ChatGPT & The College Essay

“Will they be able to tell?”

While in line at my local coffee shop, I overheard a conversation about the use of AI tools like ChatGPT to help generate the Common Application essay. What intrigued me was the lack of curiosity over whether the robot-generated narrative would be good; they were concerned with duplicity and the question of getting caught!

“How will students become better writers?”

If the two people invited me into their discussion, which of course they didn’t, this would be my question. Writing a personal essay is an opportunity not an assignment, a gift not a task. Why?

The College Essay provides:

The “Third Dimension”

Grades and test scores are often considered the two most important dimensions of a higher ed applicant, but many admissions committees avow that the essay is what they turn to when they’re stuck: who is this kid? To become a 3D applicant, students must reveal their third dimension, their personality. I’d argue that a human still expresses their uniqueness, their quirkiness, their soulfulness much better than a bot.

The Human Touch

Using their bedroom as a metaphor for who they are and what they’ve endured; helping a friend get to the hospital at the end of a party; making a difficult social decision that resulted in peer rejection: these are a few of the topics that students have milked to show their morality, how they personally assess and act upon right versus wrong. Their decision-making abilities convey their humanness — and their value to a college community.

Tone-of-Voice and Point of View

These two important elements of craft are the DNA of any piece of writing. My goal when working with students is to elicit the distinctive pitch, twang, observation, opinion that distinguishes them from their family, friends and acquaintances. Does writing an essay with a strong tone and POV require hard work? Yes. Does it require drafting and drafting an essay? You betcha. And in the end do students become writers who are in shape – instead of flabby — for college writing assignments? That’s my goal. To receive emails and texts from college freshman that boast of their comfort-level in any Freshman Studies or First-Year Writing Seminar class makes my day, week, month. Ultimately, applying to college is a conceit not real-life, but to accomplish this task without help from AI provides students with self-confidence and personal accomplishment, two attributes that money and robots can’t buy.

For more information about College Counseling/Essay Coaching, please drop me a line at or give me a holler at 917-863-2424. Also, for “news you can use,” please check out my blog, videos, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.