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Admitted students talk role of ChatGPT in essays amid changing admissions policies

White circle lights over white chairs around low tables on a carpeted floor. There are stairs in the background against a yellow wall.
Princeton admitted students to the Class of 2028 on Dec. 14 as part of its Single Choice Early Action round.
Louisa Gheorghita / The Daily Princetonian

Artificial intelligence (AI) is receiving a growing focus at Princeton, serving as the subject of the Class of 2028 Pre-Read and spurring the creation of the Princeton Language and Intelligence Initiative (PLI) in September 2023. ChatGPT’s growing popularity has recently sparked conversation about its place in the classroom and whether it can be accurately detected.

Questions about the role of AI in essay writing and the weight essays should hold in the admissions process remain, during an admissions cycle already upturned by the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action. These concerns have already resulted in Duke University’s decision to abandon the practice of scoring applicant essays.


The newly admitted Class of 2028 is the first Princeton class to have access to this controversial technology during the admissions process. The Daily Princetonian spoke to admits on their perspective on the usage of generative AI during the college application process, and a professor with expertise in the field.

All three incoming members of the Class of 2028 interviewed by the ‘Prince’ said that they had not used any form of AI in their essays, though one student experimented with AI during the essay-writing process.

They expressed that they felt the personal focus of the essay made it an ill-fit for AI assistance. 

“I don’t really know what it would help with because you’re supposed to write about yourself, and it doesn’t know anything about you,” Jacob Emerson ’28 said.

Jamie Creasi ’28 expressed a similar sentiment. “There’s no way for it to communicate the challenges I’ve experienced, or what kind of life I have,” she said.

Hemant Sharma ’28 described his experience with attempting to use AI. He found that his essay “lost its emotional touch” so he ended up reverting to his old essay. “[ChatGPT] just made everything worse,” he said.


The University shares this position. In a written statement to the ‘Prince,’ University Spokesperson Jennifer Morrill wrote, “An essay generated by an AI platform is unlikely to be as rich and nuanced as a student’s own words.”

The ‘Prince’ spoke with Associate Professor of Computer Science Arvind Narayanan about ChatGPT's writing abilities. Professor Narayanan said that while AI may be capable of writing a passable essay, it likely would not be any easier than writing an essay without AI assistance. 

Professor Narayanan said, “If the use of AI assistance causes [the college admissions essay] to matter even less, I see it as an entirely positive development,” finding the essay to be “an exercise in performative authenticity.” 

The new admits differed in opinion about regulating generative AI use in the college admissions process. Creasi likened the usage of ChatGPT to a calculator which helps conduct simple calculations in order to allow a focus on more complex tasks. 

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“At first, people saw calculators as a way of cheating because you don’t have to do a lot of the equations that you once did or use your mind in the same sort of way. But since then, we’ve adapted to calculators … we can do higher level math or physics,” he said.

Conversely, Sharma felt that detection of AI usage in a college essay should be allowed, stating, “I think there should be at least a minor punishment because it’s easier if we curb it now so that it doesn’t hurt anyone later in the future.” 

However, even if schools agreed to take action against students suspected of unauthorized AI use, Professor Narayanan believes AI-identification technology is not at the “level of accuracy that would make it justifiable to penalize applicants for using AI assistance.”

Although the University did not respond with explicit rules about the use of generative AI in the college application process, Morrill wrote that all applicants “sign a statement acknowledging all information in the application (including the essays) is their own work.”

Claire Meng is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’

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