By now, you may have heard of these newfangled AI language models—ChatGPT being the most prominent at the moment—and you may be wondering, Can ChatGPT help me with my law school applications? In this blog post, I’ll address this question.
This tech is popping up in certain corners of academia already. As a tutor at a university writing center, I’ve assisted with assignments requiring graduate students to try out ChatGPT. And this fall I’ll be teaching a comp syllabus to first-year writers, designed by my English department, that’s centered on artificial intelligence.
Can ChatGPT help you draft law school admissions materials?
Let me be clear at the outset: whatever help ChatGPT might offer to law school applicants, it cannot author pieces for you! Your essays and addenda—as with your scholarship in general—need to be in your own voice, based on your unique experience and way of thinking. No computer yet exists to do your signature work.
So, what can this tool offer? ChatGPT, released by OpenAI to the public in late 2022 and splashed across headlines in early 2023, is a large language model that generates text from user inputs. Basically, you can ask it questions, and it will give you answers (though not always correct or useful ones). You can specify parameters, such as length or, to some extent, the style of the response. Since the bot “remembers” what you have asked it, you can pose follow-up questions. Sometimes it will fix its own errors if you point them out; sometimes it’s remarkably obtuse. ChatGPT and other AI language models like it have been lauded and scorned, and their full potential—and dangers—remains to be seen.
For law school applicants, ChatGPT could act as an aid in the drafting process. Certainly, ChatGPT seems to think so. When I asked the program if it could help, here’s how the Q&A went:
Me: Do you think ChatGPT could help in writing a personal statement for a law school application?
ChatGPT: Yes, ChatGPT can be a useful tool in writing a personal statement for a law school application. Here’s how ChatGPT can assist:
The bot then counted the ways, mentioning aspects of drafting like “brainstorming ideas,” “structure and organization,” “language and writing style,” and “feedback and editing.”
I agree with this self-assessment, at least in part. For circumspect writers looking for feedback on language and mechanics, ChatGPT might be useful to a degree; it could probably recognize a wordy sentence or suggest a more vibrant word choice—especially if you direct it to look for those things.
Potential pitfalls of using AI for admissions essays
But while ChatGPT can offer some tips on what goes into a personal statement, you have to take its advice with a grain of salt. When I asked ChatGPT later to tell me some features of a law school personal statement, it listed 10 items. Each might have a place somewhere in a complete application, but combining all 10 in one personal statement would lead to an unworkable jumble.
In other words, I think ChatGPT is overselling itself. For example, it was clear from its response that it conceives of the structure of a personal statement as generically tripartite: there’s an intro, a body, and a conclusion. ChatGPT is good at producing seemingly lucid prose in formulaic structures like this. But this does not mean that a quality personal statement will emerge from such a formula. The 7Sage Admissions Course provides multiple examples of more dynamic approaches—and lessons on how to develop your own.
Moreover, savvy writers cannot take everything ChatGPT says at face value. It is prone to mingling fact and fiction—without telling you which is which. (As of this publication, when you sign in, OpenAI warns you of the potential for being misled.) Scholars have called these errors “hallucinations,” which sounds intriguing, but the fabrications can be hard to spot. ChatGPT, in its current form, is not an oracle.
Also, ChatGPT may not protect your data. Indeed, another prompt when you sign in cautions against sharing sensitive information—the very thing that might make for a compelling personal statement or be required elsewhere in an application.
Ethics and authenticity with AI-generated content
I’ll close with the software’s own warning about its limitations. After extolling its possible virtues, ChatGPT offered the following caveat:
However, while ChatGPT can be an excellent tool for support and ideas, remember to use it responsibly and not rely solely on AI-generated content. Personal statements are an opportunity for you to showcase your unique experiences, personality, and motivation for pursuing law. Make sure your voice shines through and that the final draft reflects your own thoughts and aspirations.
Always seek feedback from real people, such as teachers, mentors, or peers, as they can provide valuable insights and perspectives that an AI model might miss. Also, ensure that your personal statement is honest, sincere, and tailored to each law school you apply to, showcasing your genuine interest in their specific program.
Here, ChatGPT is not tripping. You have an ethical obligation to generate your own writing. Though current AI language models may hold some value during some stages of drafting, they are best viewed as one small tool in the belt. Seek feedback from real people who know what they’re doing—that’s advice I can wholeheartedly endorse.