Don’t Let ChatGPT Write Your MBA Essays

by Stacy Blackman Consulting, Jul 31, 2023

AI Won’t Get You Into B-School

Unless you spent the last several months on a deserted island, you’ve probably heard a lot about OpenAI’s ChatGPT. This artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot can answer questions, write articles, summarize texts, hold a conversation, and so much more. Within four days of its launch on November 30, 2022, more than a million users had taken it for a spin. The potential for plagiarism became apparent immediately. Within weeks, media outlets such as Bloomberg Opinion and The Atlantic predicted AI would kill the college essay. This prospect touched a nerve with everyone connected to higher education—SBC included.

The Stacy Blackman consulting team has spent the past few months considering how ChatGPT could impact the MBA application process. Now that the initial commotion over this AI tool has subsided, we wanted to weigh in on how ChatGPT might affect our industry. Our conclusion? The (perceived) threat is vastly overblown.

The Limits of ChatGPT

Sure, you could have ChatGPT write your MBA essays. Honestly, the resulting text might sound better than what many non-writers could produce on their own. Even so, those essays will not get you into a good business school. Here are two main reasons why.

First, the best essays are a balanced combination of many different things. You’ll see personal stories, specific accomplishments, and unique experiences. They provide insights into what the applicant has learned and how they’ve grown.

While your ability to handle the rigors of an MBA program is still a significant consideration, your emotional intelligence counts for an outsized amount these days. The so-called “soft skills” surrounding communication, the ability to motivate others, and leadership are attractive qualities to the admissions committee. Your MBA essays are the ideal vehicle for conveying those traits.

ChatGPT is adept at writing coherently, with some style and perfect grammar. But it will never be able to replicate the introspection found in a stellar MBA essay.

The SBC team tested ChatGPT in the weeks after it went live late last year. We soon discovered that every AI-produced essay had the same problem: there was no meaningful and personalized content. The essays were grammatically solid, but all had the same vague and repetitive output.

For example, identical points appear three to four times throughout the essay in different ways. They also lacked specific knowledge of the culture or curriculum of the MBA program in question. Plus, they had no insight into the intrinsic motivations of the applicants. From our perspective, AI-produced essays will be high-risk dealbreakers in the MBA admissions process that will land in the reject pile.

Efforts to Combat AI-Assisted Writing Have Skyrocketed

The second reason we don’t consider ChatGPT a realistic threat to essay submissions is that efforts to detect and combat the practice are already in play. Princeton student Edward Tian spent his winter break creating GPTZero, an app that can tell whether a text was AI-generated. Meanwhile, the widely used plagiarism-detection service Turnitin announced it has the technology to detect AI-assisted writing that it has spent the past two and a half years developing.

So, we predict that top MBA programs may refine their admissions process in response to ChatGPT. But they won't alter their actual essay prompts. Business schools will ramp up the usage of anti-plagiarism and AI-checking software. They may also remind applicants to resist the temptation to rely on software for templatized writing and adhere to honor code considerations.

There have always been unethical ways to game the college admissions system—including higher education and MBA admissions. For example, applicants who go this route may hire a ghostwriter to write their essays. ChatGPT is a new way for applicants to cheat. But it’s just another “tool” in the kit for those willing to go down that path.


Stacy Blackman Consulting is the only MBA admissions firm with a complete panel of former Admissions Officers from every M7 program and the elite European MBA programs. If you are looking for guidance on your MBA application, we can help with hourly and comprehensive consulting services. Contact us to learn more.