Should You Use ChatGPT To Write Your Statement Of Purpose (SOP)?

Should you send your 2nd cousin to the university on your behalf?

That’s a rhetorical question. Impersonation is a stupid idea. But using a text generator to spit out ink for your SOP doesn’t sound as insane.

You’ve seen – like me – countless baffling screengrabs on Reddit and LinkedIn

ChatGPT can write sonnets, business plans, and obituaries. Why not an SOP?

Well, why wonder? Why not try?

So try we did.

Verdict: Not impressed.

Here’s an SOP written by ChatGPT.

Experiment #1: Writing an SOP using chatGPT

Impressed?

If yes, ChatGPT can write an SOP for you.

Good luck with your admission!

If you have even an ounce of common sense though, you’d know that such an SOP would delight a professor.

Why?

Because they can crumple your SOP up, aim it right into the trashcan, and move on without a molecule of guilt.

Why? Because this SOP is drivel.

  • It doesn’t actually capture ‘your purpose’
  • It doesn’t set you apart from the thousands of others who’d be using ChatGPT to write their SOP
  • It’s flat like a Kansas prairie; immediately obvious as robot-speak
  • It’s nauseating in its verbosity
  • And, to be honest, it sounds like something a 15-year-old could have written

But let’s not discount ChatGPT’s potential just yet.

Experiment #2: Another chance with a better prompt

For a better SOP, we need a better brief.

Here’s how it turned out –

That’s definitely an improvement. The text is longer and includes actual details.

It is still trash though. Here’s why –

  • The writing is dull and boring.
    Not to mention, it will get detected by even the most basic AI detection tool!
  • There is little to no enthusiasm in the tone.
    I mean come on, you are applying to your dream college, your heart needs to be throbbing with excitement.
  • Also, there are a lot of comprehension issues.
    Read the brief about the Director’s medal nomination and High performing employee award, and see what the resulting SOP states in the 1st para.

Okay, okay, let’s not go too harsh on AI. What say, we try with another more detailed brief? Let’s go.

Experiment #3: Lat chance, with a super-detailed prompt

Well, you can see I tried my best. But there’s only as much as you can do to get AI to become a highly-driven applicant.

The SOP is definitely good (compared to the godawful first draft).
But it is still far from worth being used.

Here’s why –

  • Content is still likely to show up as “Written by AI” in any tool.
  • Instead of sounding enthusiastic (as I mentioned in the brief), the first line just mentions that the SOP is being written with enthusiasm. *facepalm*
  • And where do I start with the personal passion, hobbies, and quirks section? The 5th paragraph is nothing more than a bunch of unrelated hobbies. Vague. And definitely sounds made up.

Most importantly, it sounds flat. I know academic writing has a reputation for rewarding flatness, but reading this is insufferable nevertheless.

You can’t expect a busy American college professor to give this a second look.

So should you use ChatGPT for writing an SOP?

To quickly answer the question you are itching to ask: Yes, you can.

The professors won’t actually scan your SOP for plagiarism or AI content. So it will go undetected. They are too busy to care, in fact.

But here are 2 reasons to not make ChatGPT write the SOP for you.

  1. The time taken to master prompt writing for ChatGPT surpasses self-writing time

ChatGPT created a decent-looking statement of purpose on the third go. And it took me a significant amount of time to master the art of writing the prompts.

Unless you write hundreds of SOPs, it would be faster to write one yourself than learn how to get one from the tool.

  1. An SOP is supposed to make you think. Don’t let AI do the thinking while you just act like a non-sentient being.

Who knows the mental exercise of writing the SOP might fuel your enthusiasm, help you realize your true passion, or even guide you in deciding which institution to apply to.

Don’t let the opportunity to use your brain pass so easily.

 

ChatGPT generated SOPs – What’s missing?

A lot. To understand, you’ve got to ask yourself: what does a college or university professor want to read in your SOP?

It’s genuineness. Language such as this:

“I want to be a programmer on NASA’s most ambitious Mars exploration mission yet. I was inspired to pursue this degree after learning about the 3 students from Stanford University who were recently recruited by NASA. I believe this program covers astronomy, atmospheric science, physics and astrobiology, which will be great for me to get into NASA.”

Here’s a helpful table of key criteria of SOP quality. Plus, find some questions that’ll set you thinking.

Criteria Questions
Clarity of Purpose ●      What is your career goal?

●      What inspired you to pursue this degree?

●      Why is now the right time for you to pursue this degree?

Relevant Background and Experiences ●      What relevant experiences and skills do you have?

●      How have these experiences prepared you for this degree program?

●      How do these experiences align with your career goals?

Fit with the College ●      Why did you choose this particular college?

●      How does this college align with your career goals and academic interests?

●      What resources and opportunities at this college are you most looking forward to taking advantage of?

Passion and Motivation ●      Why are you passionate about this field?

●      Why do you want to pursue this degree specifically?

●      What excites you most about this degree program?

Writing Skills ●      Can you effectively communicate your thoughts and ideas?

●      How have you demonstrated your writing skills in your SOP?

●      How do your writing skills align with your career goals?

Learn more about crafting a compelling SOP.

Of course, this seems like a lot of work. To be honest, it’s meant to be tough. And it’s okay to still be tempted to let chatGPT help.

Put chatGPT to work on your SOP. Here’s how?

ChatGPT is a powerful tool. And not using it would be a waste.

Here are 5 ways you can use it to make your SOP writing process simpler, faster, and more productive.

1.   Ask ChatGPT for an outline

An outline serves as a blueprint that you can follow to write a coherent and organised SOP.

ChatGPT can give you that outline in under 30 seconds. Finding an SOP guideline via Google search will take at least 10 minutes and having to click through multiple pages.

2.   Get quotes for your SOP

The right quotes in your Statement of Purpose can enhance the depth and richness of your writing.

But don’t go searching for good ones on Google. Ask ChatGPT for “quotes to add in a statement of purpose”

Keep asking for more until you hit the jackpot.

3.   Ask questions

ChatGPT is not a writer. But it is a powerhouse of information.

Not sure how to explain that gap in your resume?
Can’t find the right words to mention a stream shift?
Confused about including a specific personal/professional detail in your SOP?

Ask away. ChatGPT gives correct answers (most of the time). And it can definitely help you put your ideas into words.

4.   Make ChatGPT your interviewer

Imagine this. A professor from the college you are applying to reviews your SOP before you submit it. They ask you questions about the SOP. Those questions help you revisit and enhance your SOP.

While the actual professor won’t actually come. ChatGPT can cosplay the role pretty well. And the prodding and questioning will definitely help improve the final outcome of your SOP writing process.

5.   Ask ChatGPT to review your SOP and offer feedback

Done with your SOP? Paste it on your chat with the AI tool and ask for feedback. ChatGPT detects the tone of the content surprisingly well.

Also, you can ask it to rewrite some boring lines into interesting ones. Or replace a few words here and there to make you sound like a wordsmith.

Before you go

If ethical reasons make you feel you shouldn’t use ChatGPT for your SOP, it is alright. The people reading your SOP won’t mind a basic document that looks like thousands of others.

But if you are ready to make the most of technology, know that using ChatGPT for SOP writing is possible.

All you have to do is use it as a means to the end and not just make it do the job for you. Best of luck with your AI-powered SOP writing journey.

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