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A.I. College Application Essay Experiment

By Molly Walsh - Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool that effectively addresses a wide range of questions, topics, and scenarios. However, the crucial question remains: does it provide the precise solutions you need?

Using AI to compose a college application essay may appear to be a practical approach. You can input your chosen topic and personal details, and the program will generate a well-crafted essay in the voice of a teenage applicant. Yet, a significant drawback arises: the essay may lack the authentic voice and vocabulary of the actual writer.

However, the issues with AI extend beyond authenticity concerns. College admissions officers have become aware of AI's use and have implemented detection software to identify essays that are not exclusively the applicant's work.

As an educator, I have observed numerous instances where students submit work that is clearly not their own. When an assignment exhibits flawless execution, advanced vocabulary, and stylistic changes from their usual writing, it becomes evident that AI has been employed. This not only raises ethical issues but also undermines the student's credibility.

Curious about how AI would handle rewriting this paragraph, I decided to test my initial college personal essay paragraph through ChatGPT. Here's the original paragraph I wrote:

“I have a unique hobby for someone my age. I play competitive bridge. Not many of my peers even know that bridge is a card game and the ones who do know picture their grandparents sitting around a table with a cocktail and snacks. I suppose I understand why they think only older people play bridge because at every tournament I go to, I am one of the youngest players there, and the older people constantly point it out. I do like to meet people of all ages and really have fun playing the game.”

The initial command I issued to ChatGPT was to rephrase the paragraph to enhance its clarity.

“I possess a distinctive pastime given my age: engaging in competitive bridge. Few contemporaries know bridge is a card game; those who often envision it as an activity reserved for elderly individuals socializing with cocktails and refreshments. I comprehend their perception, as I consistently find myself among the youngest participants at every tournament I attend, frequently becoming the focus of commentary from older attendees. Nevertheless, I derive great enjoyment from the game itself and relish the opportunity to interact with individuals across all age groups during these events.”

The vocabulary used here isn't what you'd expect from a teenager and would undoubtedly make admissions counselors suspicious. They probably wouldn't need specialized software to spot that AI was involved in writing this paragraph.

Next, I asked ChatGPT to rewrite the paragraph as if it were an 18-year-old's personal statement for a college application. Here's what ChatGPT generated.

“I have a rather unconventional hobby for someone my age—I compete in bridge tournaments. It's not a game many of my peers are familiar with; those who are, tend to associate it with their grandparents gathered around a table with drinks and snacks. I get why they think it's just for older folks. Whenever I attend tournaments, I usually stand out as one of the youngest players. The older participants often comment on it. Despite the generation gap, I genuinely enjoy the game and relish the chance to meet and compete with people of all ages.”

This paragraph is not as extreme in its language and could potentially pass as the voice of a high school student, but caution is advised. This is where it gets tricky! You might feel that the paragraph sounds like your natural speech, and you might believe it's close enough that admissions officers won't detect anything unusual, but they will. Consider this: every essay could be scrutinized with AI detection software. While you wrote the initial paragraph reflecting your ideas, any rewrite by a computer program compromises its authenticity.

The lesson here is to craft your own essay without relying on artificial intelligence. It will be genuine, personal, and more effectively written. Seek guidance from a real person and utilize grammar and spell check. Remember, the admissions committee wants to hear from you, not a machine.


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