So How Did ChatGPT Fare In MBA Essays?

When ChatGPT first exploded into the scene, some MBA candidates considered it a gold mine.

“No more paying $400/hr for a consultant!”

Did that promise come to fruition?

The MBA admissions consulting industry’s first response was pretty lame.

No one should be surprised that if you simply ask ChatGPT to write a Harvard MBA essay, you will end up with a cliché overload like this one, published last spring in Poets&Quants:

“I am thrilled to submit my application for the Harvard Business School MBA program, and I appreciate the opportunity to elaborate on what I believe makes me a strong candidate for the program.

Throughout my academic and professional career, I have developed a passion for business and a desire to make a meaningful impact in the world through my work. My experiences have shaped my perspectives, and I believe they will allow me to bring a unique and valuable perspective to the classroom and beyond.”

ChatGPT can actually do much better than this.

In my June 2023 webinar “Who will be a successful MBA candidate this year” (Don’t miss this year’s edition!), I made two predictions. In my experience, candidates consider using AI for their essays to solve two problems.

One is not knowing what to write about.

The other is not knowing how to write. Not trusting their writing abilities.

ChatGPT is not the cure for either of these.

That was my position last year and it continues to be my position today.

All but one of my MBA candidates this cycle were admitted to at least one of their top MBA choices (yes, even the ones who only applied to H/S/W….). Not a single one had to use ChatGPT to write their essays — or had any interest in even trying.

Knowing what to write about can only come from two sources — knowing yourself well (self-reflection and self-awareness) and knowing your schools well.

And when it comes to the actual writing: Remember, it’s not about filling pages with words.

The biggest challenge in MBA essay writing is selecting vignettes from your life and weaving them into your story.

When I met and spoke with the AdComs of the top MBA programs last summer, the consensus was that there is one litmus test: Am I hearing your voice? Am I seeing your personality?

Now, don’t let this message lead you to believe I’m anything but an AI-enthusiast. ChatGPT might not be the essay-writing savior you hoped for, but it’s still got many tricks up its sleeve.

Need help coming up with alternatives for expressing a pesky concept? ChatGPT’s your guy.

Struggling to trim down that word count? It’s got your back.

Plus, it’s a pro at improving readability and keeping those pesky tenses in check.

So yeah, while ChatGPT might not be the end-all-be-all, it’s still a handy tool to have in your MBA application arsenal.

Just remember, your voice and personality are what make you stand out in a sea of applicants.

Petia Whitmore is the founder of My MBA Path, an admissions consulting firm. She is a former dean of MBA admissions at her alma mater Babson College and the former managing director of The MBA Tour. This commentary was first published at LinkedIn. 


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