“Don’t Try to Be Unique,” Cornell’s Felton Says in College Essay 101

“Be you (in your college application essay), and you will succeed at being unique,” Shawn Felton, Cornell University’s Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions, told participants during a guest appearance for this College Essay 101 webinar with Wow President Kim Lifton.

Kim and Shawn talked about what makes an essay unique. Students hear that they should write “unique” essays in order to stand out to colleges, but it can be unclear what that actually means. What’s more, the word “unique” can lead to stress and confusion. It does not need to be so confusing or hard!

In their conversation, available to watch for free, Kim and Shawn break down what writing a unique essay actually means, and why it’s best not to overthink it. They touch on a number of other college essay topics as well, including what questions to ask yourself before you start writing and how to effectively brainstorm ideas.

College essay 101 class – every second Wednesday of the month

We offer the college essay 101 class the second Wednesday of each month at 7:00 pm Eastern (February – September). In it, Kim takes students through the first 4 steps of Wow’s signature process to give students (and parents!) a taste of our approach to the college essay. She shares her best tips and answers questions live.

In the webinar with our special guest, Shawn, we discussed Wow’s key to helping students write effective common essays is our process. Wow’s process breaks essay-writing into smaller, easier to manage tasks, written with simple, clear instructions. We start by making a plan and a schedule with our students to keep them (and us!) focused during the writing process. There are no gimmicks or tricks—Just a tried-and-true method that has helped hundreds of students write effective college essays.

And don’t just take our word for it—Ask Shawn!

Shawn Felton Cornell University
Cornell’s Shawn Felton

“I agree with this approach,” he says, referring to Kim’s emphasis on the importance of knowing your audience. “What are you trying to say? Why? And to whom? Those are the things to be thinking about.” With the Wow Method, you will keep these questions in mind throughout the writing process, from pre-writing through final revisions. By staying focused with these guiding questions, you’ll be able to write the type of essay that Shawn and admissions officers across the country actually want to read—One in which you tell a story that highlights a trait about yourself and explain why that trait matters.

The Wow Method was developed specifically for the college application essay and has been used by Wow and also professionals who are trained in our method for over a decade. Colleges have always wanted the same thing: To learn something about you that they can’t learn from the rest of your application.

To learn more about the Wow Method and hear Shawn Felton’s insider perspective, watch a recording of our College Essay 101 class.

Sammy Saperstein

Sammy Saperstein

Sammy Saperstein is a senior majoring in English at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He has been an editorial assistant for Wow since November 2020. When he’s not studying, going to class, or working for Wow, he can be found backpacking or solving a sudoku.
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