ChatGPT, AI, and university admissions essays: insights from schools
10th May 2023
“ChatGPT can help school students with university and job applications, apprenticeships, and CV creation by providing guidance, tips, and suggestions based on their interests and qualifications.”
This is what ChatGPT produced when we asked how it could help students take the next steps after school.
How is ChatGPT affecting the education sector?
Since the artificial intelligence chatbot was launched in November 2022, there’s been a lot of buzz about its use and place across education. Many schools have strongly cautioned their students against the use of ChatGPT, and with its ability to produce answers that feel so authentically ‘human’ and the temptation to plagiarise, it’s not hard to understand why.
ChatGPT is able to respond to a prompt and provide a written answer in a matter of seconds. Ask it how to solve a simultaneous equation, and it can provide a series of simple, easy-to-follow steps. Ask it to write a Personal Statement, a cover letter, or a CV, and it can do so just as quickly which could be a problem for universities and employers everywhere; how will they know if what they’ve received is a real reflection of a candidate or just an AI-generated piece of writing?
Andy Cotterill, head of global undergraduate student recruitment and access at Keele University, explained:
“Universities recognise the way that students are engaging with technology is changing, and it's clear that AI is with us for the future. That being said, the Personal Statement remains an important part of the university application process and an important way for students to reflect on their own skills and development. Here at Keele we encourage students to work hard to get their personal statement to the best it can be and show us their analytical skills that will make them an ideal student for university study.”
What do schools think?
We spoke to teachers and university/careers counselors to get their thoughts on how ChatGPT could impact university admissions in the future.
As you might imagine, the views on it were mixed.
One teacher commented on the discussion about the positives of using ChatGPT. They explained:
"On the teacher Facebook groups I'm in, lots of people are encouraging students to use ChatGPT as a tool to help them study (e.g. by asking it an exam question, and then using the answer as a starting point to refine) and I can think of a lot of uses for an English classroom.”
One careers advisor commented about its ability to help with creating CVs:
“While ChatGPT can make an 'impressive' and concise CV or cover letter, submitting this version could be a red flag for recruiters. It's fine to help students as a starting point but they would still need to heavily personalise the CV and cover letter with their unique experiences and skills.”
On the other hand:
“Using ChatGPT to help structure and practise answering competency-based questions for interviews could be more useful. It's really important that students only ever use this as a starting point and always personalise it with their unique experiences.”
In relation to the point above about shorter-form questions, one international counselor explained that the new UCAS Personal Statement format due to be introduced (date TBC), will also help to negate some of the concerns about AI technology and plagiarism. There was also some hope as to whether US admissions essays might follow suit with the removal of the essay requirement in its current long form.
What is Unifrog's position on AI?
At Unifrog, we've deliberately positioned ourselves as not being reliant on AI or algorithms to help students decide on their next steps. Whilst algorithms definitely have their uses, we're focused on helping students to navigate all of the information that’s out there. Ultimately, the journey is always the students' to craft, and the final decision is theirs to make.
During the 2021-2022 academic year:
- Over 112,000 students used the prompts and examples on our UK Personal Statement and Common App Essay tools to craft their applications
- Over 45,000 CVs were created by using our CV / Resumé tool
Our work with over 150 HE partners across the world–along with organisations like Causeway Education–helps to make sure that students are getting guidance straight from the best places.
How can Unifrog help with tackling plagiarism?
We work with two thirds of UK universities and our HE partners get involved with things like presenting student webinars on Personal Statement writing, sponsoring relevant Know-how library guides, and attending our annual teacher/advisor conference to share best practice with some of our 2,500+ UK partner schools.
By engaging in these opportunities, we can help universities to:
- provide up-to-date information so that students feel empowered and supported with their applications
- support students to write authentic application essays
- provide teachers and advisers with guidance on mentoring students with their personal statements and admissions essays
Want to know more about becoming a Unifrog partner? Get in touch with our HE team and we’ll be happy to share more of our expertise.
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