Using AI in Admissions to Improve the Human Connection

An AI generated photo of a student with a grad cap on, over looking a canyon with mountains and a river.
This image was generated by AI.

March 08, 2024
Dan Nailen

It might seem counterintuitive to use artificial intelligence to forge greater human connection. But Gonzaga’s admission staff says AI can increase their personal interactions with potential students that are so important when they are deciding where to pursue higher education.

While much of the buzz around AI is focused on how students might use (or misuse) AI tools like ChatGPT in their writing, offices across campus are coming to grips with how the game-changing technology might benefit their work.

Stephen Keller, GU’s senior director of undergraduate admission, says that the folks in his office and his peers around the nation have quickly come to realize that “AI is now part of everyday life.” And many admissions offices like GU’s are looking at the potential advantages of adopting some AI in their work.

“As you can imagine, the amount of documents that are shared, evaluated, processed and created during the college matriculation process can be overwhelming,” Keller says. “We’re always watching for new technologies that will allow us to be faster with processes so that we can better assist more people. After all, one of Gonzaga’s greatest strengths is relationships and how we strive to be people who stand for and with others.

"By having AI assist with process work, we can spend more intentional time with more students.”

While some wring their hands about students using AI for writing entrance essays, Keller says those concerns are negligible given the in-depth processes both applicants and admissions officers navigate each year. Keller believes AI could be helpful to students in under-resourced schools that may need assistance with the application process.

As for concerns about AI-penned essays on applications, Keller notes that all students attest to honesty and accuracy as part of their applications. The process assures that every application is reviewed more than once, and GU isn’t looking for sterile, unusually precise writing that tends to be spit out by AI tools.

“We’re not looking for essays with perfect grammar and no soul as are commonly produced by AI,” Keller says. “We want to get to know students during the application process by learning about specific, genuine aspects of their lives through their essay responses. 

"Current AI software is such that only those who write the essays by themselves or effectively use AI as one tool of many in their writing process will be able to craft the type of personal and genuine response that we expect on an application."

While the undergraduate admissions office is open to the potential AI might have in aiding its work, the commitment to developing genuine connections with future Zags will remain no matter how the technology advances.

“Nothing can compensate for developing person-to-person relationships with prospective students,” Keller says. “In some ways AI can help facilitate the development of those relationships, but nothing will fully replace real people who are here to support, encourage and inspire students who are considering attending GU. Our goal is to use AI strategically, allowing greater time spent supporting prospective students.”

Learn more about admissions here at Gonzaga!