Oh no.

Apply Yourself

College application season will swiftly be upon graduating high school seniors, and with the advent of generative AI looming over pretty much everything, there's no doubt that some of those soon-to-be-adults will be using the help of AI chatbots like ChatGPT to complete what is undoubtedly one of the worst parts of applying to schools.

As recent reporting in the New York Times and other outlets note, ChatGPT and its competitors are often just okay at writing short essays on their own — but if used as an editing tool, or to help outline or brainstorm, this tech may shift the college applications process in a significant way.

To ban or not to ban is the question, though as NYT education writer Natasha Singer reports, very few colleges or universities have thus far put rules on the books about using generative AI on applicant essays. Those who have acknowledged the technology, which in its current iteration is still so new that it was barely breaking through last year's application season, have taken stances as varied as the schools themselves.

As the NYT notes, the University of Michigan Law School cautioned that applicants "ought not use ChatGPT or other artificial intelligence tools as part of their drafting process," but noted, somewhat confusingly, that they can "ask pre-law advisors, mentors, friends, or others for basic proofreading assistance and general feedback and critiques."

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, meanwhile, said that applicants may "use this technology responsibly" when writing their application essays — as long as they make sure what they're writing is true.

Forgiveness vs. Permission

As such, the question college applicants are now facing isn't whether they're allowed to use AI chatbots to write their essays, but in what ways they might be useful if they choose to do so — and if they do, how they can edit the writing so as not to get caught.

The entire debacle sounds awfully frustrating, not to mention dystopian. There's no doubt that AI chatbots can help with some of the more menial writing tasks faced by students — and white collar workers, and teachers, and lots of other folks — from crafting outlines to grammatical proofreading and fact-checking, though as most of us know by now, AI has a strange relationship to facts.

At the end of the day, ChatGPT has in a certain light made everyone's lives harder — and along with the normal existential questions facing young adults when applying to college, they now have to grapple with whether to use AI, too.

More on AI writing: USA Today Owner Pauses AI Articles After Butchering Sports Coverage

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