Five special things about the “Costco College Essay” for writers to study

With a well-written college admissions essay, high school senior Brittany Stinson has earned acceptance to six elite schools: Yale, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Cornell, and Stanford. Posted on the internet, her college essay has rapidly gained popularity. Five unique things about the “Costco College Essay stand out: vocabulary, voice, action, creativity, and introspection.

Vocabulary. Word choice is critical in college admissions essays. Stinson not only uses college-level vocabulary, but selects her words with precision. She didn’t throw her churro; she jettisoned the churro. She sprinted rather than ran. In her essay, Costco is not merely “known for” oversized portions; Costco is notorious.

Voice. The first few paragraphs of Stinson’s essay are written from the perspective of a young child. She selected an unusual voice for a college admissions essay, but also created a memorable personality. The churro-chucking child makes an immediate impression and invites the reader to learn more.

Action. Stinson’s essay is characterized by strong action verbs. Her minimal use of passive verbs keeps the narrative moving and the reader engaged. Whether in childhood recollections or adult musings, Stinson shows us herself in action: rampaging through Costco, sprinting down the aisles, scaling a mountain of toys, filling a shopping cart, enjoying a hot dog, purchasing a ham, sampling chocolate truffles.

Vocabulary, voice, and action are key elements of all good writing, no matter the purpose or format. Stinson uses the first three elements well, then adds two more elements that are specifically important in college admissions essays – creativity and introspection.

Creativity. The College Board, a non-profit organization that connects students to colleges, offers this tip for crafting the best college essay: “Find a creative angle.” Creativity is the ingredient that will gain the attention of admissions officers. Stinson used the creative technique of linking a trip to Costco to her lifelong quest for knowledge.

Introspection. No college essay is complete without a personal statement. Rob Franek, writing for The Princeton Review, has this to say about recounting versus reflection, “Anyone can write about how they won the big game or the summer they spent in Rome. When recalling these events, you need to give more than the play-by-play or itinerary. Describe what you learned from the experience and how it changed you.” Stinson expertly transitions from recounting her childhood adventures at Costco to her adult experiences and concludes, “My intense desire to know, to explore beyond the bounds of rational thought; this is what defines me … In essence, I subsist on discovery.”

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