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ChatGPT: How students should (and shouldn’t) use it when applying to colleges

BY VIOLET W.*

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot that was released in November 2022. At a basic level, it means people can ask it any question, and it will respond for free. Because it has been trained on text data from the internet, it can understand and create human-like language. While some students might be tempted to use ChatGPT to write their college application essay for them, it isn’t recommended. In fact, some schools, including the New York City public school district, have banned it from being used. 

Even if it hasn’t been banned at the school you are applying to, it still isn’t a good idea to use ChatGPT to write your college admissions essays. ChatGPT lacks the ability to convey empathy, growth, and introspection. While it can write about a lot of things, it won’t be personal to you and might be missing out on the key details that make your story your own. Additionally, ChatGPT creates writing that tends to be more cliche and don’t fully answer the prompt, which could be red flags to college admissions counselors. Ultimately, it won’t be able to produce high-quality essays that will help students get into top universities. 

With the exploding popularity of ChatGPT, colleges might turn to different ways to evaluate students, including having them submit video responses so they can ensure the student is the one producing the work. Schools like Brown University, Washington University in St. Louis and Bowdoin College already have an optional video introduction that students can submit. There might be an increase in this requirement in response to ChatGPT.

Colleges might also be able to use AI detectors to see whether or not the students have actually written the essays themselves. Already, a Princeton University graduate has created an app that can detect if the essay was written by ChatGPT. The App, called GPTZero, uses “perplexity and burstiness” to see if a bot or the student wrote the essay. If the colleges do discover the student used ChatGPT, or another service, the student might be eliminated from consideration for enrollment. 

However, students can use ChatGPT during the college search. Students could type in a query like “Best schools for biology with an acceptance rate of over 30% in the state of New York,” and it will generate a list for you. While students should research the schools’ websites to verify the information is accurate, it might be a good starting point. 

As ChatGPT continues to gain in popularity, students should tread carefully to make sure they are following the rules of admission and creating work that reflects themselves and their abilities. 

*Violet W is a College Counselor & Outreach Coordinator at MoonPrep.

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