The Ivy Coach Daily

October 13, 2023

Using A.I. to Write College Admission Essays

A person walks out of The Jerome Lemelson Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Using AI To Write College Essays

Are you considering using A.I. to assist you in writing your college essays? Or are you considering using A.I. to help you brainstorm 2023-2024 college essay topics or outline essays? If you are genuinely considering using A.I. as a tool to help you write potentially the most important essays of your life, then you are making a grave mistake. It’s a mistake that will likely cost you admission to the college(s) of your choice.

Wondering why? Because college essays written with A.I. come out formulaic and poorly written. In addition, admissions officers can detect the use of A.I. Let’s dive in!

Two Reasons Why Using A.I. to Write College Essays is Bad

1. College Essays Written with A.I. Come Out Terrible

A.I.-Generated College Essays Are Formulaic

In September 2023, The New York Times ran a story on the use of A.I. in college essay writing. The story inspired many students and their parents to check out how college essays turn out when written with the assistance of A.I. Spoiler alert: they turn out to be utterly formulaic.

Want a case example from that very New York Times article?

Yale Short-Answer Essay Prompt: “If you could teach any college course, write a book, or create an original piece of art of any kind, what would it be?”

A.I. Response: “If I could teach any college course, it would be a seminar on the intersectionality of social justice issues, focusing on how systems of oppression intersect and impact marginalized communities. Through discussions, case studies, and community engagement projects, students would gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of social justice work and develop strategies for creating positive change.”

In no uncertain terms, this response makes for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad college essay. Notice how the A.I. tool rephrases the question in the first sentence of the student’s answer — a waste of critical real estate and the driest, most common of ways to open a college essay. The A.I. tool then includes generality after generality — from social justice issues to community engagement projects to social justice work to strategies for positive change — that mean absolutely nothing.

College essays are all about capturing specifics through small details showcasing a student’s experiences and perspective. Yet the A.I. tool offered up not one specific about the actual student in this essay nor any explanation whatsoever on the kind of social justice work they hope to study. Instead, it’s filled with broad strokes that make for a generic, cliché college essay that would never inspire an admissions officer at an elite university to root for a student.

The A.I. tool is trying to give admissions officers what it thinks they want. But a captivating applicant’s task is to teach admissions officers what they want — not to give them what they think they want.

A.I.-Generated College Essays Are Poorly Written

Beyond creating formulaic, cliché college essays, in our experience, A.I. also leads to poorly written essays. Sentences will begin with words like however, nevertheless, or therefore instead of taking a more colloquial tone. The structure of sentences will all also fit a familiar pattern. Some words will even seem out of order sometimes, confounding readers.

We at Ivy Coach hate when students start sentences with however, nevertheless, or therefore. College essays, after all, are not English papers. Students should dare to start a sentence with and or but. They should dare to include a fragment — when appropriate. They should dare to use the power of repetition — when appropriate. In short, students should write like human beings rather than A.I. chatbots.

2. Colleges Can Detect A.I. Written Essays

Beyond the fact that college essays written with the aid of A.I. come out formulaic and poorly written, the use of A.I. in college essays can easily be detected. And if an admissions officer detects the use of A.I., it’s not like that applicant is going to get a second look — their candidacy is finished.

At present, The Common Application, to our surprise and disappointment, doesn’t yet have A.I. detection software built into its platform. It will thus be up to individual colleges to run colleges essays through A.I. detection software. But this software exists, and it’s already easily accessible. In many cases, it doesn’t even require a subscription.

So, if you don’t think America’s elite colleges will soon — and some have already — purchase A.I. detection software to determine whether students are writing their college essays themselves or using A.I. in their responses, you’re sorely mistaken. While a student may think they’re so smart to use A.I. in brainstorming, outlining, or writing essays, admissions officers are a step ahead of them. After all, they weren’t born yesterday.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with College Essays

If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission to elite universities by submitting compelling, non-formulaic essays that we brainstorm, outline, and revise with our students, inspiring admissions officers to root for them, fill out Ivy Coach’s free consultation form. We’ll then be in touch to outline our college counseling services.

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