The University of Virginia wanted to know my favorite word as part of my application. Apparently, in the fall of 2001, it was vendetta. Wouldn't you want to let me into your school? UVa said, "Sounds like a winner! Let's invite her to live here with us for four years!" Bold move, UVa.
While I spent most of my short answer response truthfully detailing my appreciation for the phonetics of the word and how those sounds play into its meaning, the bare fact was that I had grasped around for a good word for days before landing on this unlikely favorite. My inspiration, not for the first time in my life, came from a book. Namely, The Silk Vendetta by Victoria Holt.
It's a 1987 romantic-suspense-historical novel, and I'll be the first to tell you it's not high literature. But I was on a serious Victoria Holt kick at the time, and this book was and is one of my all-time favorites by her. I've never given her full credit for inspiring one of my college admissions essays--it's time the truth was told.
If you're thinking about your application essays, be open to inspiration from both likely and unlikely quarters. Just because the Holt book would never have made my AP English summer reading list didn't mean it couldn't inform any of my responses. What are the small, everyday things that interest or excite you, and how can these things bring out your personality or prompt your creativity?