The Costco Essay Approach to Finding the Right Topic

Picking a topic for a college essay is the easiest thing in the world. 

That is until you’re writing your essay. Then it’s like you cannot find the right topic, even if your life depended on it. How can you choose an essay topic that can be a jumping-off point for an effective essay?

Creative writing is not an easy process. Even experienced writers experience moments when they cannot come up with the right topic. That’s why it’s not surprising if students may find it difficult to choose the one to write about in their essay. 

The Costco Essay Approach

One of the ways that you can get a unique topic for your essay is to use the “Costco essay” approach. This approach to essay writing is one of the more unique methods of highlighting why you are unique and why you stand out from the rest of the college applicants.

We need to backtrack a bit here and learn what a Costco essay is and where it originated.

What’s a Costco Essay

Back in 2016, Brittany Stinson was accepted into Stanford. The school was notorious for its acceptance rate of 4.69%. It didn’t stop there. She was also accepted into the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Cornell. Those are Ivy League schools with acceptance rates that range from 4.69% to 13.96%.

How did she do it? What’s her secret?

Her Common Application Essay is what’s being credited with her success. Her essay was very unique, personal, well-written, and it revealed a creative mind that must have surprised many who reviewed it.

Her story went viral and because of that, the “Costco essay” has been used to describe essays that use a similar approach.

Common Application Essay

A Common Application essay is an essay that a student applicant can write as part of the requirement of getting into a college or a university. This type of essay is used to meet the personal statement part of the application.

These types of essays can be submitted to a database used by many schools. That allows the student to use the same essay when applying for multiple schools. Under the Common Application system, there are writing prompts to which students are required to respond to. 

Thinking Outside of the Box

Many students and parents of students assume that the essays are added opportunities to highlight academic achievements and grades. While those are important, writing about those in your essay might be a waste of opportunity. You can inform the admissions board of the schools about your academic excellence, grades, and other accomplishments by some other means. 

Colleges and universities use the essays to get to know about the applicants beyond the grades and extracurricular activities they have done. Your essay should reveal who you are as a person.

Schools now use a “holistic” approach when reviewing the applications of students. It means they are looking beyond the grades and essays are the primary tool they use for that. There is no definite formula used by all schools, but some estimate that essays make up as much as 30% of admissions decisions.

The writing prompts for the essays reveal just how personal these essays are. One prompt, for example, asks a student to name a thing, interest, talent, experience that would render his/her application incomplete if it’s not included in his/her application. That’s very broad but the one thing to keep in mind is that the essay should not be a rehash of what’s written on your CV or other parts of your application.

Shopping and Pizza

Where does the Costco essay get into any of this?

Stinson’s essay managed to turn a general experience into something uniquely her own. When you read her essay, you can see right away the clever technique she used to place her interests and characteristics within the framework of an experience that is shared by most people.

On the surface, the topic may seem mundane but as one reads on, it is obvious that she just chose it as a vehicle for her other ideas. 

Another college essay which went viral was the “Yale pizza essay”. That 196-word essay got Carolina Williams into Yale. That one was a bit different. It relied mostly on its humorous approach to catch the attention of the admissions officer. Still, it used a common experience as a jumping-off point for her essay.

Using the Costco Essay Approach

You should consider using the approach used by the writers of the Costco essay and the Yale pizza essay when thinking of a topic for your essay. You should try the same thing that they did. That doesn’t mean writing about your experience shopping at a Walmart or ordering through a drive-thru at Burger King. 

Unfortunately, many might have taken that approach. That’s the problem with these things going viral,everyone ends up copying them and they make bad versions of the original.

Using the same kind of approach means taking an ordinary thing or experience and then using that as a framework for revealing more complicated thoughts and ideas. For personal essays, the more intimate or the personal an experience is, the better. 

Again, the essay should not be solely about the experience. It should just be the framework for deeper revelations about your ideas and thoughts.

Picking a topic for a college essay is the easiest thing in the world. 

That is until you’re writing your essay. Then it’s like you cannot find the right topic, even if your life depended on it. How can you choose an essay topic that can be a jumping-off point for an effective essay?

Creative writing is not an easy process. Even experienced writers experience moments when they cannot come up with the right topic. That’s why it’s not surprising if students may find it difficult to choose the one to write about in their essay. 

The Costco Essay Approach

One of the ways that you can get a unique topic for your essay is to use the “Costco essay” approach. This approach to essay writing is one of the more unique methods of highlighting why you are unique and why you stand out from the rest of the college applicants.

We need to backtrack a bit here and learn what a Costco essay is and where it originated.

What’s a Costco Essay

Back in 2016, Brittany Stinson was accepted into Stanford. The school was notorious for its acceptance rate of 4.69%. It didn’t stop there. She was also accepted into the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Cornell. Those are Ivy League schools with acceptance rates that range from 4.69% to 13.96%.

How did she do it? What’s her secret?

Her Common Application Essay is what’s being credited with her success. Her essay was very unique, personal, well-written, and it revealed a creative mind that must have surprised many who reviewed it.

Her story went viral and because of that, the “Costco essay” has been used to describe essays that use a similar approach.

Common Application Essay

A Common Application essay is an essay that a student applicant can write as part of the requirement of getting into a college or a university. This type of essay is used to meet the personal statement part of the application.

These types of essays can be submitted to a database used by many schools. That allows the student to use the same essay when applying for multiple schools. Under the Common Application system, there are writing prompts to which students are required to respond to. 

Thinking Outside of the Box

Many students and parents of students assume that the essays are added opportunities to highlight academic achievements and grades. While those are important, writing about those in your essay might be a waste of opportunity. You can inform the admissions board of the schools about your academic excellence, grades, and other accomplishments by some other means. 

Colleges and universities use the essays to get to know about the applicants beyond the grades and extracurricular activities they have done. Your essay should reveal who you are as a person.

Schools now use a “holistic” approach when reviewing the applications of students. It means they are looking beyond the grades and essays are the primary tool they use for that. There is no definite formula used by all schools, but some estimate that essays make up as much as 30% of admissions decisions.

The writing prompts for the essays reveal just how personal these essays are. One prompt, for example, asks a student to name a thing, interest, talent, experience that would render his/her application incomplete if it’s not included in his/her application. That’s very broad but the one thing to keep in mind is that the essay should not be a rehash of what’s written on your CV or other parts of your application.

Shopping and Pizza

Where does the Costco essay get into any of this?

Stinson’s essay managed to turn a general experience into something uniquely her own. When you read her essay, you can see right away the clever technique she used to place her interests and characteristics within the framework of an experience that is shared by most people.

On the surface, the topic may seem mundane but as one reads on, it is obvious that she just chose it as a vehicle for her other ideas. 

Another college essay which went viral was the “Yale pizza essay”. That 196-word essay got Carolina Williams into Yale. That one was a bit different. It relied mostly on its humorous approach to catch the attention of the admissions officer. Still, it used a common experience as a jumping-off point for her essay.

Using the Costco Essay Approach

You should consider using the approach used by the writers of the Costco essay and the Yale pizza essay when thinking of a topic for your essay. You should try the same thing that they did. That doesn’t mean writing about your experience shopping at a Walmart or ordering through a drive-thru at Burger King. 

Unfortunately, many might have taken that approach. That’s the problem with these things going viral,everyone ends up copying them and they make bad versions of the original.

Using the same kind of approach means taking an ordinary thing or experience and then using that as a framework for revealing more complicated thoughts and ideas. For personal essays, the more intimate or the personal an experience is, the better. 

Again, the essay should not be solely about the experience. It should just be the framework for deeper revelations about your ideas and thoughts.

So, if you’re struggling to find a topic that you can use to write your college essay, then you should consider using the Costco essay approach. It can be your ticket to college.

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