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MBA Applicants Wary About Unrestricted Use Of AI In Admissions Essays

Aspiring MBA applicants have mixed views on using generative AI for business school admissions, according to a new survey

Wed May 8 2024

Aspiring MBA students have mixed feelings about the use of Generative AI (GenAI) in business school admissions, according to a new survey by test prep organizations Manhattan Prep and Kaplan.

Over 300 aspiring business school students across the United States participated in the survey, conducted in March and April 2024.

It found significant portions of prospective students had misgivings about the use of AI during admissions. 

Generative AI regulations in business school admissions

While a majority (56%) of respondents agreed that AI should be allowed for admissions essays with certain guidelines in place, on the other hand 20% were against any use of AI in the admissions process. A further 18% believed there should be no restrictions.

“Aspiring MBA students are going to have to take the GMAT exam without the use of GenAI. And they also built up their GPAs without using it either, considering how new the technology is, so it’s not surprising that many think it's necessary for business schools to put guardrails around its use in the admissions process,” said Stacey Koprince, director of content and curriculum at Manhattan Prep, which is owned by Kaplan.

A separate Manhattan Prep and Kaplan survey released earlier this year revealed few business schools have guidelines for how applicants can use AI in their admissions essays.

Generative AI gives applicants an unfair advantage

The survey revealed some concern that AI gives certain applicants an unearned edge.

Half of respondents believed AI essays give applicants with weaker writing skills an unfair advantage, although 32% disagreed and another 18% remained unsure.

“Our results show that many are eager to use GenAI to their advantage if allowed,” said Stacey.

In fact, 60% of participants said they would likely use AI tools if the schools they were applying to allowed it, while 24% said they were unlikely to use it, and 16% weren’t sure.

“Most MBA programs have no policy at all when it comes to allowing applicants to use GenAI in admissions essays, [but] we don’t believe that’s a tenable long-term position, as they will increasingly get questions from prospective students who want to know the boundaries of acceptable use," said Stacey.  

"Our prediction: Many business schools will be developing GenAI policies in the coming year,” she added. 

Generative AI use beyond admissions

The survey also considered student attitudes towards AI use beyond the admissions process.

Two-thirds (67%) believed enrolled students should be allowed to use AI tools at business school, but under certain guidelines and restrictions. Only a small minority (8%) were against any use of AI at business school, while 20% believed its use should be completely unrestricted. The remaining 6% were unsure.

In respondents’ personal and professional lives, just 8% said they “always” used AI, with 25% using it “frequently”, 38% “occasionally”, 19% “rarely” and 10% said “never”.

Elsewhere, a recent study found AI was the most sought-after study area for MBA applicants. 

With a rising demand for AI proficiency in the workplace and the risk of job cuts due to the technology, ambitious professionals are keen for business schools to equip them for the evolving business landscape.