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College Admissions Offices May Never Be Able to Use AI to Review College Essays

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There’s a lot of talk surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) and its use, or misuse, in college admissions offices across the country. In fact, some colleges have already started using AI to sort through the thousands of applications they received last season.

We’ve heard from students and parents who are concerned that colleges using AI in their admissions process could result in aspects of their applications being overlooked. 

Our advice? Don’t worry too much…yet. Admissions offices are currently using AI to sort through qualitative data, like transcripts and test scores, where the margin for error is relatively small.

AI is not nearly sophisticated enough to analyze all parts of an application in a holistic way, especially when taking admissions essays into account, and admissions officers know that there is a lot more to each student than data points. 

The truth is, the kind of advanced AI that could review an entire college application, including the written components that reveal integral information about who the student is at their core, does not yet exist, and it may never. 

As David Hawkins, chief education and policy officer of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, put it, “…while AI can process, summarize and potentially create efficiencies for tasks that heretofore have been labor-intensive, it is only as good as the directions you give it and the quality control you exercise on the back end.”

Now, all of this isn’t to say that AI won’t be used at all when it comes to essay submissions. As AI advances, so do efforts to combat chatbot plagiarism, which should dissuade applicants from even entertaining the idea of using a chatbot to pen their personal statements and school-specific admissions essays. 

We live in a world of technological optimization, but there will always be things that are uniquely human, and the personal essay is about as human as it gets.

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