Should You Use ChatGPT for Your MBA Application Essays?

Home » Should You Use ChatGPT for Your MBA Application Essays?

As artificial intelligence continues its rapid advance, new language models like ChatGPT are raising important questions for MBA applicants. The sophisticated AI can engage in detailed conversations, provide analysis on complex topics, and even draft full essays on demand. For prospective students considering using ChatGPT’s ghostwriting capabilities for their admissions essays, the decision is more nuanced than it may first appear.

The Temptation of ChatGPT

With just a simple prompt, ChatGPT can produce a perfectly structured, grammatically flawless essay in a matter of seconds. The time savings and quality of the output are undeniably impressive. Applicants already stretched thin juggling full-time jobs, GMAT prep, recommendations, and more can understandably be tempted to outsource tedious writing assignments to the AI assistant. But experts warn that the risks of using ChatGPT for admissions essays far outweigh any potential benefits.

The Authenticity Problem

The core issue with using ChatGPT is that the essays it generates are inherently inauthentic. While grammatically sound, the writing lacks the personal voice, unique experiences, and genuine passion that top MBA programs covet. As Maria Wich-Vila of ApplicantLab found when she prompted ChatGPT with Stanford’s famous “What matters most?” essay, the AI produced “cotton candy” responses – superficially satisfying but lacking any true substance.

Caroline Diarte Edwards, founder of admissions consulting firm Fortuna, echoes this critique. She found ChatGPT’s essay drafts to be “sanitized at best, suspicious at worst.” The AI simply cannot replicate the level of self-reflection and vulnerability that makes for a truly compelling personal statement.

The Human Element

According to experts, the real value of the admissions essay process comes not from the resulting polished draft, but from the deep self-exploration required to identify your core values, goals, and formative experiences. An AI assistant cannot guide you through that intensely personal journey of self-discovery.

As Edwards notes, “That’s what experienced admissions coaches do: they delve into your background and help you showcase strengths and find ways to mitigate weaknesses.” ChatGPT may be able to string together a thematic narrative from scattered anecdotes, but a human coach provides irreplaceable support in honing your unique story.

Crafting an authentic portrayal of your candidacy requires wrestling with challenging introspective questions. Using AI circumvents this crucial self-analysis. As Wharton’s Eric K. Clemons, who found ChatGPT could pass the school’s final exam, warned: “It’s going to be increasingly hard to know whether students actually understood anything.”

Schools Will Be Watching

Beyond the personal development aspect, there are also pragmatic reasons not to use ChatGPT for admissions essays. As the AI’s capabilities become more widely known, business schools are actively taking measures to detect and prevent its use for academic dishonesty.

According to Emily Brierley, head of admissions at Cambridge Judge, her team takes application authenticity “very seriously” and will be closely monitoring AI writing tools. Programs are already developing robust technological and process solutions to identify AI-generated content in real-time.

David Simpson, admissions director at London Business School, reveals his program now requires students to declare if they used AI to assist with any assignments, treating it similarly to proper citation practices. He states, “Use of AI to generate answers to essays raises the question about when that line is crossed – about the difference between being the best you can be in your application essays, and plagiarizing.”

The reputational fallout of being caught using AI writing technology on your application could be disastrous for an MBA candidate’s admissions prospects. Schools explicitly prohibit dishonest admission practices, and disciplinary actions could include rejection or revocation of offers. The risks simply aren’t worth it.

The Holistic Review

It’s also important to remember that admissions decisions are based on an entire application portfolio, not just the essays. While ChatGPT can produce passable drafts, that innate hollowness is likely to be apparent in inconsistencies across other elements like recommendation letters, interviews, transcripts, and test scores. As Edwards advises, “At the end of the day it’s going to be what [the applicant has] accomplished that matters the most in making that assessment.”

Many top schools are in fact putting increased emphasis on personal interactions like alumni interviews and video submissions precisely because they are more challenging to fake with AI assistance. The holistic review process is designed to get a 360-degree view of each candidate. Overreliance on ChatGPT could stick out like a sore thumb when considered alongside other authentic application materials.

Better Uses of AI Writing Tools

That’s not to say AI language assistants like ChatGPT have no place in the application process. These tools can be leveraged responsibly to aid certain stages of essay development while still preserving authenticity.

For example, ChatGPT’s analysis capabilities could be used for research and outlining. By ingesting relevant personal background and synthesizing insights, the AI could help identify themes to explore and streamline brainstorming without ghostwriting entire drafts. Grammar review, phrasing suggestions, and even adjusting written tone are also acceptable use cases that may accelerate the editing workflow.

Where ChatGPT really shines is in augmenting human efforts, not replacing them entirely. A thoughtful applicant should absolutely use all available technological tools in service of their creative process – just not for mindlessly offloading the intellectual labor itself.

The Human Element Remains Essential

Ultimately, the decision of whether to use ChatGPT or other AI writing assistants comes down to the weight each applicant places on authenticity. For candidates genuinely seeking a transformative MBA experience, human effort remains indispensable. There are no shortcuts for doing the deep personal work required to craft a compelling, insightful application that will resonate with admissions.

“You have to have figured out the key elements of your story,” affirms Edwards. While ChatGPT can compile details into grammatically correct narratives, the unique motivations, values, and experiences that make for a standout candidate profile can only come from thoughtful self-reflection and vulnerability. It’s something no AI, no matter how advanced, can recreate.

For business schools, embracing AI writing capabilities should not mean compromising on expectations for authentic self-expression. Rather, programs should consider how to intelligently incorporate these tools in service of the human element, not in replacement of it. Demanding AI transparency, enhancing identity verification, and doubling down on personal interviews and videos could help restore confidence in application materials.

The impacts of large language models like ChatGPT are still unfolding. But one clear lesson has already emerged: there is no technological substitute for human authenticity. As MBA applicants, maintaining that authenticity should remain the top priority, even in an AI-powered world.

if you seek guidance on crafting authentic essays and selecting the right MBA program, consult with an expert MBA admissions consultant, sign up today for a free profile evaluation.

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