AI and College Application Essays

By Margie Chiang 2024-06-04 16:45:17

The value of human touch in writing.

There isn’t a day that goes by when speculation of AI’s impact is not highlighted. Following suit, I delved into the impact of AI on college admissions as we embark on the onset of the college application season. Specifically I looked at the essay writing component, which is extensive with a personal statement of 650 words and for those applying to the University of California (UC) system, it would include four personal insight essays at 350 words each. In addition, many colleges have supplemental essays ranging from 100 to 650 words per essay.

I’ve had many inquiries about a college admission officer’s ability to detect AI aids such as ChatGPT in college application essays. ChatGPT and similar AI tools can manifest essays, stories, reports, and excerpts in seconds. The technological development is at the stage where the created text is logical in framework and premium in wording. However, in the context of a college application essay that is appreciated for emphasizing the core values of the student, it struggles as AI models miss the intricate details of personal experience that only the writer who underwent such experiences could authentically capture.

Admission officers are trained to evaluate applications and review thousands of essays every year. Just through their lengthy experience, they can differentiate authentic essays from AI-generated ones. Through their knowledge of AI models, they can distinguish the patterns of sentences and standard phrases that surfaces with AI-generated content.

Yet the most distinctive tell-tale sign is the lack of insightful details that can be conjured if the writer personally underwent the experiences. As such, AI-generated content may lack the emotional depth and vulnerability that comes from introspection and the resulting human connection needed to demonstrate authenticity.





Regarding the AI detection aids, here are some software tools that help admission officers navigate through college application essays:

1. Linguistic analysis: The software analyzes sentence structuring, vocabulary, and grammar - seeking AI-generated, accurate, yet complex content.

2. Content integrity verification: These tools employ sophisticated plagiarism detection algorithms to check for similarities between an essay and existing AI-generated content from past essays. This helps to find cases where AI-generated material has been used in an application essay.

3. Context analysis: The software analyzes an essay’s context and coherence. It seeks gaps in logic patterns and sudden shifts in tone, both likely determinants of AI-generated content.

Admittedly, the detection aids are far from perfect, yet they are swiftly evolving to capture the subtle nuances of AI-generated content embedded in human written passages.

The takeaway from all this is instead of second-guessing how to use ChatGPT and similar AI tools; it would be helpful to your application and your mental well-being to dedicate meaningful time to your college personal statement and related essays beginning from self-reflection to brainstorming to frameworking and draft crafting to actualize authentic pieces that share your personal stories. The writing journey is a search within one’s self that can actualize more than just essays but a more profound sense of self and purpose that no AI tool can actualize.

That genuineness captured in the sharing of core values, experiences, inspirations, and aspirations will make you shine in college application essays and life in general.



Margie Chiang is a founding partner at Joyview Education. As an education coach, Margie integrates her leadership coaching experience and marketing savviness to coach middle and high school students on successfully navigating the college applications process and life. Her students have earned admissions into Top 20 schools such as Brown, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Rice, UCLA, Wellesley College, and more. Margie graduated from USC and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.