Shawn Felton, Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Deputy Chief Admissions and Enrollment Officer at Cornell University visited Gilman on Friday, October 20 as the guest speaker of the Francis J. Carey, Jr. Lecture. The series was established by the Carey Foundation in 2019 to connect Gilman boys and our community with deans of admissions from leading colleges and universities through their presentations on admissions, leadership, and inspiring accomplishments.
Felton opened his remarks by sharing some valuable advice and insight into an admissions office’s decision-making process. “He shared that his admissions committee wants to get to know applications from the ‘inside out,’” said Director of College Counseling Sarah Ross. “They seek to see the world from their applicants’ perspective.” To meet that objective, he shared some of the ‘big questions’ asked of prospective students: Who are you? What have you endured to get where you are today? What do you care about? What would you change about the world and how might you go about getting started?
Felton went on to advise, “If you aren’t already thinking about these questions, I invite you to do so more intentionally.” Ross thought that this was the most meaningful advice that an admissions officer could offer high school students — “to allow these ‘big’ questions to guide you through high school and beyond.”
These are some of the questions Felton thinks about when reviewing applications. He said that many applicants focus their essays on another person — a person who is impactful to the applicant — “but it is supposed to be about you, the applicant. It should be how this person has influenced you and changed you and made you a different version of who you are or changed who you are becoming,” he said.
“When writing your admission essays, don’t just tell us; show us.” He encouraged students to “discover yourself and get to know yourself” through the process of applying to college.