Can I Write an Admissions Essay with ChatGPT?
What is ChatGPT and why are people using it for essays?
ChatGPT is a large language model that was designed to understand and generate human-like text based on the input it receives. Since its launch in November 2022, people have been using ChatGPT for a variety of purposes—one of those being essay writing. Students in particular struggle with the temptation to use ChatGPT, not just to complete their assignments but also to write personal statements for their college applications, for the following (and other) reasons.
ChatGPT can generate coherent and contextually relevant text, making it a valuable tool for brainstorming ideas, outlining essays, and even creating content.
ChatGPT can also provide factual information and explanations, helping users research a topic and understand complex concepts.
Finally, ChatGPT can assist with grammar, syntax, and writing style suggestions, and thereby help users improve the clarity and readability of their essays (but note that there are more specialized AI tools for this purpose, such as our Wordvice suite of AI revision tools that corrects and paraphrases your text and makes it more compelling—see below).
Why shouldn’t I use ChatGPT to write admissions essays?
While ChatGPT can help you brainstorm ideas, generate content, and improve your writing, there are several important reasons why you should think twice before using it to write your college entrance essay.
College entrance essays are expected to reflect your unique life path, perspective, and voice. ChatGPT does not know you and does not understand your human experience, and asking it to write about those things can result in an essay that lacks originality and fails to showcase your personal qualities.
Using ChatGPT to generate large portions of your essay without incorporating your own thoughts is considered plagiarism by most academic institutions (although rules and guidelines are not always clear and keep changing). If an admission committee suspects an AI bot wrote your personal statement, you could face serious consequences.
Some institutions view the use of AI-powered writing assistance, even if the output does not constitute plagiarism, as ethically questionable or as an attempt to gain an unfair advantage. Make sure you are up to date on the ethical guidelines of the colleges you are applying to.
While ChatGPT can provide information and suggestions, it does not always produce accurate or up-to-date information (remember that ChatGPT is trained on data that doesn't extend beyond 2021). Providing incorrect information in your essay can undermine your credibility.
Moreover, writing college entrance essays is not just about getting into the college of your dreams, it's also an opportunity for you to reflect on yourself and develop important skills. If you outsource this task to a machine, you miss out on an important learning opportunity.
Do colleges check for AI essay writing?
Yes—as AI technology improves and makes it easier to outsource tasks such as essay writing, companies and academic institutions are working on and increasingly using software that can detect the use of such tools. One example of such detection software is the AI Innovation Lab, developed by Turnitin (a plagiarism detector that is very popular with schools and universities). According to Turnitin, the tool flags submissions produced by AI tools with 98% confidence.
Another tool that colleges use to sort out questionable application essays is Zero GPT, developed by a computer science student at Princeton. The ability of human readers, especially admission committee members who read hundreds or even thousands of essays each year, to identify a “ChatGPT essay” should also not be underestimated; this has to do with the AI bot using more simplistic and repetitive sentence structures than the average high school student aiming for university entrance.
Can ChatGPT write college-level essays?
Now that we have listed a variety of reasons why you should not let ChatGPT write your essay, the question remains whether it actually can. The answer is yes, it can spit out an essay on a specific topic using all the arguments you fed it, which is why colleges are concerned about its (undetected) use. But it has important limitations that you need to consider (as well as the ethical problems outlined above).
How to Use AI Writing and Editing Tools Responsibly
As discussed above, you can use ChatGPT responsibly when writing your application essay, as a tool for inspiration, idea generation, and initial drafting. However, you need to ensure that your essay is authentic and reflects your unique experiences and voice. Don’t plagiarize (that means don’t hand in an entire ChatGPT essay, because the bot will inevitably take other people’s ideas and stories to produce that), be honest about any AI assistance (and check the rules and guidelines of every school you apply to), and seek feedback from teachers or mentors before you submit your application.
What AI tools can definitely help you with is correcting and improving your writing. However, there are more specialized tools than the allrounder ChatGPT, and those do not pose any ethical dilemma because they require more human input. The Wordvice Online Writing Assistant, for example, offers you an AI paraphrasing tool, an AI proofreader, and an AI text summarizer to help you correct your grammar, improve the flow and clarity of your text, and adapt your style to the intended audience. In the following, we will show you some examples of how these tools can assist you.
1. Let AI revise the draft of your admission essay
The Wordvice AI tools can help you revise your essay in a number of different ways: The AI proofreader can analyze your essay, and it will highlight grammar issues, flag word-choice problems, and provide style recommendations. You can then review these suggestions and accept or reject them as you deem fit. It will also flag typos and other errors that you might have missed (see below for an example of using AI to proofread your text). There are, however, more ways in which AI can help you improve your essay.
2. Use AI paraphrasing tools on the sentence level
You can make your text sound more academic, combine separate bullet-point statements into a coherent paragraph, or ask the AI to be “creative” with your input if you need suggestions for inspiring hooks and intriguing entries into a topic.
For example, if you open the Wordvice AI Paraphrasing Tool, click on “Academic” under “Modes,” paste the straightforward question “_How does challenging one's own beliefs lead to personal growth?_” into the left-hand side textbox, and click “Paraphrase,” the AI offers you a more academic-sounding sentence:
If this is too dry for your purposes, you can also let the AI play around with your sentence, by clicking on “Creative” and then “Paraphrase,” and watch in awe as your simple question is transformed into something sounding much more interesting, if a bit long in word count:
3. Use a text summarizing tool to outline your main points
The Wordvice AI Summarizer comes in handy if you have already drafted entire sections of your essay but need to check the logical connections between paragraphs and the overall logical flow: If you copy-and-paste parts of your text into the left-hand box and click “Summarize,” the AI will give you a bullet-point list of the main points your text covers. Do this for single paragraphs or series of paragraphs to make sure your arguments follow a logical order.
4. Proofread and edit your work with a reliable AI proofreading tool
Once you have caught the reader’s attention with an intriguing introduction, checked that your arguments are in order, and adapted your style to your intended audience, it’s time for the fine-tuning, that is, the editing and proofreading of your essay. The AI Proofreader will help with that if you paste parts of your text into the left-hand box, and clicking on a flagged error in the text field opens the corresponding feedback box showing you why and how to correct it:
It is of course always a good idea to have a professional editor go over your final essay before submitting it as part of an application. If you request the Wordvice Editing and Proofreading Services or our Admissions Editing Services, (after using our free tools to fix any remaining errors), one of our more than 500 English-speaking editors will be happy to serve as your second pair of eyes and perfect your writing.
The ChatGPT Essay vs the Traditional Essay: Balancing Originality with Reliability
While ChatGPT can help generate ideas, the traditional essay is an expression of a writer's unique voice. Overusing ChatGPT can result in generic content, as it uses what it finds in its training data, which is what other people have produced. To strike the right balance, use ChatGPT for inspiration but add your personal experiences and insights and shape the text using your own voice. By using AI tools responsibly and effectively while relying on your own creativity and (human) perspective, you make the best of them as supplementary aids to showcase your authenticity and own genuine efforts to the admissions committee.