Let’s start off by talking about what you shouldn’t do. Simply put, don’t be boring! If either your word or its explanation isn’t memorable, you won’t be memorable either. For example, words like “happy” and “hope” are as generic as it gets. You might think Google is your friend here, but the “Top 10 Favorite Words” listicle you find will also be found by hundreds of other applicants.
What would a successful UVA applicant do here? Find a word that allows you to convey a story, to connect a broader narrative to the prompt. In many writing supplements, the chosen topic matters less than how you convey your answer; this is the perfect example of such a situation.
A great answer could center around your multilingualism; if your second language was English, you could pick a word you struggled pronouncing as you grew up. This would be a launchpad to write about the unique struggles and benefits of growing up in a culturally diverse household. Alternatively, if you love math, you can pick a funny or multi-faceted math term like “non-abelian” and tie it into your overarching story about this passion. Either way, the essay should focus on your personal experience with the word — it’s not necessarily an etymological study of the word itself!
Now, we should also discuss how to actually write this essay. First off, don’t wait too long to show the reader what your favorite word is. Start with a hook — a quote of the first time you heard the word, for example, or a brief anecdote to provide context. You could set the stage with an exposition for the story to follow. Try not to say “my favorite word is ____” as your first sentence; nothing screams “stale” more than that!
Then you can follow the introduction with a pivot to the specific word. Make sure you explore both aspects of its “meaning.” That is, reference the dictionary definition of the word, but also dive into its real meaning to you. If your favorite word is “begin,” you could first define it as “to start something” and then explain that it was your grandfather’s perennial advice.
A powerful conclusion will stick in the readers’ heads, so try to write one! Tie the threads together: The word and story might still be disjoint. Continuing our example from before, you might say how, whenever you have a seemingly impossible task in front of you, you can see your late grandfather telling you “begin!” Even though your grandfather is no longer with you, he is still the greatest motivator in your life. Now, you look forward to new beginnings in college and beyond.
Music and Modern Literature
Music and literature have existed in collaborative form since ancient times, and have invited comparison because of their fundamental similarity in form: unlike the visual arts, which exist in space, music and literature are primarily temporal in nature—dependent on the medium of time for their meaning. Scholars believe that performance of music and recitation of literature first arose as a single activity with the tradition of oral storytelling that was accompanied by music. However, as music and literature began to develop into separate art forms—with the predominance of written text over the oral tradition—the connection between them lessened, and throughout history their interrelationship has varied depending on time period and geographic locale. Poets have always cast their verses into structures with musical origins, such as the sonnet, the hymn, the ballad, the ode, and the lyric. In addition, they have attempted to use language to emulate the cadences of music. This is particularly true of the Symbolist poets, for whom the sound of words was much more important than the sense. Prose writers, although to a lesser extent than poets, also have adopted musical structures, such as the sonata and the leitmotiv, and their works have been inspired by or based on musical compositions and subjects. Additionally, music and musical performance often appear in works of prose fiction as elements of plot, setting, character, and theme, particularly in works of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. More recently, the Beat poets of the 1950s and 1960s infused their works with the rhythms and improvisational nature of the bebop jazz pioneered by such musicians as John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie, and rock musicians such as the Beatles and Led Zeppelin added poetic and operatic elements to their music. Both literary critics and musicologists acknowledge the historical and aesthetic importance of the relationship of the two art forms, frequently citing the continued popular appeal of the music-literature union as evidence of its social influence as well.