Breaking Barriers Winning Essay Ivy

High-school senior Brittany Stinson learned Thursday she was accepted into five Ivy League schools — Yale, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, and Cornell.

She also got into Stanford, which has an acceptance rate of 4.69% — a lower rate than any of the Ivy League schools.

"I'm sort of still in shock. I don't think I've processed everything yet," she excitedly told Business Insider.

The Ivy League is notoriously hard to get into, as the hundreds of thousands of other applicants to the eight elite schools are well aware.

The schools Stinson was accepted into have acceptance rates ranging from 13.96% to 4.69%.

Stinson graciously shared her Common Application admissions essay with Business Insider, which we've reprinted verbatim below.

Prompt 1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Managing to break free from my mother's grasp, I charged. With arms flailing and chubby legs fluttering beneath me, I was the ferocious two­ year old rampaging through Costco on a Saturday morning. My mother's eyes widened in horror as I jettisoned my churro; the cinnamon­sugar rocket gracefully sliced its way through the air while I continued my spree. I sprinted through the aisles, looking up in awe at the massive bulk products that towered over me. Overcome with wonder, I wanted to touch and taste, to stick my head into industrial­sized freezers, to explore every crevice. I was a conquistador, but rather than searching the land for El Dorado, I scoured aisles for free samples. Before inevitably being whisked away into a shopping cart, I scaled a mountain of plush toys and surveyed the expanse that lay before me: the kingdom of Costco.

Notorious for its oversized portions and dollar­fifty hot dog combo, Costco is the apex of consumerism. From the days spent being toted around in a shopping cart to when I was finally tall enough to reach lofty sample trays, Costco has endured a steady presence throughout my life. As a veteran Costco shopper, I navigate the aisles of foodstuffs, thrusting the majority of my weight upon a generously filled shopping cart whose enormity juxtaposes my small frame. Over time, I've developed a habit of observing fellow patrons tote their carts piled with frozen burritos, cheese puffs, tubs of ice cream, and weight­loss supplements. Perusing the aisles gave me time to ponder. Who needs three pounds of sour cream? Was cultured yogurt any more well­mannered than its uncultured counterpart? Costco gave birth to my unfettered curiosity.

While enjoying an obligatory hot dog, I did not find myself thinking about the 'all beef' goodness that Costco boasted. I instead considered finitudes and infinitudes, unimagined uses for tubs of sour cream, the projectile motion of said tub when launched from an eighty foot shelf or maybe when pushed from a speedy cart by a scrawny seventeen year old. I contemplated the philosophical: If there exists a thirty­three ounce jar of Nutella, do we really have free will? I experienced a harsh physics lesson while observing a shopper who had no evident familiarity of inertia's workings. With a cart filled to overflowing, she made her way towards the sloped exit, continuing to push and push while steadily losing control until the cart escaped her and went crashing into a concrete column, 52" plasma screen TV and all. 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.

I adopted my exploratory skills, fine tuned by Costco, towards my intellectual endeavors. Just as I sampled buffalo­chicken dip or chocolate truffles, I probed the realms of history, dance and biology, all in pursuit of the ideal cart-one overflowing with theoretical situations and notions both silly and serious. I sampled calculus, cross­country running, scientific research, all of which are now household favorites. With cart in hand, I do what scares me; I absorb the warehouse that is the world. Whether it be through attempting aerial yoga, learning how to chart blackbody radiation using astronomical software, or dancing in front of hundreds of people, I am compelled to try any activity that interests me in the slightest.

My intense desire to know, to explore beyond the bounds of rational thought; this is what defines me. Costco fuels my insatiability and cultivates curiosity within me at a cellular level. Encoded to immerse myself in the unknown, I find it difficult to complacently accept the "what"; I want to hunt for the "whys" and dissect the "hows". In essence, I subsist on discovery.

4 Secrets of Success From a High School Senior Who Got Into 5 Ivy League Schools

by MyCollegeGuide.org

If your goal is to get into an Ivy League school, use these 4 secrets to help you stand out from the crowd and get noticed.

Choosing the right college is one of the biggest decisions you will have to make, and many hardworking students dream of getting into competitive, Ivy League schools.

There are several steps to getting into a prestigious college, and personal essays are a critical part of the application process. Figuring out a way to stand out from the crowd of thousands of applicants every year can be daunting, but one Concord High School senior did just that.

With an out-of-the-box approach to the essay portion of her college applications, Brittany Stinson was able to achieve the rare feat of getting into six of the top colleges in the country.

So, which schools was she able to get into with her powerhouse application?

The five Ivy League schools that sent her acceptance letters included:

  • Yale
  • Columbia
  • The University of Pennsylvania
  • Dartmouth
  • Cornell

To top off her incredible accomplishment, Brittany was also accepted into Stanford University. While not an Ivy League school, Stanford has the lowest rate of admission for any school on the list at a 4.69% acceptance rate.

While Brittany’s accomplishments may not be the typical experience, her unique approach to her admissions essay is something that every high school student should take into consideration. With a little creativity and determination, you too can stand out from the crowd and make your voice heard in the sea of competitive college applications.

What Can You Learn From Brittany Stinson’s Powerful Essay?

The following statement was the essay prompt that resulted in Brittany’s outstanding essay: “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”


Most students reading this prompt would generally fall back on a retelling of a dramatic or emotional event that changed an aspect of their lives. While this type of response can have a deep impact on admissions officers if told correctly, Brittany had a different approach. Below is the verbatim response that she gave for the aforementioned prompt:

Managing to break free from my mother’s grasp, I charged. With arms flailing and chubby legs fluttering beneath me, I was the ferocious two­ year old rampaging through Costco on a Saturday morning. My mother’s eyes widened in horror as I jettisoned my churro; the cinnamon­-sugar rocket gracefully sliced its way through the air while I continued my spree. I sprinted through the aisles, looking up in awe at the massive bulk products that towered over me. Overcome with wonder, I wanted to touch and taste, to stick my head into industrial­-sized freezers, to explore every crevice. I was a conquistador, but rather than searching the land for El Dorado, I scoured aisles for free samples. Before inevitably being whisked away into a shopping cart, I scaled a mountain of plush toys and surveyed the expanse that lay before me: the kingdom of Costco.

Notorious for its oversized portions and dollar- ­fifty hot dog combo, Costco is the apex of consumerism. From the days spent being toted around in a shopping cart to when I was finally tall enough to reach lofty sample trays, Costco has endured a steady presence throughout my life. As a veteran Costco shopper, I navigate the aisles of foodstuffs, thrusting the majority of my weight upon a generously filled shopping cart whose enormity juxtaposes my small frame. Over time, I’ve developed a habit of observing fellow patrons tote their carts piled with frozen burritos, cheese puffs, tubs of ice cream, and weight­loss supplements. Perusing the aisles gave me time to ponder. Who needs three pounds of sour cream? Was cultured yogurt any more well-­mannered than its uncultured counterpart? Costco gave birth to my unfettered curiosity.

While enjoying an obligatory hot dog, I did not find myself thinking about the ‘all beef’ goodness that Costco boasted. I instead considered finitudes and infinitudes, unimagined uses for tubs of sour cream, the projectile motion of said tub when launched from an eighty foot shelf or maybe when pushed from a speedy cart by a scrawny seventeen year old. I contemplated the philosophical: If there exists a thirty­-three ounce jar of Nutella, do we really have free will? I experienced a harsh physics lesson while observing a shopper who had no evident familiarity of inertia’s workings. With a cart filled to overflowing, she made her way towards the sloped exit, continuing to push and push while steadily losing control until the cart escaped her and went crashing into a concrete column, 52” plasma screen TV and all. 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.

I adopted my exploratory skills, fine tuned by Costco, towards my intellectual endeavors. Just as I sampled buffalo­-chicken dip or chocolate truffles, I probed the realms of history, dance and biology, all in pursuit of the ideal cart–one overflowing with theoretical situations and notions both silly and serious. I sampled calculus, cross-­country running, scientific research, all of which are now household favorites. With cart in hand, I do what scares me; I absorb the warehouse that is the world. Whether it be through attempting aerial yoga, learning how to chart black-body radiation using astronomical software, or dancing in front of hundreds of people, I am compelled to try any activity that interests me in the slightest.

My intense desire to know, to explore beyond the bounds of rational thought; this is what defines me. Costco fuels my insatiability and cultivates curiosity within me at a cellular level. Encoded to immerse myself in the unknown, I find it difficult to complacently accept the “what”; I want to hunt for the “whys” and dissect the “hows”. In essence, I subsist on discovery.

If that took a turn you weren’t expecting and grabbed your attention, you’re not the only one! Her innovative approach to describing her character strengths stood out enough to beat out thousands of other students applying to these prestigious schools.

So, how was she able to accomplish such an impressive feat? What can you take from her unique approach to craft your own home-run college essay?

Let’s go over four secrets to success that any high school student can use to follow Brittany’s refreshing example.

Secrets for Getting Your College Essay Noticed

1. Make a Plan Before you Begin

One of the first steps you need to take when writing an application essay is to understand the technical requirements of the prompt, such as maximum word count. From there, you need to get a clear idea of exactly what you want to say to your potential school.

During an interview following her success, Brittany described her process for planning out her essay by stating, “I really tried to think of my defining qualities, and narrowed it down to one or two qualities I wanted to convey to admissions officers.”

After determining the goal of your essay, the next step is to find your voice and decide how you want to convey that message. Will you take a humorous approach like Brittany? Can you draw a deep connection between your message and the future you see for yourself at your potential school? However you decide to approach it, the most important thing is to be sure that your voice is truly you.

2. Think Outside the Box

After reading through Brittany’s essay, what stands out the most is the way she used humor to draw in her audience and make her point. Thinking outside the box in this way is necessary to make an impact on admissions officers who read thousands of these essays every year. The key is finding the right tools to use in your essay to enhance what you are trying to say, not detract from it.

Remember that these colleges are looking for students that exemplify strong character traits that complement the values and mission of the school. While Brittany’s essay used a playful touch to make her point, it still came back to a focus on her curiosity, self-awareness, and critical thinking ability – all traits that are highly desirable in the student body of a prestigious school.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Show Your Personality

When asked how she chose the specific topic for her essay, Brittany stated, “Before I even started writing an essay, I read a quote from an admissions officer that said if your essay is on the ground and there is no name on it and one of your friends picks it up, they should know that you wrote it.”

Injecting your authentic self into your application is necessary to catch the eye of an admissions officer, but it has to be done in a way that is true to your personality. If you are not naturally a comedic, playful person, it will come off as inauthentic if you attempt to write an essay similar to Brittany’s. For the strongest application, you must embrace the uniqueness of your personality and then relate that back to your experience.

4. Back-Up Your Story with Experience

The essay is only one part of your application, although there’s no question that it has the potential to make a significant impact on your acceptance to the school. However, talking up your strong character traits isn’t enough on its own – you also have to prove that you walk your talk!

A strong GPA, high test scores, community involvement, and leadership experience all are looked at during the college application process. While Brittany’s essay is credited for her success in getting into so many top-level schools, she also had an impressive high school resume to back that up.

How to Get Into Your College of Choice

Getting into your school of choice is a journey that begins well before your senior year of high school.

As Brittany Stinson’s success shows, with a dedicated, long-term approach to your ultimate educational goals, anything is possible. There are several lessons that we can take away from Brittany’s innovative approach to the college essay process, but it all comes down to embracing the unique aspects of who you are and what you can share with the world.

Throughout the course of her high school years, Brittany scored extremely high on standardized testing, took several AP classes, was involved in her community, and participated in competitive STEM programs. Combined with her unique application essay, she had a very well-rounded application that was sure to leave a solid first impression.

If your goal is to attend an Ivy League or top-ranked college, small steps towards your goal can quickly add up. Be involved in your school, focus on your strengths, and take note of the secrets discussed above that helped Brittany break down the barriers and reach her well-earned success.

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