You’re not limited to the date formats built into Excel. You can format them however your heart desires. The underlying value (the exact date) will not change. You can tell by looking in the Formula Bar when you select a formatted date.
To open the Format Cells dialog, just select the cells you want to format (select the first one, then press Ctrl/Command-Shift-Down Arrow), and press Ctrl/Command-1 if they’re all in the same column, which is the standard layout. Then choose Number > Custom and whatever formatting you want.
Here are your formatting options in Excel:
mm: Month with a leading 0
mmm: Month as first three letters (e.g., Jan)
mmmm: Month written out (e.g., January)
yy: Year with a leading 0
yyyy: Year with four digits
dd: Day with a leading 0
ddd: Day of the week (e.g., Mon)
dddd: Day of the week written out (e.g., Monday)
Here are some examples of formatting and how they would look, using the date 8/3/12 (my birthday — feel free to send an early/late present!):
Aug. 3, 2012: mmm. d, yyyy
Friday, August 3rd, 2012: dddd, mmmm d”rd”, yyyy
For a more comprehensive look at how to use custom number formatting in Excel, check out my Search Engine Land