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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

The Impact of AI on College Admissions

What’s Covered:


Since late 2022, the prevalence and influence of generative AI technologies have significantly increased across a range of industries, including higher education. The implications of generative AI are particularly complex and multifaceted in the context of college admissions, where the authenticity and uniqueness of student applications are crucial.


Admissions officers’ traditional metrics and methods for assessing applicants’ originality and personal voice are coming under pressure as AI tools get more sophisticated at producing creative content, from essays to artistic works. Over time, educational institutions might need to pivot to new methods to maintain the objectivity and fairness of their selection standards. The role of AI in college admissions will undoubtedly continue to evolve, but some of the most common questions do already have clear answers.


Can I Use AI to Write My College Essays?


The shortest answer to this would, unsurprisingly, be no. 


The primary objective of a college essay is to present a personal narrative that reflects your identity. Universities need to hear this story from you to fully understand your unique identity, experiences, and points of view. If you use AI to write your college essay, there’s no way to successfully do these things. 


The problem is, AI creates content that may be well-written, but lacks the genuine essence of your voice and life experiences. The technology draws on what’s already out there, and so is intrinsically incapable of capturing and conveying your unique experiences, feelings, and realizations about yourself. Essentially, AI-written college essays by definition lack the human touch and authenticity that define the very best college essays. Remember, these essays are more than just words on a page—they’re your primary opportunity to explain to admissions officers who you are at a fundamental level.


Furthermore, there’s a chance that AI-generated essays will be detected thanks to colleges’ increasing development of AI detection tools (more on this later), which would likely lead to your application automatically being rejected. Schools expect you to write your essays yourself, and using AI is just as dishonest as having a friend or sibling write your essay for you.


Some colleges have already taken the step of stating explicitly that they expect students to write their essays themselves. The following statement is from Haverford College, just before students enter their supplemental essays on the Common App: 


“Good writing is a process, and there are many resources you might use as you craft your responses, including asking someone you trust to review your work and offer feedback or using generative artificial intelligence to brainstorm your response. But please know that what is most important to us is to hear your voice and ideas. Your voice matters to us, and hearing it in your writing will help us better understand who you are and imagine who you would be at Haverford.”


This statement highlights that while AI may be able to help you with your brainstorming or other elements of your drafting process, the finished product must have the integrity of your own voice/personality. Colleges aren’t trying to be mean; they genuinely seek to understand the unique individual behind your application, and AI, while a helpful tool, cannot possibly convey the depth and authenticity of your personal story. 


In conclusion, even though AI has uses, writing college essays is not one of them. Your essays must accurately reflect who you are, and that is a task only you can complete.


Can I Use AI to Help Me With My College Essays?


While you shouldn’t use AI to actually write your essay, AI can be a useful tool for preliminary brainstorming or research during your college essay writing process. For example, it can save you time browsing college websites as you prepare to write a “Why School?” essay, by generating lists of programs or clubs that are relevant to your interests at particular colleges. Cross-referencing this information with the official college websites is essential, though, as academic and extracurricular offerings are subject to change. 


Even though AI can be useful in these early phases, it’s crucial to remember that you must be the one to explain how the activities AI told you about align with your past experiences, or how you see yourself using them to fulfill your goals for college. In other words, AI can give you some of the ingredients, but you have to do the cooking.


If you’re looking to generate a rough draft using AI, ChatGPT is one tool you can utilize. The process of incorporating a tool like ChatGPT into your writing process has 5 steps:


1. Brainstorming for Essay Topics


  • Initial Ideas: Share with ChatGPT any preliminary ideas or experiences that you would like to discuss in your college essay. These could be noteworthy experiences, accomplishments, or facets of your personality.
  • Finding Themes: The core of your essay may be formed by interacting with ChatGPT to find interesting themes or lessons from life in your stories.


2. Structuring Your College Essay


  • Creating an Outline: Ask ChatGPT to create a structured outline for you. Make sure it has a logical opening, body paragraphs that explore your experiences or best traits, and a conclusion that connects to your main points.
  • Organization: Verify that the outline presents your development or insights in a clear, easy-to-follow way.


3. Customizing to Reflect Your Personal Voice


  • Adaptation: Adjust ChatGPT’s suggested phrasings to align with how you yourself would express those ideas, and make sure the details provided about your experiences are both accurate and the best ones to communicate your point.
  • Connection to the Prompt: Make sure the ideas are presented in a way that clearly answers the prompt, rather than as a vague narrative that could be responding to anything.


4. Enhancing Authenticity and Creativity


  • The Hook: Crafting a vivid, engaging hook is something you’ll likely have to do on your own, as only you have access to your full treasure chest of experiences, and so only you can determine which one would make for the strongest start to your essay.
  • Personalization of Goals: Many students have similar goals for college, which is totally normal, but you want to make sure you’re describing them in a way that’s truly unique to you. Being reliant on ChatGPT when you’re spelling out what you want to do in college will likely cause your application to sound the same as everyone else’s.


5. Applying Personal Insight and Ethical Considerations


  • True Narrative: As you work towards a final draft, make sure the story is being told in a way that feels authentic to you. ChatGPT will never know all the details of what has happened in your life, nor how your experiences have impacted you. Only you do, so verify that the heart of the story reflects your actual emotions about and reflections on your life.
  • Respect for Integrity: Read back over your essay, and honestly ask yourself if you did the bulk of the writing yourself. If the answer is no, you’re unfortunately not done just yet—refer back to the steps above to ensure you’ve done the necessary personalization to your AI-generated rough draft.


Remember that there are other AI tools, like Google’s Bard, emerging in the generative content arena, so these tips for writing a college admissions essay are not just applicable to ChatGPT. Select an AI tool that you are comfortable using, and treat it as an aid for brainstorming and organizing your essay, while still taking the time to describe the distinctive human elements of your story yourself.

Can I Use AI to Write My Activities List?


Using AI for your activities list in college applications can be beneficial, as this list exists to provide a concise and factual summary of your extracurricular involvement, roles, and accomplishments, rather than the deeper personal reflection of full-length essays. Particularly given the challenge of wrestling with strict character limits, such as 150 characters on the Common App, AI can assist you in creating succinct yet impactful descriptions. 


It’s crucial, however, to ensure that the AI-generated content accurately reflects your experiences and effectively highlights your skills and achievements. So, like with your essays, fact-checking and editing are key steps in this process. While AI can facilitate the drafting of your activities list, it’s important to double check that the final version is an authentic depiction of you extracurricular involvement. Remember, AI doesn’t actually know what you did, only you do.


Will My Teachers Use AI to Write My Letters of Recommendation?


Given their heavy workloads, some teachers may use AI to help them write recommendation letters. Even before the rise of AI, educators have traditionally relied on rec letter templates for efficiency, as these letters, while personalized, typically have a relatively standardized format. So, writing an initial draft of a rec letter is definitely a suitable task for AI.


Students should, however, have confidence that their teachers will personalize these letters, to ensure that they reflect unique insights into their own abilities and character. Definitely don’t ask your teachers whether they’re going to use AI to write your letter—you may come across as accusatory or even outright rude.


Overall, teachers and counselors can benefit greatly from tools such as CollegeVine’s AI Rec Letter Assistant, which quickly generates personalized, editable drafts of recommendation letters, tailored to each student using their specific data and adapted to match the educator’s unique writing style. But these tools are just to streamline the letter-writing process—your teachers are going to read them over to make sure they’re also incorporating a personal touch.


Will Colleges Use AI Checkers?


There is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether colleges will use AI checkers, because practices for every element of admissions vary by institution, and many are still adapting to the rapidly evolving AI technologies out there. However, while you have no way of knowing for sure whether or not a given college is using AI checking technology, it shouldn’t matter, as you simply shouldn’t use AI to write your essays. 


In addition to all of the reasons given above for why you should write your essays yourself, if you’re unable to personally invest in writing a supplemental essay for a school, you may want to take a step back and ask yourself how genuine your interest really is in that particular institution.


How to Get Feedback on Your Essays


Need some quick feedback on your essays? Consider using CollegeVine’s free AI essay reviewer, Ivy, for ethical AI assistance in refining your essays. Ivy can give you immediate feedback on how to improve the structure and content of your essays. 


However, human feedback is equally important, as AI may not fully comprehend the nuances of your writing. Check out CollegeVine’s Peer Essay Review tool to receive free critiques from other students who can provide valuable feedback on your work. This tool also allows you to improve your own writing skills by reviewing your peers’ essays.


CollegeVine also provides access to college admissions experts for more specialized advice regarding essays. These advisors have a proven track record of assisting students in refining their essays and submitting successful applications to selective universities, and will increase your chances of getting into your dream college by giving you personalized, insightful feedback on your writing.

Short Bio
Varun is a recent graduate from Arizona State University, Tempe, with a degree in Computer Science. He aims to share his knowledge of computer science, the IB Diploma Program, and all things college-related with high school students. In his free time, he can be found performing DJ sets or cooking!