This Teen Got Into 5 Ivy League Schools With A College Essay About Costco

Photo: Courtesy of Brittany Stinson.
Sometimes, the best solution to a creative prompt is thinking outside the box — and inside the big-box store.

Brittany Stinson, a senior at Concord High School in Wilmington, Delaware, was accepted to Yale, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Cornell, and Stanford, after writing a college application essay about Costco. Her essay went viral this week after Business Insider reprinted it in full.

"My goal while writing the essay was to be authentic and unique. I was terrified of falling into a trap with a cliché essay," Stinson told Refinery29. "I knew that an essay concerning Costco would at least be memorable."

"Memorable" is certainly an accurate word to describe Stinson's writing. She uses Costco as a framework for explaining her personal curiosity about the world, and the results are scintillating. Take this passage, for example:

Purchasing the yuletide hickory smoked ham inevitably led to a conversation between my father and me about Andrew Jackson's controversiality. There was no questioning Old Hickory's dedication; he was steadfast in his beliefs and pursuits — qualities I am compelled to admire, yet his morals were crooked. We both found the ham to be more likeable — and tender.

Brittany Stinson
Stinson confirmed to Refinery29 that she did, indeed, have a Costco ham-inspired conversation about Andrew Jackson, thanks to the connection to his nickname, "Old Hickory."

While the framework for Stinson's essay is unconventional, it's also a great example of adapting personal experiences to fit within the application guidelines. The essay prompt Stinson chose asked applicants to describe "a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it."

And although Costco may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think "meaningful" interests, a lifetime curiosity and openness to the world, positioned in comparison with a stroll through the warehouse store, makes for quite a unique essay.

"In many ways, I saw Costco as limitless, with its massive size, outrageous portion sizes, and endless samples," Stinson told Refinery29. "That kind of vastness just gets me thinking, and I had a lot of time to think and be inspired while I wandered the place. It was easy to make those connections, because they were related to things that I'm deeply interested in: science, history, philosophy. I tried to explore those subject areas in my daily life."

For now, Stinson is focused on deciding which school she'll attend — she has to decide by May 1. Check out her full essay here. She's not the only one making waves in the college admissions game this week, by the way — one New York teen was just accepted to all eight Ivy League universities.

Editor's note: The author of this piece is a former Costco Wholesale employee and lifetime Costco enthusiast.

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