ChatGPT and School

If you have been following the news, you may have read about ChatGPT and the controversy surrounding the use of ChatGPT for college application essays and schoolwork. I thought it would be interesting to ask ChatGPT some questions about these topics and share its response with you. Here are the questions I asked and the written responses that ChatGPT provided.

What is ChatGPT?

“ChatGPT is a language model developed by OpenAI, capable of generating human-like text based on the input it receives. The model was trained on a massive corpus of text data and uses deep learning techniques to generate responses to prompts in a conversational context. ChatGPT can be used for various purposes, such as answering questions, generating creative writing, or even as a chatbot for customer service. The goal of ChatGPT is to generate text that is contextually relevant and grammatically correct, allowing for a more natural and fluid interaction between users and the model.”

Explain the dangers of using ChatGPT to write college application essays.

“Using an AI language model like ChatGPT to write a college application essay can be dangerous for several reasons:

  1. Lack of authenticity: Since ChatGPT is trained on vast amounts of text data, it may generate essays that are not truly reflective of the student’s own thoughts, experiences, and perspectives. This lack of authenticity can raise red flags with admissions committees who are looking for evidence of a student’s individuality and character.
  2. Poor language and grammar: While ChatGPT can generate text that is grammatically correct, it may not always generate text that is well-written and engaging. Admissions committees are looking for evidence of strong writing skills, and an essay that is poorly written or lacks coherence could hurt a student’s chances of admission.
  3. Lack of creativity: AI language models like ChatGPT are trained on patterns and rules, which can limit their ability to generate truly original and creative ideas. An essay that lacks creativity and uniqueness may not stand out to admissions committees and could harm a student’s chances of admission.
  4. Ethical concerns: Using an AI model to write an admission essay can also raise ethical concerns. Submitting an essay written by a machine, rather than by the student, can be seen as a form of academic dishonesty and could have serious consequences, such as being rejected from the college or having an admission offer rescinded.

It’s important to remember that college admissions committees are looking for evidence of a student’s character, interests, and potential to contribute to the university community. Using an AI language model to write an admission essay is unlikely to provide that evidence and could have negative consequences for the student’s application.”

Explain the dangers of using ChatGPT to do school writing assignments.

“There are several potential dangers associated with using a language model like ChatGPT to write school assignments, including:

  1. Plagiarism: ChatGPT generates text based on patterns it has learned from large amounts of text data, so there is a risk that the text produced may be identical or similar to existing text that can be easily detected by plagiarism checkers. This could result in serious consequences for students, including failing the assignment or even being expelled from school.
  2. Lack of original thought: By relying on a language model to write an assignment, students miss the opportunity to engage in critical thinking and develop their own ideas and opinions. This could harm their education and limit their future opportunities.
  3. Inaccurate information: While ChatGPT is trained on a large amount of text data, it may contain inaccuracies or outdated information. This could lead to students submitting assignments with incorrect information, which could negatively impact their grades and reputation.
  4. Lack of understanding: By relying on ChatGPT to write an assignment, students may not fully understand the concepts they are supposed to be learning. This could lead to difficulty in retaining the information and applying it in future assignments or exams.

In summary, using a language model like ChatGPT to write school assignments can be tempting, but it is important for students to understand the potential dangers and to consider the long-term consequences of their actions.”

My advice:

Don’t use ChatGPT for college application essays or school writing assignments.

Can I Get In There?

If you are wondering what your chances are at getting accepted to a particular college or university here are four things to consider:

  1. What percent of students do they accept?
  2. What criteria are important to that college?
  3. How well do you meet the criteria?
  4. Will the major you have selected have an impact on whether you will be accepted?

What percent of students do they accept?  

The higher the percent of students the college accepts, the better your chance for admission. If the percent acceptance is very small, your chance of admission is very small.

Percent acceptance ranges between 2 or 3 % and 100%. Schools that accept 100% include many 2-year community colleges and some 4-year colleges.

Some schools accept a much different percent of applicants depending on whether the student applies as an early decision, early action or regular decision applicant. Percent acceptance may also vary by gender or ethnicity. In-state and out-of-state acceptance rates vary significantly and many public colleges and universities.

What criteria is important?

Important criteria may be reflected in the school’s mission statement. It also may be reflected in published data (see which indicates how important (i.e., very important, important, considered, or not considered) each of the following is to the particular college:

  • Rigor of secondary school record – Rigor considers the number of years of a particular subject that you have taken.  Colleges often specify the number of years required or recommended for a particular subject like English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Foreign Language. Rigor also looks at the level of the course you took (e.g., college prep, honors, AP, IB) as compared to what your high school offered.
  • Academic GPA
  • Standardized Tests
  • Class rank (if available)
  • Recommendations
  • Application essay
  • Application interview
  • Level of applicant’s interest
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Volunteer work
  • Particular talent/ability
  • Character/personal qualities
  • First generation to attend college
  • State residency
  • Geographic residence
  • Relation with alumnus
  • Religious affiliation/commitment
  • Ethnicity
  • Work Experience.

How well do you meet the criteria?

For every criteria that is very important, important or considered by a particular college, consider how you will measure up.

For example, consider how your grades and course rigor and how your SAT/ACT test scores compare to the students the college accepts. If your high school has Naviance or SCOIR, you can use scattergrams to get an idea about how your grades and test scores stack up to others from your high school that applied to a particular college or university.

Will the major you have selected have an impact on whether you will be accepted?

The acceptance rate at some universities may also be dependent to the college which you are applying. For example, the College of Engineering may be more competitive than the College of Arts and Science.

Some majors which are in high demand and/or which there are few professors may be “impacted” majors. They may be more difficult to gain acceptance into than other majors. You may get accepted to the college or university, but not for your first choice major. At some schools, no one is accepted directly for a particular major. Students can only declare that major after meeting certain criteria as a college student (e.g., completing certain college courses with a particular grade).


Be realistic about your chances of admission. Be sure to include colleges with a high and medium probability of acceptance, not just colleges with low probability of acceptance.

If you need or want assistance with the college selection and application process, work with an experienced independent educational consultant like me. I help students select colleges which meet their academic, social and financial needs and I work with them throughout the application process to make sure they put their best foot forward in their applications.

7 Surprising College Application Essay Prompts

With the 2019-2020 application season winding down, here are seven surprising and thought-provoking college application essay or short answer prompts (in random order):

  1. “What is the most compelling thing you have ever read, and how has it changed you or inspired you to take action now, in the past, or in the future? This could be an entire book, a passage or chapter, a poem, an article, graffiti- anything written.” George Mason University Honors prompt 
  2.  Seattle has a rich musical history and SU students love discovering new Seattle music. Tell us: what five songs would be the soundtrack to your perfect college experience? (two to three sentences for each song is appropriate)” Seattle University prompt
  3.  “At USC Viterbi, we endeavor to engineer a better world for all humanity. This vision goes hand-in-hand with the objectives of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and their 14 Grand Challenges. Engineers and Computer Scientists are challenged to solve these problems in order to improve life on the planet. Learn more about the NAE Grand Challenges at and tell us which challenge is most important to you, and why.” University of Southern California prompt
  4. “There are approximately 171,476 words in the English dictionary. Pick your favorite word and tell us why you picked it.” Brandeis University prompt
  5. What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?” Stanford University prompt
  6. “Who does Sally sell her seashells to? How much wood can a woodchuck really chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Pick a favorite tongue twister (either originally in English or translated from another language) and consider a resolution to its conundrum using the method of your choice. Math, philosophy, linguistics… it’s all up to you (or your woodchuck).—Inspired by Blessing Nnate, Class of 2024” University of Chicago prompt 
  7. Yale’s residential colleges regularly host conversations with guests representing a wide range of experiences and accomplishments. What person, past or present, would you invite to speak? What question would you ask?” Yale University prompt 

Which of these prompts do you think is the most challenging? The most creative?

What prompt did you encounter that you consider thought-provoking?


Some of my favorite college references

Here are a few of my favorite college planning reference books and websites organized by category.  What other references do you like and use?
Figuring out what makes a college right for you: College Match
College Majors: Book of Majors
College Guides:
·         The Princeton Review, The Best 3xx Colleges
·         Fiske Guide to Colleges
·         America’s Best Colleges for B Students
·         Colleges That Change Lives
·         Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers
·         The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences
·         Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges
College Search Sites:
Chance for acceptance: Naviance scattergrams from your high school
Financial Aid:
·         Financial Aid information-
·         FAFSA Web site –
·         CSS Financial Aid PROFILE –
·         Federal Student Aid –
·         Some legitimate college scholarship search sites:

Net Price Calculator – on each college’s website


College Visits:
·         “A Pocket Guide To Choosing a College: Questions to Ask on Your College Visits” by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) –
·         On-line visit –
Common Application:
College Essay: Conquering the College Admissions Essay on 10 Steps
Going to College Advice Guide:  The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College

Expected Pay when you Graduate:
For students with Learning Differences:
·         “K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder” by Marybeth Kravets and Imy Wax.
·          Information on SAT and ACT accommodations – and

·         “Questions for the Office of Disability Support” by Rana Slosberg on

If Your Life Is Not A Bowl of Cherries

So you want to go to college, but there has been a significant problem during your high school years.  Perhaps you have been suspended, been arrested, have abused drugs or alcohol, or have suffered from a mental illness.
You might wonder what your options are, so first ask yourself these three questions:
  1. Have I healed from the problem? 
  2. Do I want to go to college?
  3.  Am I ready to start college with the rest of my high school graduating class?

If you answered no to one or more of these questions, you may need professional help to recover from the problem and/or you may want to work or take a gap year (or more) before pursuing further education.
If you answered yes to all three of these questions, I recommend that you write an extra essay, a special circumstances essay, as part of your college application.  This essay should be focused on your recovery, not your problem, and should describe how the problem led to who you are today.  In this essay, you will let the college know what the reason for your suspension, arrest, drop in grades, and/or missed semester was.  You will need to take full responsibility for what happened, explain how you have changed, and what you have learned from your decisions.  

Ten College Essay Tips

Here are ten college application essay tips shared by the young adult author, Hillary Frank, at the New Jersey Association for College Admission Counseling annual conference:

1. If you are having trouble with the essay, consider:

  • Telling your story to a friend

  • Recording yourself telling the story

  • Writing a letter about the story

  • Reading the draft out loud.

2. Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear.

3. Don’t be boring. Use compelling visual details.

4. Tell me something I’ve never heard before.

5. Use your authentic voice.

6. Use your speaking, rather than your writing voice.

7. Write a first sentence that:

  • Piques the reader’s interest

  • Is worded artfully

  • Provides a memorable visual image or point of view.

8. Uses similes never heard before.

9. Make characters complex.

10. Show surprising personal growth.

What tips would you share about writing the college application essay?

Common Application Essay Prompts for 2013-2014

The 2013-14 essay prompts for the Common Application, used by 488 colleges, have been announced. There will no longer be a topic of your own choice. The word limit will be enforced and will be limited to between 250 and 650 words.  The essay instructions and prompts are as follows:

“Instructions. The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so. (The application won’t accept a response shorter than 250 words.)

• Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

• Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

• Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

• Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

• Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.”

What do you think about the changes? What would you write about, given these prompts?

The Dreaded College Application Essay

Put yourself in the place of an admissions officer. You have hundreds of applications to read. You have just read an application filled with grades, scores, lists of courses and activities. It’s time to read the college essay. The last thing you want to read is a poorly-written essay that could have been written by any high school student.

Instead of dreading the essay, think of it as an opportunity to make your application come alive. It will change you from a bunch of numbers to an interesting person that the admissions officer would like to have as an incoming freshman. The essay is your opportunity to share something important with the admissions officer that doesn’t appear elsewhere on the application.

A memorable essay starts with the right topic. Read the essay prompt and instructions. Then, get in touch with yourself and brainstorm possible ideas. Pick a topic that you have firsthand experience with and that is important to you. Allow enough time to write the essay and then to edit it.

Five Things for High School Seniors To Do Now

For high school seniors, college application deadlines are just around the corner. Here are five things to do now, to be ready for fall application deadlines.

1. Finalize the college list and know the due dates. Generally, I recommend that students apply to no more than nine colleges, including stretch, match and safe schools. College application deadlines vary, and some schools have application due dates as early as October. For each school on your final college list, decide whether to apply early decision, early action or regular decision. Record the application and financial aid due dates.

2. Schedule Fall tests. If you haven’t taken the SAT or ACT, or want to take them again, check that the scores will be available by the college due dates, and then register. October is often the last test date that will be scored in time.

3. Schedule college visits. Many colleges use “enthusiasm to attend” as one of their admissions criteria. Visiting is an excellent way to demonstrate your enthusiasm and to learn more about the college. If possible, schedule an interview when you visit.  You may be able visit some colleges that are in session, before high school resumes. 

4. Get teacher recommendations. If you did not ask teachers for recommendations in the Spring, do it as soon as school starts. Notify your guidance counselor if you will be applying to schools early admission, since they also need to prepare a recommendation and get other materials ready for your applications.

5. Finish applications, including essays early. Your applications are critical and should be treated as such. Your essays will take time to write and revise.  Plan enough time to revise each essay three or four times.  Make sure to proofread your applications, including essays carefully.