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Would GPT-4 Get Into Your College or University?

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As if high school students weren’t stressed enough about standardized tests and college applications, a robot has entered the chat.

Earlier this month, OpenAI announced GPT-4, its latest large language model, which improves on predecessor ChatGPT’s reasoning capabilities and demonstrates “human-level performance” on a variety of standardized tests, including the bar exam, the LSAT, the GRE, a slew of AP tests, and even sommelier exams.

According to OpenAI’s technical report for GPT-4, the model’s scores were mostly excellent and occasionally exceptional, with a few blunders, such as its abysmal score on AP English Literature and Composition. (The robots may take our jobs, but they will never take our literary criticism.)

Notably, GPT-4 performed well on its SATs, the standardized test widely used for college admissions in the U.S. It scored 710 out of 800 on the evidence-based reading and writing (ERW) portion of the SAT and 700 out of 800 on the math portion for a total score of 1410 out of 1600.

Comparatively, the average SAT score in 2022 was 1050, according to the College Board, with a score of 529 on ERW and 521 on math. GPT-4’s SAT score of 1410 puts it in the 94th percentile of students who took the SAT nationally.

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Assessing the Model’s Odds of Admission: Methodology

Of course, college admission requirements — including standardized test scores — vary by institution. With the SATs continuing to serve as a hot (and polarizing) topic, we were curious as to how GPT-4 might fare this college application season based on its performance.

So, as an experiment, we consulted the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, which reports the 25th and 75th percentile SAT scores for students at over 900 colleges and universities in the U.S. We then compared GPT-4’s scores to those scores, using scoring above the 75th percentile on both evidence-based reading and writing and math as a heuristic for admission, though many admitted students scored lower.

Based on our criteria, GPT-4 would be able to get into a whopping 808 out of the 981 schools, or 82% of institutions.

Check out the table below to see if GPT-4 scored higher than the 75th percentile of students at your school on the SAT in 2021-22.

*GPT-4 will get in, but only if it can demonstrate well-rounded interests and extracurriculars.

>>MORE: We Asked ChatGPT to Write Resumes and Cover Letters. Here’s What It Got Right (and Wrong)

What GPT-4 means for College Admissions

Of course, there’s more to getting into college than standardized test scores. If GPT-4 were to actually undergo the admissions process, it would quickly be stymied when asked to describe its extracurricular activities, academic achievements, and volunteer experience. (ChatGPT’s response when I asked about its favorite extracurriculars? “As an AI language model, I don’t have personal interests or hobbies like humans do.”)

In addition, over 1,800 four-year colleges and universities have adopted a test-optional or test-free admissions policy, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. Test scores were “considered but not required” at 809 of the schools in the table above in 2021-22, according to IPEDS data. This trend gained traction when testing sites were shut down during the pandemic.

However, last year MIT reinstated its test score requirement after initially suspending it for the 2020-2021 application cycle. 

“We believe a requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy,” stated Stu Schmill, dean of admissions and student financial services, in the reinstatement announcement. 

Purdue University also reinstated its test score submission requirement last year.

OpenAI has released little public information about the internals of GPT-4 and ChatGPT. The models could be three raccoons in a trenchcoat, for all we know. With that in mind, how should college applicants square top schools’ testing requirements with the fact that AI models can achieve top scores?

“Whether or not ChatGPT can score well on a test has no bearing on how colleges will continue to use test scores,” says Nat Smitobol, college admissions counselor at IvyWise, adding that standardized testing will continue to be part of the application review and student recruitment processes.

One reason schools pivoted to test-optional policies was to increase the volume of applications, Smitobol says. 

“Many schools are still seeing large percentages of students submit test scores with their applications, and strong standardized test scores can help applicants in the admissions process,” Smitobol says.

GPT-4, ChatGPT, and College Applications

Given GPT-4’s mostly excellent scores on standardized tests, should students be using AI chatbots to help them prepare college applications?

Students should submit their own work for both courses and college applications, Smitobol says. However, ChatGPT can be a useful tool for students to use to get ideas on how to structure an essay.

“From an equity perspective, [using the chatbot this way] can be particularly helpful for students who don’t have access to a tutor or college admissions counselor, as it allows for them to get ‘tutoring’ in a different way,” Smitobol says.

However, students should not use ChatGPT to write college admissions essays. 

“ChatGPT will not have insight into a student’s experiences, passions, and other unique attributes — these can only be told directly from the student themself,” Smitobol says.

>>MORE: How to Use ChatGPT in Your Job Search

 Image credit: Depositphotos.com

Jenna Bellassai is the Lead Data Reporter at Forage. She previously was a Senior Data Scientist at Guru, where she transformed and analyzed data to improve search ranking algorithms.

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