The Risky Words That Might Make School Admissions Suspect AI Wrote Your Essay

The Forbes report compiles responses from over 20 educational institutions, including top-tier names like Harvard and Princeton, about how exactly they are factoring AI while handling applications. While the institutions didn’t provide any concrete answers in terms of a proper policy, members handling the task hinted that spotting AI usage in essays is pretty easy, both in terms of specific word selection, which they described as “thin, hollow, and flat,” as well as the tone. Some independent editors have created an entire glossary of words and phrases that she often sees in essays and which she tweaks to give “human vibes” to the essays.

Some of the code-red AI signatures, which don’t even require AI detection tools to spot them, include:

  • “leadership prowess”
  • “stems from a deep-seated passion”
  • “aligns seamlessly with my aspirations”
  • “commitment to continuous improvement and innovation”
  • “entrepreneurial/educational journey”

These are just a few giveaways of AI involvement. Moreover, they can change and may not even be relevant soon as more sophisticated models with better natural language capabilities arrive on the scene. Plus, people from non-academic domains appear to have established their own framework to detect AI-generated work. “If you have enough text, a really easy cue is the word ‘the’ occurs too many times,” Google Brain scientist Daphne Ippolito said to MIT Technology Review

Ippolito also pointed out that generative AI models rarely make typos, which is a reverse-engineered way to assess if a piece of writing is the result of some AI tool. “A typo in the text is actually a really good indicator that it was human written,” she notes. But it takes practice to be good at identifying the pattern, especially at reading aspects like unerring fluency and the lack of spontaneity.