AI, or Artificial Intelligence, refers to computer systems or machines that can perform tasks that have typically required human thought. Effectively this means they simulate human intelligence.
This has led to the development of online tools like ChatGPT that can answer questions by using a vast databases of information and generate human-like text on almost any topic.
Why is everyone talking about it?
You might have seen a lot about ChatGPT online and in the news because it is a game-changer in terms of how we can generate ideas, written text and offer solutions to problems or tasks we have to carry out.
It was only launched in November 2022 and has currently been used by over 1 billion people (as of May 2023). There has also been a lot of discussion within schools, universities and colleges about how students are using it to help with their work and assessments.
As you can imagine, we have had a lot of questions from people applying for university or college about whether using tools like ChatGPT to help with your UCAS personal statement is considered 'cheating'.
Generating (and then copying, pasting and submitting) all or a large part of your personal statement from an AI tool such as ChatGPT, and presenting it as your own words, could be considered cheating by universities and colleges and could affect your chances of an offer.
When you complete your application, you now have to declare that your personal statement hasn't been copied or provided from another source, including artificial intelligence software.
As part of our responsibility to applicants and universities and colleges, the UCAS Verification Team run checks to detect fraudulent applications and patterns of similarity in personal statements. Read our guide to fraud and verification and similarity.
If UCAS anti-plagiarism software detects elements of a personal statement that are similar to others, the universities or colleges it is intended for may be notified.
The personal statement is exactly that; personal. It should describe your ambitions, skills and the experiences that make you suitable for the course you're applying for in your own words. A lot of students we speak to say the process of writing it helps confirm that they're applying for the right course.
If your personal statement doesn't appear genuine, it could affect your chances of being offered a place. AI is good but it can't replicate your personal thoughts and feelings and convey your own skills and experiences. A bland AI-generated personal statement is not what universities and colleges are looking for.
However, universities and colleges do understand that AI tools can be useful to applicants writing personal statements if used in the correct way. We have outlined some useful tips on using such tools below.
We have spoken to schools, universities, colleges and careers advisers, and pretty much everyone agrees that using tools like ChatGPT can be helpful to applicants writing their personal statement if the right guidance is followed.
They realise that AI tools are already reshaping the way we work and research and are about to become integral to studying and the way we work in many careers, particularly creative fields.
Although using AI and ChatGPT to write your personal statement for you will be considered cheating, there are ways you could use AI to help you make a start, structure and then check your final work.
It's important to remember that while ChatGPT can generate text, it's not a substitute for your own thoughts and experiences. It's called a personal statement for a reason and universities want to hear from you, not an AI bot.
You could use ChatGPT as a tool to help inspire, clarify and articulate your own ideas, rather than asking it to write your entire personal statement for you.
Here are a few ways you could use AI to assist you:
You could use ChatGPT to give you ideas about topics that are relevant to your chosen subject, which you can then relate to your own experiences and opinions. Or you could ask it to list skills that are relevant to the course you're applying for, allowing you to think about your own talents and how to convey them.
You may want to ask ChatGPT to suggest ways of structuring your personal statement. Our personal statement builder does something very similar.
Check everything that AI tools suggest, particularly facts.
They do get things wrong!
Copy and paste from AI tools and use as final text.
AI can state facts but cannot reflect your own skills, experiences and thoughts in your voice, which is what universities are looking for!
- My interest in law began when I read 'Who was Ruth Bader Ginsburg?', a book about the US Supreme Court Justice whose arguments helped persuade governments to change policies on gender equality. The book made me aware of how the law can make a huge different to individuals around the world.
- During my work experience placement, shadowing a solicitor, I attended the local Magistrates Court and saw how the process of cross examining witnesses works which was fascinating and something I feel my skills could be suited to.
- From a young age, I have been fascinated by the intricate workings of the legal system and its impact on society. This passion for justice and the desire to make a positive difference in people's lives has driven me to pursue a career in law.
- Beyond academia, I have engaged in extracurricular activities that have further enhanced my skills and enriched my understanding of law.
Ideas but not personal detail
While ChatGPT may suggest ideas of what to write about in your personal statement, the very specific reference to the book in the good example above gives a personal flavour to why the applicant wants to study law which an AI tool could not.
And while ChatGPT might suggest talking about work placements in your personal statement, you have to give specific examples that are personal to you and talk about what you experienced and got out of them.
The tone also feels genuine and heartfelt and not bland and overly formal as can happen with AI-generated responses.
Beware the bland and generic!
In contrast, the bad examples above have been completely generated by ChatGPT.
They feel very academic and bland. They don't give any real sense of what personally motivates the person to study law other than general statements about wanting "justice" and "making a difference".
And finally, while suggesting the person has taken part in activities outside of school, there are no details of how these have enhanced their understanding of and passion for law.
The personal statement builder in the UCAS Hub is designed to help you think about what to include in your personal statement, and how to lay it all out. It also counts how many characters you’ve used, so it’s easy to see when you’re close to the 4,000 character limit.