitly asks you to certify that “that all information submitted in the admission process — including this application and any other supporting materials — is my own work.” Using ChatGPT to write your college application essay is similar to having someone else write your essay, and that is plagiarism. You might argue that, ”I'm not copying anyone else's work, it's AI, so it’s not plagiarism.” But if you use ChatGPT to write your essay for you, “you” didn't write it, did you?
It’s important to remember that academic integrity is a fundamental principle in higher education, and you'll be expected to uphold it as a college student, and even before you arrive on campus. So while it's tempting to use ChatGPT to write your college application essay for you, don’t do it. Furthermore, colleges are already using AI-detection software, and that includes admissions departments. You don’t want to get caught and risk having your application rejected.
Using ChatGPT To Write Your College Application Essay For You Won’t Make You Stand Out
Even if it were ethical to use ChatGPT to write your essay for you, you wouldn't want to. Why? Because ChatGPT is trained to generate content based on what other people have written, by analyzing a huge sample of text taken from books, Wikipedia, articles and other pieces of writing on the Internet. In other words, it is trained to give you a “canned,” generalized response. If you use ChatGPT to write your college application essay for you, it won't make you stand out, and it won’t differentiate your essay from the thousands of other essays that admissions officers have to read.
A compelling essay reflects your own background, personality, skills and experiences and is written in your own words rather than someone else’s. It is personal and authentic and requires self-reflection. Because ChatGPT relies on data to learn, it is limited to what has already been written, so it’s simply not capable of giving you a unique and memorable essay. As proof, Forbes conducted an experiment in which it used AI to write two different college essays. Admissions experts concluded that while passable, the essays were generic and the writing was predictable.
Using ChatGPT As a Writing Tool To Help You Write Your Own College Application Essay
Even though you can’t use ChatGPT to write your essay for you, it seems to be generally accepted that you can use it as a tool to help you write your own. For example, you can use it to guide your brainstorming sessions and save you lots of time and frustration. Input a few ideas and see what responses ChatGPT generates that can get you started and that you can develop further. Use it as you would if you were brainstorming with a friend, teacher, or counselor. If you have writer’s block, ChatGPT could even help you get started with the writing process and get your creative juices flowing.
How can you use ChatGPT to brainstorm for an essay? Let's say one of your favorite hobbies is baking. You could ask it “Give me ideas on baking,” but since this is such a broad topic, the ideas will probably be generic. Keep asking specific questions to get more details on the ideas that it suggests to help refine them, until you find a creative one that inspires you. Once you’ve picked an idea, then start writing. Or let's say that you play the cello in high school and you want to find a fun fact, statistic or quote about the cello to use as a hook in your essay.
Some people point out that there are other ways that ChatGPT could potentially be used to help you write your own essay (again, the key word is help, not actually write). You could use ChatGPT to write an outline (“Write me an outline for an essay about baking as a hobby”) or to fix an awkward sentence or two. The problem is that it may be hard to set a limit of what is appropriate or not, and before you know it, you're on the slippery slope of plagiarism.
To sum up, remember to use ChatGPT wisely. It is a tool and not a substitute for writing your own essay. You wouldn’t ask a friend or family member to write your essay for you, so don’t ask ChatGPT. Ultimately, ChatGPT can't replace your own critical thinking and writing skills, and those are what colleges want to see in your essay.
Out of curiosity, I asked ChatGPT “Can I use ChatGPT to write my college application essays?," and this is the response that I received:
According to the search results, while ChatGPT has the ability to generate essays, it is not recommended to use it for college application essays or other school work. Using text generated by ChatGPT as if it were your own work in a college setting would be considered plagiarism . Additionally, it is important to consider the ethical implications of using an AI language model to write an essay that is supposed to represent your own thoughts and ideas. Ultimately, the decision to use ChatGPT for your college application essay is up to you, but it is not recommended.
If you're interested in learning more about how you can use ChatGPT for your college applications in an ethical and responsible way, check out 5 Ways ChatGPT Can Make the College Application Process Easier.
The Three Qualities Of a Successful College Application Essay
A Successful College Application Essay Should...
Be personal. Let the reader learn about YOU. Even if the question asks about someone or something else, you should show how that someone or something influenced or impacted YOU.
Be memorable. Provide concrete details, specific examples, and include a line or two of dialogue, if possible.
Be honest and genuine. Don’t try to impress. Just write about what is important to YOU.
Do you need to write a college application essay, and it seems like an impossible task?
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By practicing self-reflection and writing a thoughtful story about yourself, you will come out with a personal essay that you're proud of, and that’s worth the hard work!