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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

No tests, inflated grades and now AI is writing admissions essays (instead of Mom)

Colleges are trying to figure out whether to ban chatbots or see AI as a way to level the playing field for students who don't have Mom or a writing coach to polish their prose, reports Natasha Singer in the New York Times.


In theory, the essay should be more important than ever for those applying to highly selective colleges and universities. Many have made SAT or ACT scores optional, and grade inflation has made it difficult to tell one straight-A student from another. But some students get a lot more help with their essays than others.

Singer asked AI tools to create short essays required by Ivy League colleges this year. The results are . . . mediocre.


Princeton asks applicants: “What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?”


Singer prompted ChatGPT to come up with a pop song that could represent curiosity. The bot suggested Cake by the Ocean, "a song title that is a euphemism for sex on the beach," which seemed like an unwise choice, she writes.


Reprompted, the bot 50 words on Nameless, Faceless, a feminist grunge-pop song by Courtney Barnett.

“Nameless, Faceless” echoes my high school journey. Battling online hate, gender norms — it’s my anthem. Navigating fear, finding strength, facing inequality head-on. Empowerment surges as I connect with the song’s fierce message. Like me, it’s unafraid, outspoken. A soundtrack of resilience, speaking my truth in a noisy world.

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

She asked HuggingChat to write a 35-word essay in the first person voice of a high school student on a college class they'd like to teach.

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.

ChatGPT proposed a course on female empowerment and leadership, writes Singer. "My course would nurture young women’s confidence, skills, and resilience to conquer male-dominated fields and shatter glass ceilings, creating a new era of female trailblazers," the bot claimed.


When I was a high school senior, I was unqualified to teach any college course.


I think college admissions staffers must get sick of bullshit-peddling adolescents. All that surging empowerment has to get old.

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4 Comments


Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Sep 06, 2023

When my son and I visited Caltech, we learned that it was having trouble preventing application readers from quitting in the middle of the app-reading season; it and similar institutions would do better to greatly reduce the volume of this drivel by establishing a university programme admission rank system, which would only require the reading of such essays as a tiebreaker among equally ranked students, and would generate more careful assessment of writing than can be accomplished in the four minutes that are currently, on average, devoted to the perusal of the garbage applications that unfettered technology has enabled.

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Guest
Sep 05, 2023

"I think college admissions staffers must get sick of bullshit-peddling adolescents. All that surging empowerment has to get old."


Too bad that the colleges have convinced the high school seniors that this is what the colleges want to see and that successful essays must be like this.


-Mark Roulo

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Guest
Sep 05, 2023
Replying to

Yet they keep asking for it.

--mrmillermathteacher

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Guest
Sep 05, 2023

The problem with leveling the essay playing field is that it needs to start in early Elementary school. My high school student is, frankly, an amazing essayist. But we homeschooled and had her in a curriculum that scaffolded towards this from G4 on. (I tend to be lax with school for the G3 and under crowd - once they can read, I try to keep school days short and just turn them loose in the library for a few years, they come out ready to write and think in 4th).


The current CCSS don't actually scaffold towards writing a good essay, we'd be better off if the schools adopted the Classical Composition series from Memoria, which builds towards thinking and…


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