Your goals. Our team.

You bring the energy. We’ll provide the support.

Cornelia McNeal, Founder and Counselor

Cornelia McNeal (Nelie) provides comprehensive counseling to college applicants and oversees the work of team members who provide specialized services. She also coaches graduate school and transfer applicants. She earned her BA from Harvard College in Romance Languages and Literatures and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and began her post-graduate career as a residential and academic advisor at Harvard. As a Harvard admissions officer, Nelie evaluated and presented thousands of American and international candidates to the college’s admissions committee. As director of college counseling at Francis Parker School in San Diego and then at Villa Duchesne-Oak Hill School in St. Louis, Nelie supported students in applying to a broad range of colleges and attaining merit scholarships. In 2005, Nelie established McNeal College Counseling LLC to provide clients with the guidance they need to gain a competitive edge in the application process. Nelie’s extensive experience enables her to listen to students’ concerns and thus perceive the level of support they need. She also provides insight and sound advice to parents to help them constructively support their students and navigate the process.

Jeanie Grimm, Counselor

Jeanie attended Brown University and translated her love of her education into work there as an admissions officer. At the Harvard Graduate School of Education, she completed a masters degree in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy, with a particular interest in counseling and the high school to college transition. She served as a Harvard College residential dean and assistant dean of freshmen, as well as an in-residence dorm proctor. At Harvard, she served as senior admissions and financial aid officer. In 2001, Jeanie moved to the Finger Lakes region of New York State where she taught for fourteen years. She was appointed to her school district’s board of education in 2005, and has been its elected president since 2008. The parent of college and graduate students, Jeanie brings an invaluable and relevant perspective to the college admissions process.

Elizabeth Schnell, Counselor

Elizabeth Schnell provides interview and resume coaching to support students in the admissions process, and to help college students and recent grads to plan and navigate their career search. She holds a BA in Psychology from Harvard College and served as a residential advisor to first year Harvard students while earning her Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. With 25 years as an alumni interviewer of Chicago-area applicants to Harvard, she also has navigated college admissions as a parent. Her extensive business experience as a management consultant in the healthcare industry and as a volunteer board leader gives her a unique ability to listen, support, and coach. Elizabeth sees college admissions and career planning as a rich vein for students to develop self-awareness, confidence, and decision making tools that will serve them for life. She applies her strategic and analytic skills while helping students discern and articulate their emerging values, personality, and educational or vocational mission.

Ellen Brannegan, Career Counselor

Ellen Brannegan advised hundreds of undergraduates during her eight-year tenure as a senior career consultant at Georgetown University’s Career Education Center, where she also served as liaison to the School of Foreign Service.  She coached on interviewing techniques, facilitated resume and cover letter development, advised on networking and job search strategies, and acquired inside information on job/internship strategies in numerous fields. Believing that the career search is a life-long journey, Ellen equips students with techniques and strategies that they can use over and over. With a Masters in Community Counseling from The George Washington University’s School of Education and Human Development, and a BA in Sociology from the College of Wooster, her training enables her to carefully listen and support her clients. Ellen has a passion for understanding each student’s interests, skills, and personality and serving as a guide as they move through the career process together.

Rebecca Rubin-Schlansky, Writing Consultant

Rebecca Rubin-Schlansky has been a teacher, tutor, and writing consultant for over fifteen years. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Education from Barnard College-Columbia University and a Master’s Degree in History from the University of California, Irvine. In the high school classroom, Rebecca teaches History, Women’s Studies, and Psychology with a commitment to fostering empathy and multiple perspectives. She brings that same emphasis to her tutoring and writing consulting, encouraging students to consider multiple arguments in analytical research and empathetic writing during the creative process. Rebecca has served on local boards, including We Stories and the Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School. She joined McNeal College Consulting in 2008 as a writing consultant. She encourages each student to consider everyday pieces of their lives as moments of magic and meaning.

Ben Grimm, Writing Consultant

Ben Grimm has worked as a writing consultant for McNeal College Consulting for the last three years. Ben attended public school in western New York and matriculated to Harvard College. He graduated first in his class, summa cum laude, in 2018 with a B.A. in the Study of Religion. He was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa and won the prestigious Hoopes Prize for the most outstanding senior theses at the College.

Ben has spent the last two years as a philosophy & religion teacher at Deerfield Academy. He had the pleasure of teaching critical thinking and writing to hundreds of high school students in a competitive academic environment. His role also included academic advising and one-on-one writing instruction. During this time, he simultaneously earned a Masters of Education from the University of Pennsylvania through the Boarding School Teaching Residency Program.

Deborah Hutkin, Office Manager

Debbie Hutkin joined McNeal College Consulting in 2006. An integral part of the team, she brings an extensive background in organizational and office skills and directs day-to-day business operations.

Bev Robinson, Research Assistant

Bev Robinson received a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from the University of Virginia and did graduate study at Columbia University in biostatistics and epidemiology. She coordinates scheduling, oversees online resources, and researches college and university programs.

Team’s Years of Experience
Colleges Worldwide Accepting Our Students
Essays Submitted


We draw on our extensive knowledge and experience to demystify the process and help your student and family manage complexity.

We build trusting and compassionate relationships to help our students reflect on and articulate the interests and values behind their educational goals.

We empower our students to tell their authentic stories, building their confidence in themselves and clarity in their purpose.

We tailor our support to the degree of independence each student can handle, cultivating a team approach involving your family and our specialists.


Learn how to stand out from the millions of students applying for college today!