Can I Use ChatGPT for My Study Abroad Application?

An illustration of three students gathered around a laptop discussing ChatGPT. Small illustrations of a network node, briefcase, and stopwatch at left.

The short answer: no. Technically, you could use ChatGPT for your study abroad application, but you shouldn’t. This chatbot is in the news for its ability to create complex written responses to simple requests. However, using it can put your academic future at risk. 

Here are four reasons why it’s a bad idea for international students to use ChatGPT, whether it’s for your application or your studies.

Some apps take a more balanced approach to supporting your writing process. Check out our top four picks for writing apps.

An illustration of an exclamation mark, representing the risks of using ChatGPT for your study abroad application or essays.

It’s Plagiarism (and ChatGPT Makes Stuff Up)

Just like if you asked your friend to write your admissions essay or statement of purpose, having OpenAI’s ChatGPT program write your essay for you is considered plagiarism. Software company Turnitin calls this contract cheating, where students “represent AI-assisted writing as their own.”

While the Chat GPT program can create a passable essay quickly, it does so by putting words together “based on a statistical model trained on billions of examples of text pulled from all over the internet [which] makes it prone to giving wrong answers,” per the New York Times

This means the app guesses which words go where, and sometimes it’s wrong—or it makes things up. While that creativity is fine for writing a comedy routine, it can have a terrible impact on an admissions essay.

For example, we gave ChatGPT the prompt: “Write a brief admissions essay for a student from Delhi who wishes to take their undergrad at the University of Toronto in Bioscience.” 

The bot then produced an essay with general statements about being inspired to learn from U of T professors, plus a life-long interest in biology and chemistry. It also included more specific accomplishments, like interning at the All India Institute of Medical Science and presenting at science fairs on the effects of air pollution on human health. 

One problem: ChatGPT invented these achievements. So, not only is the essay plagiarized, but it also features fake accomplishments to hit a typical “essay” word count. AI researchers call these created facts “hallucinations.” Don’t risk this happening to you!

Not sure what to write in your statement of purpose? Here are a few sure-fire strategies for applying to institutions in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

An illustration of a magnifying glass.

Don’t Risk Your Admission

Plagiarism could stop your study abroad journey before it starts. If your essay, statement of purpose, or other parts of your application are believed to be plagiarized, your international student application will likely be dismissed. The institution might also flag your name against any future applications. 

Or, if you’re already in a program, and your work is suspected of plagiarism, penalties range from failing the assignment to being expelled. And on campus today, instructors are going on more than a gut feeling. 

Many colleges and universities are already working with plagiarism-detecting tools like Turnitin and Unicheck, both of whom will launch tools that recognize ChatGPT-based writing by the end of 2023. ChatGPT’s makers, OpenAI, have also discussed adding a digital watermark to text generated by the app. Plus, independent text review apps like GPTZero, created by Princeton student Edward Tian, will appear and become part of educators’ toolkits. 

The odds of getting caught are high, and getting higher. Are your study abroad dreams worth losing to save a few hours?

Curious about the differences between an admissions essay and statement of purpose, and how you can prevent plagiarism in both? Learn more before applying!

An illustration of two students discussing the future of ChatGPT.

Think of the Future

While the study abroad application process will evolve, widespread use of ChatGPT could force some rapid changes. In the future, colleges and universities are more likely to use application elements that are difficult to plagiarize. These changes might make the process harder for many students.

For example: if you think writing an admissions essay is challenging, try speaking live over video chat about a randomized topic. This idea might sound far-fetched, but could be something institutions do to gauge each student’s abilities effectively. 

Changes like these can also impact how equitable studying abroad is. In this example, students would need a stable, high-speed internet connection and access to specific video programs for an interview. This would mean students in remote areas, in places where internet usage is restricted, or in families of lower socioeconomic standing are less likely to be successful.

An illustration of a mountain with a purple flag.

Nobody Knows You Better than… You

We get it: putting together an application package takes time, and essays can feel intimidating. You might lack confidence in your writing skills, but if the essay is written in your voice, even if it’s not perfect, it’s so much better than using a chatbot. 

At the end of the day, admissions essays (and to a lesser extent, statements of purpose) are personal. And when it comes to talking about yourself, you are always going to be the world’s leading expert. Share your passions, whether you love learning about robotics or Renaissance-era painters. Research where you want to study, so you can speak thoughtfully about classes you’d like to take, instructors whose work inspires you, or a co-op that can teach you incredible hands-on skills.

Your life up to now may not seem very exciting to you, but if there’s one thread tying international students together, it’s that you’re all big dreamers. You’ve got goals, you’ve got places you want to be, and things you want to make happen. Talk about that, and how being part of your target university or college will set you up for success. Bonus points if you can share how you’ll help them shine along the way! 

Check out our top four writing tips for international students.

Ultimately, colleges and universities want to work with students who want to learn. Using ChatGPT for your study abroad application is like saying you don’t care enough about applying to write something yourself.

So, to have the best chance of admission, and to keep the process accessible to more students, take the time to write an original personal statement or admissions essay. Your future is worth it!

Want to start your study abroad journey? Reach out to the team at ApplyBoard! We’re here to help.


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