When writing your motivation letter, you may be tempted to use ChatGPT or other chatbots in order to “improve” your text.

TL;DR: Do not do this! We will drop your application if we smell AI!

(If you still have doubts, read further)

Long version

Your letter will be read by at least 4 human reviewers. Their time and their brain cells are very valuable. None of them is an English native speaker, so they explicitly do not care if they find grammatical errors or clunky formulations in your letter. In most cases they won't even notice. On that front you are on the safe side: no need to ask AI for help fixing your grammar and syntax ;-)

If you use AI-generated text, the result is quite often very verbose, redundant and pleonastic. The same happens when you use a chatbot to “improve” your text. Look at this excerpt from an application we received in 2023–worth reading in full, even if it hurts ;-) :

Attending ASPP would be a great opportunity for me to learn advanced programming techniques and best practices that are standard in the industry but are especially tailored to the needs of programming scientists. The course's description highlights that scientists spend a significant amount of time writing and debugging software, and only a few of them have been trained to use efficient techniques. I am eager to learn how to solve scientific problems more effectively.

If I was getting the chance to attend ASPP, I would greatly benefit from the program's curriculum, which covers a selection of advanced programming techniques and best practices. In particular, I am interested in the interactive lectures, which will enable me to acquire direct hands-on experience with the topics. Additionally, the opportunity to work in pairs with other students and practice the newly learned skills in a real programming project is exciting, especially in a prospect of creating entertaining computer game.

Attending ASPP would be a game-changer for my work back in the lab. I believe that the skills and knowledge I will acquire in the program will help me solve scientific problems more effectively and efficiently. I would be better equipped to write high-quality, well- organized, and optimized code that can help me analyze and visualize data more effectively. I am also excited to learn more about version control systems and how to collaborate more efficiently with other scientists in my field.

In conclusion, I am passionate about attending ASPP and believe that the program would help me grow both professionally and personally. Thank you for considering my application. I’m eagerly awaiting your response.

This is basically the text on ASPP's website plus a bit from the application form, reshuffled and re-interpreted and interspersed with fillers. It is hard to read and after reading it leaves you with a foggy feeling in your head. There's no interesting content, it's just blah blah. A tired reviewer with a foggy head is more likely to give a negative evaluation for your application.

Note that this was just one example, last year we got at least 20 applications that were clearly written in part or in full using AI-generated text. Many more were just “improved” by AI. As a result the reviewing process was much harder than usual. We decided from now on to just drop an application if we smell AI – and we are getting better and better at it ;-)

We ask you to write a motivation letter because we want to get to know something about you. All those fillers are not helping. Short is sweet. Please do not waste your and our time letting a chatbot write for you. Be yourself in the motivation letter!