Built-in Social Equity, Generic Admission Essays
In the eyes of many admissions consultants, including Nat Smitobol of IvyWise, AI chatbots represent a long-awaited opportunity for equity for students who have previously been left behind. That includes American students from low-income families, as well as students who come from around the world to study in the United States.
Smitobol, who worked as a director in the admissions offices of Skidmore College, New York University and the ultra-selective NYU Abu Dhabi before becoming a consultant, said properly used AI chatbots can level the playing field between students whose families can afford tutoring and students who are left to “figure everything out on their own.”
“There’s such a big gap in access to tutoring, and ChatGPT could absolutely be used that way,” he said. “It’s a free resource to ask for explanations and enhance understanding of certain concepts, but also to double-check answers and help students practice.”
The technology offers new avenues to tutoring and getting work done faster, but it’s by no means a divine answer for students to do all of their work—not yet, at least.
Smitobol noted that U.S. admissions offices often grade applicants on rubrics incorporating eight different categories to decide whether a prospective student would be a good fit at a university. Each category offers a maximum score of three points, meaning a student with a total score of 24 is deemed a perfect fit.
One of the categories is the admissions essay, which an AI chatbot can technically write but with “generic answers” that are “not very personalized,” according to Smitobol.
“Those generic answers score very low on what we call demonstrated fit,” he explained. “Admissions officers, especially at smaller liberal arts colleges, have to get a feel for who the student is and what kind of person they’re going to be on campus. A response from an AI chatbot doesn’t yet offer those very personalized and detailed responses.”
Cruver, the Atlanta area-based consultant, compared a college admissions essay written by ChatGPT to what Disney World might look like without the mind of Walt Disney.
“It’d be kind of like a playground at your local park,” he said. “Without Walt Disney’s infusion of imagination, creativity and breadth of understanding the big picture and his passions, all you have are swing sets and monkey bars. But once Walt Disney infused his personality into his vision, we got Cinderella’s castle, we got a theme park, we got legacy after legacy of programming that generations reflect on.
“That’s what the student brings to the table when utilizing the technology of artificial intelligence: their imagination. ChatGPT and any other open AI is nothing but swing sets and monkey bars. And you can’t really produce Cinderella’s castle-type writing until you infuse your personality and your imagination and your creativity into it.”
Still, both consultants admitted that thousands of new students in the upcoming academic year will certainly have used open AI platforms to write their admissions essays. Many will have slipped through the cracks thanks to high GPAs and test scores, especially at universities where essay answers aren’t a top priority.