Policy on Getting Help: "About You" Dos and Don'ts

Throughout your Mathcamp application, and in particular on the "About You" page, you'll have an opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions committee through your writing. Here are our policies about asking for help as you prepare your application.

Talking to Friends and Mentors

On the Qualifying Quiz, we ask you to be extra-diligent: absolutely all of your work must be your own, and you cannot show your solutions to anyone else until the application deadline has passed. We want to know how you (and you alone) think about and communicate about the Quiz problems. (See the Quiz Policy on Getting Help for more details.)

We are more flexible with other parts of the application, and you can talk to others about your "About You" section! From the beginning of the drafting process, it can be really helpful to have a sounding board to bounce around your ideas; you are welcome to discuss your ideas with a trusted friend or mentor. Similarly, once you have a draft, you are welcome to ask a friend, teacher, or other mentor to proofread it and give you feedback.

What's important to us is that the ideas and the writing be your own. Don't ask someone else to write any parts of your application for you! For example: while it's absolutely fine to ask a teacher for proofreading, you cannot ask your teacher to draft something for you to submit as if it were your own work.

An important note for English Language Learners: we do not require a TOEFL or other language exam, but we use your writing throughout the Mathcamp application to get a sense of your proficiency. You should only apply to Mathcamp if you are very comfortable expressing yourself in English in mathematical and social contexts (and doing so all day, every day!). Like all applicants, you are welcome to use spell check and grammar check tools, but your writing should reflect your current level of English proficiency.

Use of AI

We are living in an exciting era of technology! As Large Language Models become increasingly available tools, we are all starting to learn how to use AI/LLM technologies to help us with all sorts of projects, from restaurant recommendations to writing code. One day, tools like ChatGPT and Bard may be able to help you write like yourself! But right now, AI is trained on a body of knowledge that isn't representative of your personal voice and style.

In your Mathcamp application, we want to hear from you, not ChatGPT. Here are the dos and don'ts of using AI in the Mathcamp application process.

Here's what's off-limits:

  • Copying and pasting directly from any AI generator
  • Relying on AI tools to create an outline or a draft
  • Substituting AI-generated content for your personal style and tone
  • Using tools like Google Translate to render text written in another language into English (which hinders our understanding of your current English proficiency)

And as a reminder: you cannot use any AI tools to work on the QQ at all.

Here's what you can do:

  • Use AI tools, like Grammarly or Microsoft Editor, to check the grammar and spelling in your draft
  • Use interactive LLMs, like ChatGPT or Bard, to generate questions or exercises to help you brainstorm possible writing ideas (but see a word of warning below)
  • Use online dictionaries to look up the translation of a specific word or phrase

Fair warning: if you ask ChatGPT "What are topics I could write about in my Mathcamp application?", it will give you a very generic list of topics. It might not be nearly as interesting as what you can think up yourself, because it doesn't know you personally!

Keep in mind that AI tools typically produce writing whose personality isn't very interesting, and even if you say "make it funny!" to shake it up – the output won't reflect your personality. Cheating by inappropriate use of AI tools in your Mathcamp application—in violation of this policy—won't serve you in the end! So don't do it. Just be yourself, and we'll be delighted to get to know you.

Mathcamp's policy was inspired by Caltech's thoughtful policy on Ethical Use of AI.

As always, don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.