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Which Schools Are Cool with Chat GPT for Your MBA Admissions Essays?

Serving on the committee for the annual AIGAC* Conference this summer was incredibly rewarding for many reasons:

  • networking with Admissions Directors from the best MBA programs in the world,

  • getting updated on the latest admissions policies and criteria,

  • visiting the beautiful campuses of Columbia University, Yale, and Cornell Tech,

  • and connecting with friends - old and new - in the fascinating world of MBA admissions consulting!


Perhaps the best part of the conference; however, was that it was brimming with juicy topics that were discussed among MBA Admissions Directors and consultants like myself, but the one that rose to the top of the list for most of us was the issue of candidates using Chat GPT and other AI software to write their essays for MBA admission.




Chat GPT belongs to Open AI, and is the Coca-Cola of large language processors, meaning that it’s the first of its kind to go mainstream, coming onto the scene last November, and going viral like nothing ever seen before in February of this year. Since then, most business schools have been conspicuously silent on the issue, presumably not wanting to misstep at a moment in time when no one knows which way things could go. Take too conservative of a stance and they end up looking like the old dinosaur in the room, like the high school teachers that led a protest in the 1980’s against the use of calculators in the classroom. Throw open the hatches too quickly and they may open themselves to all sorts of problems from legal to reputation-damaging policies that could be difficult to backpedal from and perhaps with repercussions that are long lasting. Understandably, the people running these powerful, historic, and influential institutions needed some time to reflect and to test ideas.


One of the main questions about the use of AI to write your MBA or college admissions essays is: does this constitute plagiarism? Well that depends on how one defines plagiarism. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, plagiarism is “the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.” The words output by Chat GPT aren’t really someone else’s work; it’s a machine’s work. Unless, of course, you want to credit the folks who wrote the software’s code. Does academia need to collectively redefine what constitutes plagiarism?


The use of AI as part of the MBA admissions process was the focus of one of the main panels during the 2023 AIGAC conference that captivated the attention of everyone. And right in the middle of it, the person representing Duke’s Fuqua School of Business said it right there: we encourage applicants to use Chat GPT while writing their essays, but they need to do so ethically and authentically. For Fuqua, AI stands for Authentic Individuality, and what the audience understood by that is two-fold. 1, AI is not something to be feared but to be used as a tool as all technological advances should be - the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. And 2, that the applicant doesn’t simply copy/paste whatever the chosen AI software has produced and assume that this is the best version of their MBA admissions essay. On the contrary! This AI output is merely your starting point for your own ideation and crafting an admissions essay that is authentically yours that tells the compelling story that is uniquely yours. No computer program - at least not in 2023 - can do that for you. You still need to put in the work, and Fuqua insists (in alignment with the policies of Duke University as a whole, that applicants must be good agents in the process of their candidature.





Georgetown McDonough School of Business openly encourages applicants to use Chat GPT as a tool to support their writing of their MBA admissions essays, but it’s clear that this is not at all a copy/paste situation. As nearly every school is sharing, being authentic in your essays is your best bet - no software knows you and your story better than you do.


London Business School makes it very clear on their website that all sources must be cited - a very on brand move for any academic institution - but specifically that your use of any AI software must be declared within the essay itself. Pay attention to how that will affect your final word count! For good measure, I’ll mention that LBS is one school that does appreciate applicants completing their optional essay; this contrasts with most schools that prefer you only use it if really necessary.


HBS, UVA Darden, Stanford GSB, Michigan Ross, Texas McCombs and more have all been sharing very similar policies, during closed-door meetings with AIGAC members throughout this summer: roughly speaking, as an applicant, you may use AI tools if you wish, but from there, the clear expectation is that you’re telling your own authentic story and that the work is all yours.


The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth currently has a developing position on using AI, which they assume applicants will use, but they are clear to remind the public about their code of honor that states that tools like AI should never be used to draft essays, create content, or translate an essay into English. Nonetheless, such software could certainly be a springboard for ideas!


Cambridge-Judge for the moment has stated they have no official policy on the use of AI while crafting your essays, but if you follow the suggestions in this article, which are coming directly from the aforementioned schools themselves, you should certainly be in good shape!


The overall message: use AI tools to get things rolling, to pull yourself out of writer’s block if necessary, and then do the work to write your own authentic, most compelling essays to demonstrate your admissibility and give these AdComs every reason to invite you for an interview.


THAT'S IT!!


Now get going, and if you haven’t yet tried out ChatGPT or some of the others, do it!

Happy writing! ✏️



www.Candidate.Coach




*If you’re still not familiar with AIGAC, this is the premier organization that vets the quality and integrity of admissions consultants. It is not only a mark of quality, but a mark of proximity of relationship to the best business schools in the world. These are the best admissions consultants you can find. For more information and a good amount of helpful, free information, go to www.AIGAC.org



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