ChatGPT has experienced waves of both controversy and excitement since its launch in November 2022. And in the world of college admissions, analysts are questioning if the college essay will survive, if applicants will cheat, and how ChatGPT will impact educational equity. If you don’t know much about ChatGPT, it’s an artificial intelligence tool that allows a user to generate original text. You can ask it questions, give it creative prompts, and use it to generate everything from poems to songs, to essays, to short stories. ChatGPT uses a large language model algorithm, learning from massive amounts of textual data, which then allows it to respond to prompts in a realistic, human-like fashion. While many view ChatGPT and other AI in a more negative light, used the right way, it can actually make the admissions process more efficient, especially in the exploration and application phases.
That usefulness extends beyond college admissions. Many of us struggle with preparation and research, especially when it comes to discerning what opportunities work best for our unique needs. In our current world, with so much information overload, ChatGPT can be a powerful tool to help you sort through the noise and find clarity.
(If you’d like to read more about how ChatGPT can specifically help college applicants, check out my latest Forbes piece here!)
Ask ChatGPT the right questions
“Do you have any questions for me?” Whether it’s in a job interview or on a campus tour, this question can make your blood pressure spike. Many of us prepare for this situation by searching the internet and reading articles, and while this can be helpful, no advice is one-size-fits-all. You can create some more tailored, specific-to-you questions by using ChatGPT’s “act as” feature.
This feature allows you to ask questions using self-identifiers. For example, I gave ChatGPT the following command: Act as a neurodivergent young professional interviewing for a job in tech. What are some questions to ask in an interview? ChatGPT then provided me with 10 questions to consider. The more authentic you are in your “act as” description, the more personalized your results will be. While you should still think critically about what you need to know for a specific opportunity, these questions are a great jumping off point when you’re feeling stuck.
Create timelines and schedules
If you find it difficult to visualize timelines or create a schedule, you’re not alone. It’s common to struggle with this, especially when things get stressful. Many of the students and families I work with find it difficult to keep track of everything that needs to be done in the admissions processes, and I know plenty of professionals – both neurodivergent and neurotypical – who find scheduling challenging.
Executive function is the mechanism by which our brains manage and prioritize our thoughts, and when that cognitive process breaks down, we can develop executive dysfunction. Executive dysfunction is often ascribed to people with ADHD and Autism, but it’s also been linked to depression and PTSD. Children and adults with executive dysfunction often struggle to organize materials, regulate emotions, set schedules and stick with tasks. For those of us with executive function challenges, tools like ChatGPT can be very helpful.
AI can help you to stay organized and on track by creating schedules that are specific to your needs.
Here’s what I told ChatGPT:
I am a prospective undergraduate student who needs help organizing my timeline and deadlines. Develop a comprehensive timeline for April 2023-December 2023 that includes essay writing, including my supplement essays, creating my resume and activity list, filling out application forms, filling in the FAFSA. Give an answer in tabular format.
ChatGPT provided me with this table (partial):
For ultimate clarity, make sure to specify “tabular format.” It’s super helpful for keeping dates and tasks visually organized. As with everything on ChatGPT, double-check the output to ensure that it’s correct, and make sure you’re being clear about what you need to include. The more specific you can be, the better the results.
Personalize your research
Thanks to the internet, we have access to more information than we could ever hope for at our fingertips. It’s incredible, but it can also feel like too much. Whether you’re researching a college or looking for a new doctor, search engine results can be overwhelming, and it can take a lot of legwork to wade through them. When it comes to information-gathering, ChatGPT has a bit of a leg up because you can more effectively tailor your search to your circumstances.
ChatGPT can help you research college and scholarships
For students and parents, this can be a fantastic way to discover colleges or scholarships that suit their circumstances. Try asking questions like this: I am a prospective undergraduate student who’s looking for scholarships. I’m a neurodivergent woman with 1550 on my SAT and a 4.0 GPA. I am excellent at Lacrosse and debate and have received awards for both pursuits. Show me a list of available scholarships that I can apply for from 2021 including the award amounts and websites where I can learn more.
This function can help you search for just about anything – from business to non-profits to salons – that work for you. For example, I asked ChatGPT to find me play groups for small dogs within the greater Chicago area, and to include websites (in tabular format, of course). Here’s what I got.
ChatGPT is only as authentic and you are
Again, the trick here is to be authentic about your wants and needs. If your matches don’t quite work, try being more specific and asking again. If you like what you see on your ChatGPT lists, you can always follow up your query with another: “Can you add more to this list?”
While using AI isn’t a substitute for research and human connection, it can provide you with tools to kickstart whatever you’re searching for. For anyone who experiences overwhelm or burnout, ChatGPT and other programs like it can lift a weight off of your shoulders and help you find clarity.