Using AI to solve for AI in College Admissions

A week ago I read an article on how AI will impact the essay writing portion of the college admissions process. Given the focus Umbrella has on higher education, we figured it would be a fun exercise to ask AI about the concerns of AI on the admissions process and to present some solutions for admissions folks to consider. Below is the output. Enjoy! 

Protecting College Admissions from AI-Generated Essays

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) presents an intriguing yet challenging dynamic for college admissions. As sophisticated AI tools become more accessible, students might be tempted to use them for crafting their admissions essays. But colleges, dedicated to maintaining the integrity of their admissions process, can take steps to ensure authenticity. Here’s a look at how.

Why AI in Admissions Essays is a Concern

Before delving into solutions, it’s crucial to understand why this is an issue.

  • Loss of Authenticity: Admissions essays are meant to give schools a personal view of the applicant, not the product of a machine’s computation.
  • Uneven Playing Field: Using AI gives an unfair advantage to those with access to such technology over those who don’t.
  • Stunting Personal Growth: Writing essays, especially about oneself, is a reflective process that aids personal growth. Using AI bypasses this opportunity.

How Colleges Can Protect Against AI-Generated Essays

  • Educate About Ethics: Students might not understand the ethical implications of using AI for this purpose. Colleges should provide resources, maybe even within the application itself, explaining the importance of authenticity and the potential consequences of AI-generated content.
  • Add Unexpected Prompts: AI models, especially the pre-trained ones, are based on existing data. By using novel or unconventional essay prompts, colleges can make it harder for generic AI-generated responses to be applicable.
  • Emphasize Interviews: Face-to-face or virtual interviews can be a vital tool to gauge authenticity. If a student’s oral communication doesn’t match the sophistication of their written submission, it can be a red flag.
  • Advanced Plagiarism Checkers: Modern plagiarism checkers are becoming more advanced and can sometimes detect content that has a high likelihood of being generated by AI. Investing in these technologies will deter students from submitting machine-generated content.
  • Use AI to Detect AI: Fight fire with fire. Train AI systems to recognize essays that display characteristics of being machine-generated. This can be based on syntax, style, or even the selection of certain phrases and idioms.
  • Personalized Questions: Instead of broad essay questions, ask applicants to reflect on specific experiences. For example, “Describe a specific interaction with a teacher that changed your perspective.” These are harder for AI to generate authentically.
  • Increase Awareness: If students know colleges are actively looking for AI-generated essays and understand the penalties (e.g., immediate disqualification), they’ll think twice.
  • Human Touch: Encourage evaluators to trust their instincts. Sometimes, the human touch can discern what technology might miss. If an essay feels off, impersonal, or too polished, it might warrant a closer look.
  • Follow-up Questions: If admissions officers are suspicious of an essay’s authenticity, they can follow up with specific questions about the essay’s content. This can be a way to confirm whether the student genuinely understands and relates to what was submitted.
  • Collaborative Essays: Ask students to discuss a topic with others and reflect upon it, showing the interaction and discussion process. This can be harder for an AI to generate as it requires personal interaction.


The intersection of technology and education is inevitable, and while AI offers countless opportunities for enhancing the learning process, its potential misuse in areas like college admissions must be curbed. By being proactive and innovative in their approach, colleges can ensure that the admissions process remains a genuine reflection of the applicants’ capabilities and personalities.

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