Understanding ChatGPT Essays
Earlier this year, ChatGPT became the fastest-growing web platform in internet history. If you’re not familiar with ChatGPT essays and the ChatGPT essay writer, this article is for you.
With AI technology on the rise, the benefits of AI chatbot technology across industries are being weighed against potential concerns regarding misinformation, bias, and security/privacy.
In academia, some institutions are embracing the technology, offering courses on utilizing ChatGPT. However, academic dishonesty is a big point of concern, with some students relying on the platform to generate ChatGPT essays for their courses. Moreover, some students have even started generating ChatGPT college essays for their college applications.
At CollegeAdvisor, our experts agree that ChatGPT and other AI sources are no substitute for authentic, personal, and human-generated college essays. In this article, we’ll break down how ChatGPT relates to the college admissions process with tips from former admissions officers. We’ll also discuss concerns related to the ChatGPT essay writer and ChatGPT essays so you understand how to responsibly engage with AI tools.
ChatGPT and College Admissions
So, what is the impact of ChatGPT on the college admissions process? And can ChatGPT write essays?
Later, we’ll look at examples from a ChatGPT essay writer with feedback from former admissions officers. These Chatbot examples will include AI-generated supplemental essays from Harvard, Yale, and UChicago. Finally, we’ll go over how colleges are screening for ChatGPT college essays and review how to use ChatGPT for essays responsibly. We’ll also discuss where to find helpful resources for writing supplemental essays on your own.
Before we dive in, please understand that CollegeAdvisor does not condone the use of a ChatGPT essay writer or any other AI when it comes to writing your college essays. Beyond concerns related to academic honesty, authenticity is key when it comes to writing strong essays. After all, colleges want to admit individuals—not robots.
That being said, let’s begin by answering the question: can ChatGPT write essays?
Can ChatGPT write essays?
Yes, ChatGPT and other AI tools can create essays if given a prompt. However, the quality and overall impact of an AI generated essay is up for debate. There are limitations to what ChatGPT can produce versus what a person can.
When using an AI chatbot for essays, concerns might include:
While this is not an extensive list of limitations, these features definitely play an important role in characterizing ChatGPT essays. Later on, we’ll see how these limitations play out in actual ChatGPT college essays.
First of all, ChatGPT’s work is not your work. In many academic contexts, the use of ChatGPT can amount to plagiarism. Although ChatGPT writing claims to be original, it won’t necessarily be unique or vastly different from other responses to the same or similar prompt.
ChatGPT is not a fact-checking tool. As such, information that ChatGPT/AI generates may include factual errors. It is also possible for ChatGPT to create sources that don’t actually exist. A ChatGPT essay may also string together details that are unrelated to one another. So, even if the details end up being correct, the essay as a whole won’t make sense or deliver a cohesive argument.
ChatGPT tends to have a strong hold on grammar and syntax. However, it may also use words inappropriately and tends to write in a tone that isn’t as authentic or clear as a human’s. The phrases used are often generic or repetitive, which will end up making the writing sound empty of true passion and meaning.
Overall, your college essays should be about you—your life, values, and experiences. ChatGPT can’t replicate that. By the time you’ve fed ChatGPT enough specific details, anecdotes, characteristics, or interests to incorporate in an essay, you’ll have already brainstormed plenty to include in your own! And, you’ll likely do a better job weaving them together than ChatGPT ever could.
So, can ChatGPT write essays? Absolutely. However, there are many limitations to the quality and depth of ChatGPT essays. To further understand these limitations, let’s learn a little more about Chatbot technology and how it’s used to produce ChatGPT essays.
What is Chatbot technology?
How can ChatGPT write essays with only a prompt? Well, let’s talk about how the technology works. Essentially, ChatGPT is an AI system that is trained to recognize and respond to information. GPT stands for:
Generative means AI that has been trained to evaluate an input and produce a new, original output according to its training. Pre-trained means the AI has been developed using a training model. Basically, the AI is fed a data set from which it learns parameters to apply to future tasks.
There are two types of training: supervised and non-supervised. Supervised training is based on direct matching, teaching the AI to connect specific inputs to corresponding outputs. Non-supervised training is based on pattern recognition, teaching the AI to learn underlying patterns and structures.
Supervised and non-supervised pre-training is then combined with transformer architecture. Transformers are able to understand words in context, taking note of the relationships between words and weighing their importance. Essentially, the ChatGPT essay writer has learned English syntax by training on a large dataset, making predictions, and then fine-tuning those predictions.
AI and College Admissions
The recent rise of AI has led to many debates across colleges and universities. In one case, Michigan Law School banned the use of AI chatbot for essays. On the other hand, Arizona State University Law School has approved its use, in particular for writing personal statements (the equivalent of the Common App essay).
These two schools show the range in how institutions are reacting to AI’s role in the college admissions process. However, many schools do not have a specific stance regarding ChatGPT essay writers. Unless a school you are applying to has a clear policy on ChatGPT essays, the decision of if and how you use ChatGPT essays will ultimately be yours. However, keep in mind that AI is included in many anti-plagiarism restrictions within the college admissions process.
Understanding ChatGPT’s writing process is important to understanding its end product. So, just how does the ChatGPT essay writer write essays?
How to write essays with ChatGPT
All you need to get your ChatGPT essay writer started is a prompt, a word limit, and some ideas of what you want to include in your essay. If you’ve never asked ChatGPT to write an essay, you might be surprised by how fast your ChatGPT essay writer will spit out a complete draft.
Not only can a ChatGPT essay writer produce a draft from a limited outline in just a few seconds; but it will also do its best to incorporate specific feedback. This means that the ChatGPT essay writer can redraft essays based on particular suggestions. Because the ChatGPT essay writer is responsive, it will continue to make changes to align with each piece of feedback you give it.
From that alone, using ChatGPT for essays may seem like an easy way to save yourself time. However, that doesn’t mean relying on ChatGPT college essays is a good idea.
ChatGPT College Essays
Can ChatGPT write essays? Yes. But, can ChatGPT write essays that will impress admissions officers? Not likely.
While you can input prompts into ChatGPT and receive a response, there’s a good chance that the response will not be suitable as a college essay.
Remember, there’s a reason why CollegeAdvisor doesn’t condone nor recommend the use of ChatGPT to write college essays. While ChatGPT essays may look polished (and they do have the benefit of being free of any spelling or grammar errors), they also tend to be generic. This isn’t altogether surprising when you consider how ChatGPT produces essays.
How does ChatGPT write essays?
ChatGPT works off of language modeling—that is, it recognizes and repeats patterns in language. As such, it’s trained to produce words—not information. Based on the data it has available (namely, much of what already exists on the internet), ChatGPT recognizes and replicates how writers string words together.
A ChatGPT essay writer reproduces human language using natural language processing, or NLP. It then incorporates real-time feedback using dialogue management, which allows AI to take in new information and contextualize it within the conversation history.
So, when we answer “yes” to the question of “can ChatGPT write essays,” what we mean is that it can predict what words might go together in the context of a specific topic. While your ChatGPT essays might address the general concepts of a prompt, we’ll see why this isn’t enough when it comes to writing a compelling college essay.
An admissions officer reviews ChatGPT essays
Now, it’s time to put a ChatGPT essay writer to the test. Below we have Chatbot examples of Harvard, Yale, and UChicago chatGPT essays reviewed by former admissions officers. For each of our Chatbot examples, we’ll provide the prompts, ChatGPT college essays, and notes from our readers. Take note of how similar the feedback is across the three examples, regardless of the essay prompt or length.
We asked our former admissions officers to review these ChatGPT college essays as if a student had submitted them for review. After each essay, you’ll see our team’s responses to these ChatGPT essays.
Please note the prompts are simply those provided by each university. They do not capture what prompt was provided to the ChatGPT essay writer in order to produce each of the ChatGPT essays below.
Harvard supplemental essays from ChatGPT
First, we gave our ChatGPT essay writer a prompt from Harvard.
Harvard Supplemental Essay Prompt
Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 words)
ChatGPT Harvard Supplemental Essay Response
As the founder and president of my high school’s first Robotics Club, I experienced the incredible power of shared compassion converging with interdisciplinary learning. When I first established the club, it was not simply out of a fascination for robots; it was a desire to foster an environment where innovation and collaboration were paramount, where my peers could witness the convergence of theoretical science, math, and tangible technology.
Every meeting was a melting pot of ideas. We worked collectively on programming, design, assembly, and testing of our robots, each member’s input crucial in crafting innovative solutions. This hands-on experience honed my problem-solving skills, allowing me to see the direct applications of the STEM knowledge we gained in classrooms.
Through the Robotics Club, I learned more than just how to build a robot. Leadership, teamwork, and the value of perseverance when faced with setbacks have been invaluable lessons. This experience has deepened my commitment to leadership and sharing my passion for technology with others and I look forward to bringing this dedication and innovation to Harvard’s campus.
Like other successful Harvard supplemental essays, the topic expressed in this draft addresses the prompt and the writing is free of any mistakes. However, the essay lacks specificity and a personal focus.
So, what did our former admissions officer have to say about ChatGPT’s work? Here are some of their comments about this essay’s lack of detail:
CollegeAdvisor Admissions Officer Feedback
Text from Essay:
Former Admissions Officer Comment:
“This needs to be defined, what do you mean by this?”
Text from Essay:
“it was a desire to foster an environment where innovation and collaboration were paramount“
Former Admissions Officer Comment:
“You need to support this with specific examples of what you did and what the outcome of your efforts were.”
Text from Essay:
“convergence of theoretical science, math, and tangible technology“
Former Admissions Officer Comment:
“These are really big concepts that need to be better defined and explained through practical examples.”
Overall, the reader was supportive of the topic and agreed that the writing was solid. However, the essay as a whole failed to highlight what the student contributed to the organization and what they learned from the experience. The lack of specificity ultimately made the writing feel generic and left the reader with more questions than answers.
In their final feedback to the student, the reader provided a perfect critique of what ChatGPT essays lack:
“Right now it is just a collection of lofty ideas and words without any specific details and personalization…The essay lacks any key thesis and structure and needs more development and representation of the statements made and most importantly needs to represent YOU as a person and founder of this club.”
Let’s look at another example of what you might be missing out on if using ChatGPT for essays.
Yale supplemental essays from ChatGPT
Next, we had our ChatGPT essay writer take a shot at one of the Yale supplemental essays.
Yale Supplemental Essay Prompt
What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer)
ChatGPT Yale Supplemental Essay Response
Yale’s commitment to a comprehensive, interdisciplinary education, solid cutting edge research and engaging residential college deeply resonates with my academic aspirations. I am particularly drawn to the unique combination of intellectual rigor and flexibility found within Yale’s Directed Studies program, which I believe will allow me to explore the breadth and depth of Western thought in an intensely thoughtful academic community. Moreover, the rich culture and innovation and intellectual curiosity at Yale, coupled with its focus on undergraduate research, particularly intrigues me. The opportunity to engage in cutting-edge research in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning at Yale’s Computer Science department would align perfectly with my career aspirations. Lastly, the vibrant residential college system promises a tight-knit community, enriching both my personal growth and academic journey.
This essay included great specifics about Yale’s offerings, including:
- Yale’s Directed Studies program
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning research at Yale’s CS department
- Yale’s residential college system
CollegeAdvisor Admissions Officer Feedback
While these can all be compelling details to include in a why Yale essay, ChatGPT failed to make a personal connection to them. In their feedback, our former admissions officer wrote:
“You’ve introduced three different aspects…with very little description or understanding of why they are important to you.”
The essay also has some contradictions in terms of focus. Our former admissions officer called out these competing statements:
“I don’t understand how your desire to study AI and CS relates to your prior statement about exploring the breadth and depth of Western thought – these don’t make sense and seem like you are confused about what you want to study – need to tie them together or perhaps delete and focus on what is your primary academic interest.”
Especially with shorter essays, you don’t have any extra space for broad statements or unconnected thoughts. Every idea, detail, and sentence matters and needs to carry its own weight and impact.
As you can see, using ChatGPT for essays generates similar feedback across the board. Let’s look at one more ChatGPT essay example.
UChicago essays from ChatGPT
The last of our chatbot college essays is a UChicago essay.
UChicago Supplemental Essay Prompt
How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago (Less than 300 words).
ChatGPT UChicago Supplemental Essay Response
The University of Chicago has always represented the epitome of intellectual vitality and critical thinking for me. Its ethos, encapsulated in its motto “Crescat scientia; vita excolatur” (Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched), resonates deeply with my own approach to learning.
UChicago’s commitment to interdisciplinary study aligns perfectly with my educational philosophy. I am attracted to the ability to navigate freely between different academic disciplines. Particularly, the Core Curriculum, with its focus on broad intellectual exposure, will allow me to explore beyond my primary interest in Astrophysics and tap into diverse fields such as philosophy, sociology, and literature. This will satisfy my desire for a holistic education that pushes the boundaries of my understanding.
The engaging intellectual culture at UChicago is something I am eager to participate in. I have always been captivated by the university’s tradition of vibrant discourse and the intellectual challenges offered by its student body and faculty. From attending stimulating events hosted by the Ryerson Astronomical Society to engaging in enlightening discussions in the House system, I look forward to exchanging ideas with individuals as passionate about learning as I am.
Looking towards the future, UChicago’s strong emphasis on research is compelling. As someone who seeks a career in Astrophysics, the opportunity to work with renowned faculty and access to world-class facilities, like the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, will enable me to participate in cutting-edge research, paving the way for my future pursuits in the field.
In essence, UChicago, with its unparalleled academic environment, dynamic student community, and dedication to research, is the perfect place for me to grow intellectually, connect with like-minded peers, and shape a promising future.
CollegeAdvisor Admissions Officer Feedback
Again, the main thing this essay is lacking is personal specificity. Our former admissions officer wrote:
“Make sure you are more specific about you and your desired experience…You really need to insert yourself in some of these programs you mention.”
For example, the reader suggests adding specific examples of research the student has completed and drawing a parallel to specific research being done at UChicago.
In one instance, the reader comments that the essay does not justly capture the goals of UChicago’s Core Curriculum:
“Broad intellectual exposure sounds very open and undefined, but it appears the key focus on the core is development of specific skills, critical thinking, problem solving.”
The reader even provides a link to UChicago’s academic page describing their curriculum, suggesting the student go back and review it. This is a perfect example of why you always want to do a deeper research dive into each school’s website vs. trusting ChatGPT to accurately pull information.
Additionally, the reader provided suggestions regarding wording and organization to help improve the overall flow and clarity. You’re likely to have similar weaknesses in your structure if you use ChatGPT for essays with longer word counts.
Reading these chatbot examples – were you able to tell they were written by AI? Maybe you’re wondering if admissions officers are able to spot if students used an AI chatbot for essays. Next, let’s discuss some key characteristics of ChatGPT essays.
How to tell if an essay was written by a Chatbot
ChatGPT and other AI tools identify and replicate linguistic patterns to predict which word a person would use next. Since they are programmed to adhere to grammar and syntax rules, ChatGPT writing will be entirely free of errors. However, just because the writing is “correct” doesn’t mean it will come off as natural.
In general, ChatGPT essays will be largely impersonal. AI tools like ChatGPT can’t generate the kind of personal stories that form the heart of a strong college essay.
Additionally, various AI checking tools exist, and some institutions may employ these tools to protect against the use of AI. While these tools are imperfect, they are still relatively effective in identifying AI-produced writing.
Will colleges know if you use ChatGPT to write your essays?
As AI technology improves, so does AI detection. So, always assume that admissions officers will know if you used ChatGPT to write your college essays.
Even without the use of specific tools, ChatGPT essays have various giveaways. The combination of general, formulaic writing along with zero writing errors in ChatGPT essays may lead admissions officers to suspect students have used an AI chatbot for their essays.
Overall, college admissions officers are very savvy when it comes to technology hacks and are definitely on the lookout for AI-generated essays. Especially if the institution has a policy against applicants submitting ChatGPT college essays, you can bet their admissions officers will be on the lookout for any red flags.
AI checking tools may be integrated into the application submission process in the future. Similar to systems like Turnitin, which checks for plagiarism in academic essays, AI detection tools may perform linguistic or contextual analysis to determine if an essay was produced by a ChatGPT essay writer.
After learning more about ChatGPT, you may be wondering, can ChatGPT write essays that will help me get into college? Ultimately, using AI chatbots alone to write the kind of personal essays required to stand out in college admissions probably won’t work.
How can I use ChatGPT to help write my essays?
Instead of viewing this platform as a ChatGPT essay writer, try looking at it as a ChatGPT collaborator. While it may be tempting to use an AI chatbot for essays, you can see from our chatbot examples that ChatGPT college essays lack a certain substance and nuance that is crucial to a strong application essay.
After reading the ChatGPT essays written by our ChatGPT essay writer, you likely understand why these essays won’t help you succeed in the application process. Moreover, many colleges will automatically disqualify essays written by ChatGPT and similar tools.
Additionally, we encourage you not to use ChatGPT to write a draft of your essays—even if you plan to edit them afterward. While this may seem faster than writing your college essays yourself, you might find yourself boxed in trying to edit the writing of a ChatGPT essay writer. Making someone else’s words sound like your own isn’t as easy as you might think.
However, there are some ways to use tools like ChatGPT for essays without having the ChatGPT essay writer do all the work for you.
Tools like ChatGPT can sometimes help expedite your research. If you’re writing a “why school” essay, you can use ChatGPT to learn more about a specific program. Suppose you’re interested in eventually attending medical school. In that case, you can ask ChatGPT to provide information about a school’s pre-med program.
When asked about UChicago’s pre-med program, ChatGPT provided a list that includes flexible majors, clinical experience, MCAT preparation, and pre-medical societies. To gain further insight into their pre-medical societies, you can ask ChatGPT for more details. In response to this prompt, ChatGPT listed organizations such as Health Leads UChicago, the Women in Science Committee, and the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students. This can be a great way to learn about programs you might not know about. However, in your essays, you’ll want to detail what specifically about the program aligns with your goals.
Overall, while you shouldn’t use ChatGPT for essays, you can use it to gain quick insights into the offerings available at some schools. However, you’ll want to confirm the details of your research. When providing the above information about UChicago, our ChatGPT essay writer provided the following caveat:
”Please note that the availability and names of these organizations may have changed since then [September 2021], so I recommend checking the university’s official website or contacting the Office of Career Advancement for the most up-to-date information.“
Even the ChatGPT essay writer agrees that you should double-check facts provided by AI.
We’ve described the limitations of using an AI chatbot for essays. As you saw in the feedback on our ChatGPT essays, ChatGPT essays have strong syntax and command of the language, but they tend to lack substance.
Instead of looking for a ChatGPT essay writer, you might use ChatGPT to prepare for interviews. ChatGPT has enough knowledge in its database to provide you with sample interview questions that you can practice answering in real time.
Instead of using ChatGPT to write essays, you might look for other tools—namely, AdmitYogi, which is a market-leading tool that provides users with examples of successful applications to various schools and programs. This resource can help inspire you as you craft your own applications.
Helpful College Essay Resources from CollegeAdvisor
Now, let’s say you’ve decided using an AI chatbot for essays isn’t for you. Where should you go for help writing your college essays? Here at CollegeAdvisor, we have countless free resources to help you feel confident writing your college essays on your own.
Essay Specific Guides
While there are commonalities between certain prompts, each ultimately has its own specific questions, context, and word count you’ll need to address. Consider each prompt as a unique opportunity to share something about yourself. This will help you craft a more nuanced, personal piece of writing than the ChatGPT essays.
CollegeAdvisor has resources for both the Common App and Coalition essays (you can find more essay examples here). We also have up-to-date 2023-24 supplemental essay guides for top schools across the country, like, Columbia, USC, UMich, and UChicago (as well as corresponding examples). Additionally, you can find essay examples that fit into more general categories, like Ivy League Universities or “Why this college” prompts.
Webinars let you hear advice from our essay experts directly. These advisors have unique backgrounds reading and reviewing college applications, so they know the ins and outs of what makes a strong college application essay. They also offer unique perspectives you won’t get anywhere else. In the Yale workshop, you’ll hear from a past admissions reader. However, in our Harvard workshop, you’ll hear from a first-generation student who specializes in education research.
In these school-specific workshops, you’ll learn a bit more about how supplemental essays factor into the admissions process. You’ll also learn tips and tricks for how long to spend on your essays and what you can do to make them great.
General Writing Resources
Can’t find resources specific to your school? Don’t worry. We have resources with writing tips you can use for all of your college application essays. You can read up on common college essay topics and how to approach them. In How to Write Better Essays, we’ll give you tips for approaching the Common App vs. supplemental essays and tips for making all of your essays stand out (something a ChatGPT essay writer can’t do!).
ChatGPT and Your College Essays – Final Thoughts
Can ChatGPT write essays? While students can use ChatGPT to produce college essays, a ChatGPT essay writer has significant limitations. Using ChatGPT for essays often results in writing that lacks honesty, accuracy, style, and authenticity. Some schools may start implementing AI detection tools as part of their admissions process, so you’re better off writing your essays on your own (and your application will be stronger for it!).
CollegeAdvisor is here to help students craft the strongest college applications possible — without using AI chatbot for essays. We have countless resources to help you, no matter which schools top your college list. Although writing your essays on your own is more time-consuming, it is definitely worth it in the end. So, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm, draft, and edit your essays – good luck!
This article was written by Stefanie Tedards. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.