Essay On Shopping Trip

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.

I like plans. Making them. Sticking to them. Of my many faults, one is that I have trouble, as my mother would say, just going with the flow. I get discombobulated when my husband calls from work to say he'll be on the 6:20 train instead of the 6:00. I'm flustered when the baby decides not to nap. A running joke in my house is that even on weekends I ask, "What's on the agenda?" and pester everybody until we have one.

Last December, just after Christmas, I, along with my family—meaning my parents, my brother and his wife, my sister and her fiancé, my husband, and our two kids, ages six and one—took an exceedingly well-organized trip to Colorado. It was a blissful week. We went skiing, snow tubing, and dogsledding. We rode horse-drawn carriages through the glittering snow. And finally, when it was time to leave, we took a shuttle to the airport so we could catch flights back to our various homes.

At least, that's what was supposed to happen. Instead, my husband, kids, and I watched as our relatives boarded planes while we waited for our flight to Chicago, which was delayed, then delayed again… then canceled (a mechanical issue, we were told).

We'd been in the airport for five hours by the time of the cancellation, and we would spend another five retrieving our luggage, commiserating with other passengers, walking in circles around the gift shop, and trying to get rebooked on a new flight. Finally, we succeeded. The catch? The flight was three days later. And out of Denver, three hours away.

Well, whatever it takes, we thought. We hunkered down in a hotel. We cooked food in the room and washed clothes in the sink and tried not to bump into each other with every move. It wasn't until the night before the new flight that we started to relax. The children pulled the sheets off the hotel beds and made a fort in the bathtub. Tomorrow, I kept thinking. We'll be home tomorrow. Ultimately, no one would miss much school or work.

Then our flight got canceled again, this time due to weather.

We called the airline. "Three more days," they told us. "That's the best we can do." Frantically, we tried other carriers without any luck. My husband called our original airline and set his phone on the bed, hold music playing in the background as both of us checked flights online. Was this some sort of cosmic joke? Would we ever get home?

Two hours of synthesized Muzak later, an agent answered. My husband dove for the phone. He started explaining our predicament. Then I heard him say, "Hello?" "Hello?" he said again, the panic in his voice rising like a flood. "Hello!" He stared at the phone in his hand. The call had dropped.

Desperation is the most irrational of motivators. We thought we had been at the end of our rope before. Now we were someplace new—utterly defeated.

Which is why, when my husband suggested that we rent a car and drive 14+ hours in winter weather from Denver to Chicago, I agreed. It might not have been such a long trip for someone else, but the thought of a restless baby and an impatient six-year-old in the backseat for that long didn't sound fun. Worse, this wasn't anything close to the original plan. So I was reluctant, but given the dearth of options, I was on board.

We went to a grocery store and stocked up for the trip. A Styrofoam cooler and a bag of ice. Juice boxes and string cheese and grapes and yogurt squeezies. After we paid, the cashier gave my daughter a quarter to ride the mechanical horse at the front of the store. We have a picture of her on that horse, an enormous grin on her face. It was the first time that she—or any of us—had really smiled in days.

The sky was white as salt as we drove. Mountains rose in the distance, massive and stoic.

After a time, we stopped at a gas station, where the children pressed their faces to the beverage cases and ran around for a few minutes before we corralled them back into the car. We did that every hour and a half or so for the rest of the trip, and usually that brief release of energy settled them down enough to get through the next leg of the trip.

In the car, we turned on the radio and blasted "Wake Me Up," by Avicii, whose lyrics about traveling the world without any plans seemed oddly apt, given the circumstances. When nothing good was on, we sang every Christmas song we could think of, and then every children's song, and then every song from The Sound of Music.

That night, as we neared Lincoln, Nebraska, I was gazing out the car window into a navy sky when I saw a shooting star. A sign, maybe, of good things to come.

We stopped for dinner at Applebee's, and when the waitress asked if we were from out of town, we told her the condensed version of our sorry tale. When it was time to pay, she said, "Your bill's been taken care of." My husband and I looked at each other, confused. "The couple in the next booth heard your story," the waitress said. "They paid for you. They asked me to wait until after they left to tell you." If the shooting star had been a sign, it was for this simple act of generosity, one of the nicest things a stranger had ever done for me, for us.

We spent the night in a hotel off the highway, one that, contrary to my nature, we booked at the last minute. In the morning, we piled back into the car, through Omaha, into Iowa. We stopped at gas stations along the way, and then soldiered on. The kids were surprisingly well-behaved. The baby played happily with his shoe for untold hours. My daughter talked to my husband and me—really talked—about her friends at school and about some of her fears, conversations that I'm not sure would have occurred if we hadn't been stuck in that car together for almost 1,000 miles.

By the time we approached Iowa City, we were in the homestretch, and we stopped at Prairie Lights bookstore, where we let the kids each pick out one book. We drove by the building that houses the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where I did my graduate work, and I told my daughter, "That's where I learned to write." She looked at it in wonder and said, "I want to do that one day."

The traffic picked up as we neared Chicago, and though the temperature was minus 15 degrees, a mere polar vortex was no match for our soaring spirits.

"We're almost there," I remember whispering to the kids. I could hardly believe it.

And when I thought about it, I could hardly believe this, either: how wonderful it had been. How, after days of being miserable because I was trying so hard to stick to the established plan, the thing that had saved us in the end was changing course, and taking a different road—literally. Maybe it shouldn't have been a revelation, but for me, someone who puts so much stock in order and routine, it was. Our vacation had been full of incredible memories, but the long journey home, the part that I hadn't seen coming, was the part I now cherish the most.

My father-in-law was waiting at the rental agency when we pulled up. We hurried into his car, which he'd been keeping warm for us, and then we took off, at last, to our house.

"How was the drive?" my father-in-law asked us as he pulled out of the lot.

"It was great," I said.

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