Honesty in Your College Applications

[Moms and dads – play this in the background while you’re reading this article.]

Can I say I did 5 hours of community service per week when I really did 2?

Can I say I was the VP of a club my friend started, even though we never met or did anything?

Can we say we have $50,000 in our savings account when we actually have twice that amount?

Can I round my GPA up a little bit?

How will they know?

Students and parents ask us questions like these all the time, related to their college applications.  This year, we’re hearing a new question:

Can I use Chat GPT to write my essays?

Some colleges select some applications to verify, but most colleges trust that applicants are telling the truth.  They actually EXPECT that you will – in fact, the concept of honesty is very much at the heart of the college admission process.  Every time students submit an application, they check a box that confirms everything they claimed in their application is their “own work, factually true, and honestly presented.”  You’re affirming you’ve told the truth.  Here are the statements every student signs before submitting every application:

Common App affirmations

This year, some colleges now ask students to verify that they’re not using AI to write their essays.  A number of colleges have shared their thoughts about how AI is and can change college admissions – with some warnings about over- or mis-use.  From Georgia Tech Admissions Director Rick Clark (who I constantly read and frequently quote):

Chapman University asks students to sign this statement before submitting their application.

“ChatGPT can write an essay or supplemental response for you.   

Will it have any personal style, unique details, valuable specifics, or soul? No.  

Is copying, pasting, and submitting something you did not write ever a good idea? No.”  

And what if you DO embellish just a bit, leave something out, add a little extra something?  Well, your college acceptances are conditional.  They hinge upon your graduating successfully, completing the classes you said you were taking with success levels that match your prior performance.  That means if you applied with straight As and got a massive case of senioritis and ended the year with Bs and a few Cs, the colleges can rescind their invitation to join their community.  Don’t believe me?  Texas Christian University (TCU) tells you as much before you submit.

So the bottom line:  Can you fudge things a little bit?  You could. 

But honesty is expected, appreciated and rewarded in your college applications. 

And being honest means you won’t have to worry if they find out you weren’t.

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