Arjun Seth writes, “A well-written essay never expects some cosmic perfection but rather a human touch,” a touch so full of minute details that one almost gives up. Figuratively speaking, every student has a personal fingerprint.
Technology has always shaped, and in one case, even invented, the art of writing. Whether it’s the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt, the printing presses of medieval Europe, or the messaging apps of our era, writing has evolved in a multidimensional fashion. Yet in each iteration, writing has remained fundamentally true to its purpose of propagating human thought more systematically on paper without relying on a human medium to pass on its message.
The logic was: by knowing the candidate as a whole, one can make a good judgment about who is a better candidate for their college. Its longevity and continuity through the decades are perhaps a testament to its success. However, this has become the subject of increasing doubt and reconsideration.
Authoring has always been a creative and artistic medium at its core. As any experienced writer will tell you, writing involves a long and sometimes mechanical process of learning to find innovative solutions to express your ideas in prose while using experience each one to gain more insight into the craft.
Beginning in 2024, the personal statement will be replaced by a set of structured questions rather than a free-response personal statement. Additionally, study preparation and their preferred learning style will also be part of the questions asked.
In some form or another, students always have to answer the above questions in their personal statements. Therefore, this should not change much in the approach to the UCAS application. However, this change makes the process more transparent for all students, which in turn ensures that universities can assess students more fairly.
ChatGPT can either be extremely destructive to the writing process for college applications by adding its own vector of unethical use or it can be just another aid to many students in their writing process. After testing this software for college essay writing, I have to say that, while I advocate its use as a creative medium, there are certainly reasons for caution. In my opinion, AI in the form of software has helped revolutionize the writing process. We have always understood that writing is part of a logical and technical process, and AI can be a useful tool to help us with this process.
ChatGPT says it in it’s own words:
One of the biggest challenges students face when writing their college application essays is trying to figure out what the admissions committee is looking for. ChatGPT can also help students brainstorm ideas for their essays by providing prompts and suggestions.
Of course, it would be helpful for students and consultants like me, who have worked in this industry for 15 years, to read this software-generated prose with heavy skepticism. Despite this fact, one caveat that I believe is being neglected is the role that the human touch plays in making any written essay a piece of writing. And how much ChatGPT is being talked about right now? In other words, one skill, that of writing, is being replaced by another, that of coming up with concise and useful prompts.”
Check for yourself
This personalization includes not only the content but also the style in which a student tends to write. I’ve spoken to several admissions officers about the role of AI tools in the changing landscape of college admissions essays, and the answers are largely unanimous. In a recent live conversation with Nicole Buenzli, director of admissions at the University of San Francisco, ChatGPT was a major part of the discussion in several forums hosted by admissions officers.