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ChatGPT and the Future of College Application Essays

Chances are, you've heard about the revolutionary artificial intelligence tool, ChatGPT, that can simulate human writing and produce coherent essays in response to nearly any prompt. OpenAI, the company that owns ChatGPT, which stands for "chat generative pre-trained transformer," released this AI tool to the public for free last November. Since that time, speculation about students using it for nefarious purposes, ranging from completing schoolwork to composing their college application essays, has caused significant concerns in academic circles.

In the realm of college admissions, the release of ChatGPT has triggered fears that students will use this tool to write their Common App and other required application essays. I strongly caution against the temptation to succumb to this shortcut for both ethical and practical reasons.

Certainly, choosing to take this shortcut violates the first affirmation statement presented by Common App that applicants must confirm in order to apply to colleges using this platform:

"I certify that all information submitted in the admission process — including this application and any other supporting materials — is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented..."

In addition to the dubious ethics of using this AI tool for this purpose, the reality is that ChatGPT cannot truly emulate the depth and genuine voice of an insightful student and will thus not serve to enhance (and may, in fact, significantly detract from the quality of) a student's overall application. Various users have tested the quality of essays produced by ChatGPT by supplying it with Common App prompts. While the resulting essays respond to the prompts adequately, and can typically not be identified as the work of AI, they lack significant depth, emotion, and insight. They are not nuanced or particularly creative in any way. In short, they have no "life" to them, and this presents a significant problem to students who aim to make an impact on admissions committees and stand out among many other academically qualified applicants.

For many students, the main Common App essay represents the only significant opportunity to use their authentic voice in the college application process to reveal meaningful insights about who they are, what they have learned, and what they value. Aside from the occasional opportunity to interview or submit a portfolio of work, the other aspects of the application process are largely data-driven with little room to infuse one's character and personality into the materials submitted. Therefore, the essay represents an essential part of a student's application that must be used wisely to add value to their candidacy.

Application readers are trained to glean the essence of a candidate from the content a student chooses to convey in their essays. The process of thoughtfully engaging in self-reflection, brainstorming, ideation, writing, revising, and editing is the only true path to developing a strong, meaningful essay that will effectively represent a student in a manner that augments all other data on their application. While ChatGPT can scour the internet for facts and snippets from other published works and develop a cliché essay about nearly any subject, I do not believe it will ever fully emulate the authentic voice, spirit, and personality of a student or adequately convey their truly unique stories. A student's own words, even when imperfect, will always be far superior.

At LGC, our team of experts is honored to partner with families and students to confidently guide them through this process. We meet you where you are and provide only the services and support that will empower your unique child. If we can be of assistance to your family in any portion of the college planning, ACT/SAT tutoring/testing, college selection, and/or college essay and application development process, please contact us at 847-363-6780,, or by completing our request form for a free 20-minute phone consult on our website at

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