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How to Use AI/ChatGPT Effectively for Your College Application Essays

Last updated November 16, 2023

A vital component of your college applications is your personal statement essay(s). With the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT, you may be curious about how they can support your college application essay writing, or if it’s even okay to use them at all. We’ll share what you need to know about tools like ChatGPT and the do’s and don’ts of using AI in your college application essays.

An iphone displaying a ChatGPT screen sits on a marble countertop - How to use AI/ChatGPT Effectively for Your College Application Essays

What is AI? What is ChatGPT?

Artificial Intelligence (also known as AI), is technology designed to imitate human intelligence. Some examples of this include asking Siri about the weather on your iPhone, using Amazon’s Alexa to set an alarm, or receiving song suggestions based on the music you listen to on Spotify.

ChatGPT is a type of AI model that virtually chats with users to answer their questions and respond to their prompts. ChatGPT uses decades worth of internet data to learn how people communicate, solve problems, and find patterns. It then uses this data to create a human-like response when you interact with it. The more people use ChatGPT, the more information it gathers and learns. 

AI and ChatGPT are relatively new, so not many people understand the full extent of its consequences. However, it’s clear that these technologies are here to stay, so it’s important to understand how to use them responsibly. 

Can I use AI tools like ChatGPT to write my college application essay?

With AI technologies increasing in popularity, many concerns have been raised about using it responsibly. Some school districts– in Seattle, WA for example– have banned the use of ChatGPT due to issues of plagiarism and cheating. Chances are, your school or district might be working on or already have policies on the use of ChatGPT.

A few colleges have also established their own policies on AI. Some may have strict policies on plagiarism and discourage the use of ChatGPT, while others may have guidelines on how to use it responsibly and ethically. For example, while Georgia Tech doesn’t completely ban the use of ChatGPT, their statement suggests best practices when using AI for college applications. We highly recommend that you check a college’s policies or guidelines if you’re considering using AI tools on your applications to that school.

When in doubt, it’s probably best to avoid using ChatGPT to help you write your college application essay. But if you are thinking about using it, we recommend following these dos and don’ts:

Using AI for your College Application - Dos and Don'ts

DON’T Use ChatGPT to write your entire essay

We can’t emphasize this enough– do not use ChatGPT to write your entire college application essay. Since ChatGPT learns from information submitted by humans, it can create generalizations, resulting in responses that sound unoriginal and robotic.

While it’s possible that ChatGPT can draft an entire essay in seconds, it’s not recommended to use as your final draft. The essay might be too general and lacking personality, therefore not allowing the reader to really get to know you. College admissions officers are experienced in reading hundreds, if not thousands, of essays, so it’s likely they can tell whether something was written by an AI or by a human. 

ChatGPT can be helpful in creating an outline, or maybe even creating a first draft. However, you will need to put in the work to edit it and ensure it captures your authentic voice and unique perspective– especially when applying to colleges that are highly competitive. Having trouble writing your college application essay? Check out our guide to get started.

DO use ChatGPT to generate ideas

Your college application essay should reveal something about you through storytelling. If you’re having trouble deciding what to write, you might turn to ChatGPT to help you generate ideas and narrow down your topic. For example, you can ask it to come up with 10 questions to help you brainstorm topics, or you can ask it to elaborate on an idea you might already have. However, ChatGPT can only provide general responses and is unable to provide a unique perspective, so you’ll still need to find ways to make your topic significant to you.

AI is not built to have meaningful conversations, and it’s impossible to share your full history and important memories for an AI model to learn. Programs like ChatGPT can’t accurately create an entire picture of you, so they’re unable to connect your life experiences to your values and what’s important to you. For example, you may have memories of taking care of your pet and how it taught you about loyalty; or you might enjoy a specific candy because it reminds you of the importance of friendship. You know yourself the best, so while ChatGPT can help start your idea, it’s up to you to finish it. 

DO use AI to proofread your essay

A benefit of using AI models is that they can check your essay for grammar errors and typos. Programs like Grammarly or ChatGPT can proofread your essay and provide suggestions on how to improve your spelling or the structure or clarity of your writing. In addition, when used correctly, you can use ChatGPT to find alternative ways to write something. For example, you can use it to help make your ideas more clear. If your sentence doesn’t sound right, ChatGPT can help rewrite it. If you’re stuck on a word, you can ask ChatGPT for suggestions.

Using Grammarly or ChatGPT to fix grammatical errors is a great way to enhance your writing, but it shouldn’t be the only resource you depend on. Have someone else proofread your essay, like a trusted friend, educator, parent, or guardian. You can also submit your essay to us, and one of our expert Get Schooled advisors will review it for free!

DON’T share any personal or sensitive information with AI Models

Since AI uses data submitted by humans to improve its models, it’s likely these programs will save any data you share, including your personal information. ChatGPT, for example, automatically saves all of the prompts and questions people submit, regardless of what’s being discussed. Moreover, while ChatGPT is an AI model, it is still created and run by humans, so all past conversations and questions may be seen by other people working for ChatGPT. 

It’s important to be careful when it comes to sharing your personal information, like your location, school, or any information about yourself that you wouldn’t want to share publicly. While ChatGPT recently allowed users to turn off chat history, it’s best to proceed with caution when using it. Additionally, using ChatGPT and other AI models require you to sign up for an account using your email address, phone number, and other identifying information, which can raise concerns around data security.

DO keep your authentic voice

Showing your personality through your essay is crucial to leaving a lasting impression on admissions officers. Because ChatGPT provides widely generic responses, it can create a story that may feel similar to something you experienced, but it will never be your authentic story.

A significant portion of your college application relies on data, like your GPA and test scores. Your personal statement essay is your opportunity to provide admissions officers a peek into your life, what your personality is like, what motivates you, and what your aspirations are. Colleges value authenticity, and your personal statement now plays an even more pivotal role after the U.S. Supreme court decision to reverse affirmative action. When writing about your perspectives related to diversity and inclusion, it’s important to share your experiences genuinely.

Instead of depending on ChatGPT to create a story for you, draw from your own personal experiences that you are excited to write about. Examples can be a relationship that impacted you the most, or an event that challenged your perspective. 

DON’T use AI as your only tool for college applications

Using ChatGPT can be a helpful tool in crafting your college application essay, but it shouldn’t be your only tool. There are other strategies that you can learn and various resources you can take advantage of. For example, check out our resources on how to write your college and scholarship application essays. When you complete your first draft, you can submit your essay to us for free review!

AI can be a great tool to help with your essay writing, but it isn’t a shortcut and should not be the only thing you depend on. At the end of the day, nobody knows you better than yourself!

Have any questions about the college application process? Text us! Send #Hello to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors, or, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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