ChatGPT for MBA admissions essays: the not good, not bad and not ugly

The big question for this year’s MBA admissions is not whether but how to use ChatGPT in writing admissions essays. Or which part of the writing process do you do, and what can AI do better than you.

ChatGPT / large language models (LLMs) will spit out credible text. And the more you tell it about you and the question you are answering, the better it will give out. In a flash you’ll have something really not-bad, that you can submit.

But there’s a but.

Which is, that not good, not bad, not ugly essay won’t get you admitted. The text will lack personality and individuality. It will be vague and general rather than specific and personal. If you don’t believe me, see this.

Your essay shouldn’t be ugly, of course, but it should have a “rawness” to it. It should be a bowl of fruit rather than warmed-over porridge.

Success in an MBA admissions essay is never guaranteed. But experience suggests it is more likely when you communication is personal, authentic and self-reflective while also communicating experiences and growth towards the MBA admissions value you now represent, particularly the parts that make you stand out.

Yes, you can feed the bot your experiences, memories, aspirations, values etc., and ask it to make text. But you will get back porridge, not fruit.

And this also begs the question: do you know what to feed it? Do you know the MBA admissions value points in your biography are?

ChatGPT most certainty doesn’t know this.

LLMs can’t generate what doesn’t exist. Only you can do the work of delving into your motivations, analysing your profile, figuring out how to frame yourself, which topics to bring up, which stories will resonate, and how to tell them.

Which is to say, the pre-writing phase is as critical as it ever was, maybe more so because it is the part of the process that is not GPT-able. This is where the good applicants will now stand out even more starkly.

The test of a good MBA admissions essay is not what it says about your achievements, but what is says about you. Even a well-fed bot knows effectively nothing about you. But you do.

1. So write that.

2. Read it back after 24hrs. Is attention focused on the right things? Do the stories matter? Are all the parts of you coming together behind your motivation? Add. Subtract. Rethink. Rewrite.

3. When you have text, the content of which will get you noticed by Adcom, THEN feed it to ChatGPT for polishing (if you even need to.)