ChatGPT: Some advice for college-bound students

Applying to College, Essays and Personal Statements, Uncategorized

Unless you have been buried under a rock, you have likely heard about ChatGPT, which stands for Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer. It’s a new artificial intelligence-based writing tool that has taken the world, and the college admissions experts, by storm. Developed by OpenAI, and currently free to experiment with, ChatGPT is a machine learning model that has been trained using reinforcement learning from human feedback. It uses a very, very large dataset of text that allows it to generate human-like responses to prompts and queries. This has educators and college admissions officers worried that students will be using ChatGPT to complete homework and write their college application essays. And that is certainly a very real possibility.

As I am writing this blog (and no, I did not use ChatGPT for this), I know that what I write today is likely to be completely outdated a month from now. But even with the rapidly developing landscape, it’s important for students and parents consider the pros and cons of this tool.

We’ve all participated in AI-generated conversations already. Every time a chatbot comes up on a website, that is an AI chatbot, not a human, answering your queries. Additionally, many of us have been using tools like Grammarly, Spellcheck, Photomath, Instagram filters, plagiarism detectors, and predictive analysis assistance in emails and texts for years. AI tools have been around for a while, are here to stay, and will be changing rapidly.

Before you start to worry that ChatGPT will take the place of millions of humans, remember that throughout history, technology has constantly made existing jobs irrelevant while opening new career opportunities. This is no different. Students who are considering majors and careers should definitely be aware of ChatGPT, and which careers will be obsolete and which will grow as they enter the workforce.

School officials and college admissions officers are already wrestling with how to approach the new reality of AI-generated text. Some school districts have banned ChatGPT from their campuses, but there is no way they can ban students from accessing ChatGPT off campus. There are already a number of tools to detect whether AI has been used and we expect that teachers, school districts, and college admissions offices will certainly be utilizing these tools.

There is also speculation that some universities may eliminate essays in favor of real-time writing (an application in which the prompt is not provided in advance and applicants have to respond within a given time frame). Others may require videos or interviews instead of application essays. Students also need to be aware that writing generated by ChatGPT does not have the nuances of a human, often lacking the emotional details and “voice,” that distinguishes one writer from the next. Furthermore, in recent queries ChatGPT doesn’t get all the facts right, since it is combing the internet and consolidating everything it reads, including incorrect information. For example, when asked about what MIT is looking for in an applicant, ChatGPT included a reference to strong SAT Subject scores, which were eliminated several years ago.

Students considering using ChatGPT for colleges essays also need to be aware that applications require your signature, indicating that all answers and responses on your application are your own. If you use ChatGPT or a similar AI tool, then you will not ethically be able to attest to this.

ChatGPT has the potential to be an effective tool in helping students with ideas and outlines, if used correctly and with caution. So, don’t be afraid to explore and experiment. Ultimately though, students need to be clear about what their goal is. Do you just want to finish the essay and get a grade, or do you want to learn and grow as a student? I hope that your goal is to learn, and to develop skills that will benefit you in the future!

As I said before, this blog is probably already out of date. I recommend that you continue to follow the news about AI, and learn how you can use this tool while staying true to yourself. Don’t hesitate to ask questions of your college counselor, your teachers, or the admissions officers you will be connecting with.

I know that students and families can utilize a number of resources and online tools to decipher what universities are looking for and to craft strong applications and essays. In spite of this, I’m not worried about ChatGPT taking my job! As a college consultant, my value lies not in providing data or information, but in providing insights and wisdom that can impact a student’s life. If you are looking for more guidance, feel free to contact us!

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