Arjun Chhabra (Cornell ‘14) reviews his CommonApp Activity short answer.

In the process of adding more posts to my blog, I had this brilliant idea - Why not share essays of successful students with current high school seniors and ask them to review their own writing samples (main essay, activity short answer, supplement questions) they had sent to colleges when they applied? This definitely makes my work less ;-)

Here is the first in the series. This is written by Arjun Chhabra (Cornell '14 School of Engineering). This was a review of the CommonApp activity short answer - the one where you have to choose one activity and elaborate in 150 words. Here is what Arjun Chhabra had written:


If I were to model persuasiveness as a mathematical function, it would be: P(x)=K(x)+D(x) where P(x) represents persuasiveness, K(x) represents knowledge and D(x) represents delivery. I feel as if debate has maximized (derivative=0) my ability to be persuasive. Through my research and analysis, I have developed the ability to critically analyze new information. I am skeptical of information published in magazines, journals or newspapers and therefore form my opinion based on the validity on information instead of random facts spewed out in various mediums. But, equally important, is the delivery of the speech. I have learned how to vary the pitch of my voice effectively as well as form a cohesive voice with my partner in order to be as persuasive as possible. In an effort to appeal to the majority of people, it is critical to combine both elements of the equation, and I know debate has helped me increase my ability to persuasuade.


To make this excercise more insightful I had asked students to reflect on the following questions about their essay and send me a quick note with their responses. Here are the questions and Arjun Chhabra's response:

Why did you choose to write on this topic?

I chose to write about debate because I felt that debate was an activity that I pursued which had the largest impact on me and the way I thought.

Which other activities did you do while in High School that you could have written about?

I could have potentially written about my fundraising efforts for a non profit in India or soccer, but the reason I decided not to was because I felt that strategically, writing about the impact of debate on my life could be effectively encapsulated within 150 words.

Which parts of the short answer do you like?

I like the way I was able to convey my aptitude for Math and Engineering (I applied to the school of engineering), with Debate. I think that the small aspects of the essay subtle mathematical concepts integrated within the essay were effective in telling the reader that although I have an interest mainly in engineering, my mind and thought process' are not limited to those fields.

Looking back how would write this differently?

For one, I would not be so careless with my spelling mistakes! On another note, I would try and impact the effects of debate towards my growth as a team player. In retrospect, talking about teamwork seems more effective than the part about "varying the pitch of my voice"

Which parts would you change?

As mentioned above, I would change the second half of my essay which deals with D(x) which is the delivery and how that aspect of debate had an impact on me.