The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide

The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide

The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide

Essays no longer numerically rated in college admissions

Selena Li
The essay component of a college application used to be the most crucial aspect, but is now considered an inaccurate reflection of a student’s abilities.

In a new decision, Duke University has eliminated numerical ratings for both essays and standardized test scores in the undergraduate admissions process. This new policy, implemented for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle and affecting all future applicants, signifies a paradigm shift in how the university evaluates its potential student body.

Christoph Guttentag, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, emphasized that holistic evaluation remains important. However, essays will no longer be assessed on the traditional five-point scale employed for other key categories like curriculum strength, academics, recommendations, and extracurricular activities. He confirmed that test scores are considered if a student wishes to submit them.

“Essays are very much part of our understanding of the applicant. We’re just no longer assuming that the essay is an accurate reflection of the student’s actual writing ability,” Guttentag said.

While Guttentag maintains that the recent Supreme Court decision did not influence this change, the growth of artificial intelligence models such as ChatGPT does play a role. The proliferation of AI-generated writing has rendered it increasingly challenging for admissions officers to discern an applicant’s genuine writing skills. Consequently, Duke has shifted its focus towards content and insightful analysis over style in recent admissions cycles.

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“I think it’s confusing to students that colleges have been changing the criteria every couple years. The landscape is constantly shifting and it can be hard for students to keep up,” senior Landon Lee said. 

The decision has also been met with backlash by critics who question the rationale behind this decision, particularly in light of the increased accessibility of AI writing tools. They argue that ghostwriting scandals have plagued the admissions process for decades, and that students from well-off families often gain an unfair advantage through access to expensive college consultants and advanced editing services. 

Thus, college essays have always been a flawed and unequal measure of writing ability—AI might even be a way to level the playing field. 

The future of essay evaluations in college admissions remains uncertain. Many wonder if Duke’s move marks the beginning of a broader trend, potentially leading to a more radical transformation of the entire admissions process. Some have even proposed live writing assessments, akin to interviews but with written prompts instead of spoken responses.

“I want a more accurate way to reflect the skills and abilities students have developed over time. Live writing may not be a bad idea, as it would show how students independently think,” LAD Paraeducator Alessandra Pope said.


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About the Contributors
Charlyn Chu
Charlyn Chu, Assistant Social Justice Editor

Charlyn is a senior and is so happy to be back for her fourth and final year with The Tide. This is her third year as Social Justice Assistant Editor. When she's not busy writing, you can probably find her playing basketball or eating chicken fettuccine alfredo.

Selena Li
Selena Li, Graphics Editor