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Navigating the Shift: The Impact of AI on College Applications

In the ever-evolving landscape of college admissions, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is beginning to reshape how prospective students approach the application process. As we enter this new phase, each of us on both sides of the desk (counselors and admissions officers) is learning more about this technology, and what role it will play in the college admissions and application process moving forward.

Looking at AI -- purely from the mechanics of the application -- let’s consider how the tool can/will affect College Essays and the Extracurricular Activity Profile.

AI can help students personalize their essays through valuable insights, and provide real-time feedback on grammar, style, and concision while correcting errors and suggesting improvements. Additionally, AI can aid in essay topic selection by analyzing individual strengths, extracurricular activities, and achievements, ensuring a compelling narrative aligned with each student's profile. The technology can ensure a more holistic and personalized approach to essay guidance, catering to diverse backgrounds and experiences. This presents an opportunity for students to refine their writing skills and present compelling narratives.

On the flip side, while AI can enhance essay writing, relying solely on automated tools poses a slew of potential issues in the college admissions process. For one, the idea of, “Did the student write this?” will be ever-present for each college admission reader; an AI-supported essay may not fully capture the nuance and authenticity of a student's voice. Admissions officers value genuine self-expression, and an overreliance on AI may diminish the personal touch crucial for making a lasting impression and risks not resonating authentically with admissions committees. An excessive dependence on AI may hinder a student's ability to stand out among their peers. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, what are the ethics of all of this? Is AI a tool and resource or a cheat code?

For the Extracurricular Activity Profile, leveraging AI can help students articulate their experiences more effectively. AI can analyze a student’s input to suggest impactful descriptions and help students present a well-crafted, polished profile. The technology can act as a valuable writing assistant, elevating the quality of extracurricular narratives and highlighting a student’s unique contributions.

Again, AI will not fully grasp the nuanced details of a student’s experiences, potentially leading to generic descriptions, or as I like to say, “claims without evidence.” Active verbs e.g., organized, led, communicated, with no supporting evidence don’t hold any weight without clear examples to back them up. Relying solely on AI can compromise the sincerity of the narrative, impacting how admissions officers might perceive a student’s genuine passion and engagement in extracurricular activities.

In the evolving landscape of college admissions, the advent of AI introduces both new promise and challenges that few of us saw coming. What's clear is that the future of college admissions and the application process will undoubtedly involve AI, and our job -- all stakeholders -- is to strike a balance, harnessing its benefits while preserving the authenticity of each student's journey.

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