How does ChatGPT Impact MBA Applicants?

AI can provide valuable assistance, but admissions experts warn that MBA-hopefuls should be cautious

The impact of artificial intelligence and advanced language models is being felt across various domains, and business school admissions are no exception. Aspiring MBA applicants will now be tapping into ChatGPT, an AI language model, and its successors, to navigate the landscape of admissions.

Such tools can bring several benefits in terms of research into MBA programs, as well as editing and proofreading application materials.

However, while AI can provide valuable assistance, business-school admissions experts warn that applicants should be cautious as there are limitations to the technology and potentially even bigger risks such as inauthenticity. So understanding the impact of ChatGPT on business school applicants is essential for aspiring students and admissions professionals alike.

How AI can help you find the perfect school 

The potential of ChatGPT in assisting business school applicants is vast. The biggest impact appears to be in preliminary research into different business schools and MBA programs or in researching frequently asked questions.

“ChatGPT and other AI tools can be used to help applicants brainstorm, outline and research. With the efficiency gained from AI tools, applicants should be able to better home in on schools they wish to apply to -- and the hallmarks of each program,” says US-based admissions consultant Stacy Blackman.

Caroline Diarte Edwards, director and co-founder of Fortuna Admissions, agrees to some extent. But she issues a note of caution. “Candidates are best advised to go directly to the source -- the school websites. There is no substitute for engaging directly with the community to learn about what the MBA experience has to offer you -- and how you would fit in,” Diarte Edwards says.

It is essential to validate the research generated by cross-checking against trusted sources as well; misstatements are common and inaccuracies can harm an application if presented to an admissions committee.

Should you use ChatGPT when writing MBA essays? 

Beyond research, the most contentious issue is whether MBA hopefuls should use ChatGPT when writing their admissions essays. Some may be tempted to use AI, given its ability to churn out content in a flash, but experts generally warn against this. 

“ChatGPT outputs are repurposed from content that already exists; so using the tool to write your essay is a quick way to be flagged for plagiarism and get dinged (rejected). The risks are too high and the output is formulaic, lacking nuance, and individualized expression,” points out Blackman.

Virginie Fougea, global director of admissions, financial aid and scholarships at INSEAD business school, says: “It is possible that ChatGPT can assist by providing a general structure, or checking for errors in grammar and style.”

However, relying solely on ChatGPT to generate an entire essay is a very risky approach, she warns applicants. “Admissions officers look for authentic and distinctive essays. It is crucial for it to be a genuine reflection of the applicant’s personal experiences, motivations and goals,” Fougea says. “While ChatGPT can help in the process, it is likely to be more insightful to seek feedback from trusted school professionals and mentors, or engage with alumni and current students.”

Diarte Edwards is even more downbeat on AI’s potential use in MBA essays. “The application process is not an essay-writing competition. If you are not a native English speaker, the reader is not going to penalize you because you make the occasional grammatical mistake or don’t have the most stylish vocabulary,” she adds.

What it can potentially help with is editing down essays to fit the word-count. But candidates should remember that the essay is by no means everything. “MBA admissions is a holistic process, which means that schools are taking into account many data points and information sources to build a composite picture of who you are as a candidate," Diarte Edwards stresses. "The essays are just one piece of that puzzle.”

How are business schools treating AI? 

That said, as its use in MBA admissions grows, AI is creating challenges for business schools, which may well start receiving a large number of generic or impersonal application materials. “Perhaps admissions teams will consider using AI as plagiarism detectors internally much like background-check systems are in place already,” Blackman suggests looking ahead. 

For now, most schools are still trying to figure out what their policies on AI should be. They will be aware that MBA students need to understand how to leverage these tools for their future jobs, so they are treading a fine line between bringing it into the classroom, and the need to protect the integrity of admissions.

For applicants, it’s likely to result in more scrutiny. “We think it will raise the bar in terms of the authenticity you need to communicate in your application. Schools may also rely more heavily on cross checks with elements that cannot be so easily gamed with AI, such as interviews, video questions, and perhaps even the GMAT or GRE,” says Diarte Edwards.

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