Sybil Low by Sybil Low

The college admissions process is a challenging time for students, particularly when it comes to crafting a compelling personal statement. Recently, education expert Christopher Rim, a college admissions consultant and CEO of Command Education, decided to test the capabilities of OpenAI’s ChatGPT by evaluating the AI’s ability to write a personal statement for a college application. While the AI-generated essay demonstrated the tone of an average high school student, it also brought to light five common mistakes that many students make in their personal statements. So, what can we learn from ChatGPT’s attempt and how can students improve their own writing?

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Key Takeaways:

  • ChatGPT’s essay illuminates common issues: superficial storytelling, vague language, lack of depth, context, and individuality.
  • Remedies include: using effective narration, clear and descriptive language, providing meaningful insights, context, and showcasing unique perspectives.
  • ChatGPT’s essay serves as a guide, helping students avoid these pitfalls to craft genuine, compelling personal statements.

The ChatGPT College Application Essay Experiment

Christopher Rim decided to challenge ChatGPT’s writing skills by asking it to craft a college admission essay for a fictional student with an interest in pursuing musical theater. The AI responded with an essay that, despite demonstrating the tone and skill level of an average high school student, showcased five common mistakes that students should be aware of and avoid in their personal statements.

Identifying and Avoiding the 5 Common College Admissions Essay Mistakes

This article examines ChatGPT’s attempt at a college admissions essay, highlighting areas for improvement. We address common pitfalls such as lack of storytelling techniques, vague language, missing depth, context absence, and lack of a unique voice. Using these insights, we offer strategies to help students create more compelling, authentic personal statements that effectively showcase their individuality and aspirations.

Telling rather than showing

ChatGPT’s essay fell short in utilizing essential storytelling techniques such as characterization, dialogue, and imagery. To make an essay more compelling, students should focus on showing active reflection and personal growth through engaging narration instead of merely telling the reader what they should take away from the story.

For example, instead of writing, “I learned the importance of teamwork,” students could describe a specific situation in which their team overcame a challenge, illustrating their personal growth and the value of collaboration.

Vague and impersonal language

The AI-generated essay contained simple, choppy, and repetitive sentences. To improve their essays, students should strive to include more specific personal context and concentrate on the reasons behind their passion for their chosen field.

Incorporating vivid descriptions, precise language, and varied sentence structures can help students create a more engaging and meaningful narrative.

Failing to provide meaningful insight

Lacking depth and self-reflection, ChatGPT’s essay left readers with numerous unanswered questions. A great personal essay should thoughtfully explore the student’s development, unique experiences, and values.

To achieve this, students should consider asking themselves thought-provoking questions about their experiences, such as “What did I learn from this event?” or “How did this experience change my perspective?”

Lacking context

The AI-generated essay needed more context and narration to create a compelling and relatable story. A dynamic essay should not only capture the reader’s attention through an engaging narrative hook but also provide the significance of the anecdote within the student’s life.

Students can achieve this by elaborating on the background of their experiences, connecting specific events to their personal growth, and demonstrating the impact these events have had on their lives.

Absence of a distinct voice and unique perspective

Lastly, ChatGPT’s essay failed to convey a unique voice and personality. Memorable essays possess depth, creativity, and dynamic momentum that make them stand out to top schools.

To develop a distinct voice, students should embrace their individuality, consider their writing style, and infuse their essays with their own perspectives and experiences.

Although ChatGPT’s attempt at a college admissions essay was not successful, it serves as an invaluable learning tool for students. By identifying these five common mistakes and implementing strategies to avoid them, students can craft unique, engaging, and authentic personal statements that truly reflect their individuality and aspirations.


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