Melanie Talesnick

Melanie has spent her professional career in a variety of settings. After graduating from the University of Delaware with a double major in Marketing and Management, she worked for the National Basketball Association (NBA). Despite the perks of travel and working with professional athletes, she felt unfulfilled, except when working with grassroots organizations to develop recreational programs for kids. This experience led Melanie to pursue a career in teaching and athletic coaching. She ultimately earned her Master’s degree in Student Personnel Services from Montclair State University and a Certificate in College Counseling with Distinction from UCLA.


As a high school counselor for over 10 years, Melanie was always drawn to the college process. At the same time, utilizing her entrepreneurial nature, she founded Admit U Consulting to focus solely on working with students and families outside of the high school setting. She quickly emerged as a leader in the counseling office and ended her career at Morristown High School as the College Counselor. In 2015, she left public education to manage Admit U full-time.


Melanie is a Professional Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), a member of the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), and sits on the National Advisory Board for a private liberal arts university. Melanie is also a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), a distinction held by only a handful of consultants in the state of New Jersey. She frequently attends conferences, workshops, and visits colleges and universities domestically and abroad. Melanie is truly a student’s biggest fan and supporter. Her passion, skills, and overall knowledge have helped students find their “best-fit” at numerous colleges across the country. She has helped thousands of students achieve their post-secondary goals and believes that the relationships she forms with other professionals, admissions representatives, and university officials offer a unique perspective to the college admissions process. When not editing college essays, Melanie loves cheering for the NY Yankees, seeing Broadway shows, and going to the beach.


Melanie’s enthusiasm and passion for all things college is contagious!

Alison Grill
College Counselor & Essay Coach

Ali has been a College Counselor and Essay Coach with Admit U Consulting since 2011. She is also the current College Counselor at a highly-ranked Union County high school, a position she pioneered in 2013. Her career in education began as a School Counselor at Morristown High School after working for four years at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey conducting child psychology research.


Ali's humanistic approach to college counseling is honest, data-driven, and personalized. Her goal is to help students find schools where they can thrive, not just survive. She prides herself on building relationships with students and families and believes these connections are crucial to helping students find success in the process. Working in secondary education as well as an independent consultant, Ali routinely attends professional conferences and visits colleges and universities nationwide and abroad where she networks with admissions representatives to keep current on admissions procedures and trends.

Ali's educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Writing from Drew University, a Master's degree in School Counseling from Kean University, and a Certificate in College Counseling with Distinction from UCLA. Professionally, she is a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counselors (NACAC), New Jersey Association for College Admissions Counseling (NJACAC), and Union County School Counselors Association (UCSCA). She also sits on a Counselor Advisory Board for a private liberal arts university. She played Division III softball, coached high school softball at The Pingry School, and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. Outside of the office, Ali is a huge fan of hot sauce, live music, and the Oxford comma.

Danielle Asher
College Counselor & Essay Coach

Danielle has worked with students on the college process in a variety of settings in New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Danielle was drawn to the college process after going through it herself and informally served as a peer counselor and essay editor throughout her time at college. After graduating from Barnard College with a BA in Psychology, she pursued her MA in School Counseling from NYU. During that time, Danielle also earned her Certificate in College Counseling with Distinction from UCLA.


Danielle joined the Admit U team in 2016 as a college counselor and essay coach and has worked as a high school counselor since 2013. Professionally, Danielle is a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counselors (NACAC), the New Jersey Association for College Admissions Counselors (NJACAC), the New Jersey School Counselor Association (NJSCA) and the Union County School Counselors Association (UCSCA). Danielle routinely visits colleges and universities and meets with admissions representatives to stay current in the ever-changing college admissions landscape.


Working with students who come from a variety of places and backgrounds has bolstered Danielle's ability to help kids find their "hook" and make it shine throughout their applications and essays. Danielle brings organization and positivity to what can sometimes be a confusing and stressful process, helping students show their best selves and gain admission to best-fit colleges across the country.  When she's not working with students, Danielle loves playing with her dog, Hudson, and watching the New York Giants. Fun fact: Danielle’s college process was featured as a fictionalized story in the best-selling book, Acceptance, by Dave Marcus.

Adam Lewis
College Counselor & Essay Coach

Adam is an education professional with nearly ten years of classroom and counseling experience. He attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he dual majored in Writing and History. While at school, he played ultimate frisbee, served as a writing tutor at the school’s student success center, and was a regular contributor to the school paper. During his final year of college, he volunteered as a camp counselor with the Valley Youth Network and felt an instant connection with the kids he was tasked with supervising. He was not only able to relate and empathize, but he also guided them as they sought to unlock their potential and discover their passions. This newfound ability would eventually shape his future career plans.


After graduation, his desire for sharing ideas and teaching took him abroad to Beijing, a place he called home for nearly seven years. While in China, he worked as an English teacher and college counselor for students studying abroad in the United States. In his spare time, he would study Mandarin and coach ultimate frisbee. At his school in Beijing, he held unique writing seminars for students of all levels looking to hone their craft. He also created and held culture seminars called, “Life Clubs.” These unique experiences would allow students to delve deeply into an area of American culture that they wished to know more about. Through discussion, activities, and even guest speakers, students could better prepare themselves for the challenges of acclimating to a new culture in the United States. 


As a college counselor, he led essay workshops, edited students’ work, guided individual activity plans, set quarterly academic goals, and constructed test schedules. One of his specialties as a counselor is helping students to develop signature projects. These projects are intended to accurately represent the students’ true selves and often go beyond the confines of a school club or organization.


Many of the families he has serviced over the years remain in touch with Adam because of his commitment to the students and his good-natured personality. He is very devoted to finding the best fit for each student, ensuring that they are situated for success.


In his personal time, he enjoys watching Pittsburgh sports, though he admits, that as a loyal Pirates fan, times are tough. He regularly returns to his native Pittsburgh to watch games and partake in family events. Although he considers himself a true “Yinzer,” he is more than happy to be working with fans and families from the local area.   

Jonathan Roman
College Counselor & Essay Coach

Jonathan entered college with the goal of eventually going to law school, but all of his time spent both attending and working at a summer camp ultimately changed his mind.  Working around kids with a seasoned group of educators that saw his natural ability to relate with children, he was ultimately persuaded to enter the field of education instead.  He graduated with a BA in Sociology (Honors Program) with a minor in Political Science from Muhlenberg College, where he was also a four-year varsity soccer player. He then gained an MA in Counseling (School Counseling Concentration) from Montclair State University.  During graduate school, he spent three summers as the Director of Camp White Meadow, and worked at Randolph Middle School while coaching boys soccer as the varsity assistant at Randolph High School.  Since getting his MA, he has continued his education and is certified by the state of New Jersey as a School Counselor, Student Assistance Coordinator (SAC), Supervisor, and Director of School Counseling Services.


Upon finishing graduate school, Jonathan spent two years as a counselor at Roxbury High School, and has now been a counselor at Morris Hills High School since 2011, where he is also an assistant boys soccer coach.  He is a member of the New Jersey School Counseling Association (NJSCA) and serves on the executive board as the co-treasurer of the Morris County Professional Counselor Association (MCPCA).  Jonathan joined the Admit U staff in 2019 as an outgrowth of his summers spent co-teaching a college essay writing course, but also because he loves college counseling and is able to spend more time diving deeper into it with each student than is possible in a school setting.  When he is not working, Jonathan enjoys sports and is an Orangetheory workout addict.

Jake Cohen
Essay Coach
Kristin Howell
Essay Coach

As an English teacher at James Caldwell High School since 2018, Jake has guided hundreds of seniors to acceptance at their top colleges through his college essay workshop unit in his senior English course. Following the principles of renowned educator and writing instructor, Kelly Gallagher, Jake believes in using mentor text analysis to give students the tools to not only write their best essays but to be stronger and more confident writers. In addition to teaching English 12, Jake also teaches English 10, From Page to Screen, and Monsters in Literature.

After initially pursuing a degree in Business & Pre-Law at The College of New Jersey, Jake’s journey as an educator began when he switched his major to English Education after being inspired by Paulo Coelho’s renowned novel, The Alchemist. Jake’s decision to become an educator was also influenced by his desire for human interaction and connection. Whether in the classroom comparing Shakespeare to Migos’ lyrics or making anime references to other texts, Jake prides himself on designing a stimulating and enriching experience for his students. 

In Spring 2020, Jake took over the reins of the James Caldwell JV Boys Tennis team.  When he is not teaching or coaching essays or tennis, Jake is usually enjoying anime with his girlfriend, watching the Knicks/Jets/Mets lose, or taking his doggo, Tucker, on long walks.

Kristin is a recent graduate from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Psychology. She graduated with Honors in English and is a proud member of Phi Beta Kappa—an organization that recognizes academic achievement in the arts and sciences. Kristin has worked for a number of New York's finest literary agencies, mentored and tutored students through various organizations, and will soon conduct mental health research as a clinical RA at McLean—a teaching hospital associated with Harvard Medical School. She is extremely interested in finding a way to weave together a passion for English and psychology to pursue a career that highlights the complexities of the human experience and the power of one’s story. In addition, she is similarly passionate about taking on mentorship positions to support student advancement and is invested in helping the next generation of innovators, thinkers, and change-makers find their voice. 


While Kristin would say that her time as a content creator for Providence’s local radio station as well as her position as a peer career advisor in her school’s CareerLAB were defining moments of her Brown career, she believes that her most rewarding experience was working on her senior thesis: “Living in the Wake of Transatlantic Slavery: Trauma, Memory, and Disaster in Black Autobiographical Narratives of Disruption”. This challenging and demanding process not only allowed her to develop a newfound appreciation for thinking, writing, and editing, but also helped her refine the literary skills she cultivated through The David Black Literary Agency and Folio Literary Management. These experiences allowed her to solidify grammar knowledge, learn new literary techniques, and edit large manuscripts in an efficient and timely manner. Kristin loved seeing an author’s work in its beginning stages and being part of the creative process to the final masterpiece. The most engaging part of the position was reading various genres of writing and leading extensive research and editorial projects for the company’s authors. 


Kristin has been able to apply her literary proficiencies to tutoring by bringing an editorial savviness to her sessions. She is excited to connect with bright and inspired students to create something stunning with them as well.

John Cherichello
Essay Coach
Cara Engel
Essay Coach

John is a lifelong writer. Whether it's editing his students’ essays on the perspective of the main character in a text or drafting his own short story on his grandparents’ Italian-American heritage,  John enjoys the process.  As a public school 7th Grade English Language Arts Teacher in Brooklyn, NY, he believes that anyone can be a writer with the right tools and that good writing requires rewriting. 


During his undergraduate years at Bard College in the Hudson Valley, John double-majored in Art History and Written Arts.  With an Italian Studies concentration, John reflected on the art, culture, identity, and food of Italy in his coursework and senior projects.  He participated in one or more fiction and creative nonfiction writing workshops each semester. This model of collaborating and critiquing writing with students and professors catapulted John to the Bard Master of Arts in Teaching program (MAT ‘17) where he studied Literature and Secondary Education (7th-12th Grade). Deep down, he always knew he would gravitate toward the classroom, given his parents and older sibling are educators.  


Throughout his bachelor’s and master’s programs, John worked at the Bard Admissions Office as a tour guide, front desk host, and intern. There, he met hundreds of prospective students and their families and talked the college admissions process, namely what Bard had to offer.  John continued to build connections with the larger Hudson Valley community by student teaching in Pine Plains and Chatham, NY. In these 7th and 10th Grade ELA classrooms, he worked alongside cooperating teachers designing and differentiating lessons to promote inclusivity among varying skill levels. He also made it a goal to incorporate social justice and activism through class readings and discussion. 


Then, in 2017, John moved back to where he grew up, right here in Livingston, NJ. That June, John substitute taught to close out the school year and soon after, he moved to Brooklyn and began his formal teaching career in Manhattan, and later, his now home borough, Brooklyn. He is a proud NYC Dept of Education Middle School Teacher. 

When he is not working or writing, John enjoys cooking, singing, and being around family and friends.

Cara graduated from Lehigh University as a President’s Scholar, completing their BA/MA Education program in five years. Despite the strict curriculum, Cara took as many English courses as possible to feed her love of writing. Fun fact: Cara got her early writing experience as a contributor to the initial iterations of the website, College Humor, and co-wrote a column focusing on observations of college life. This fascination with understanding the experiences of others in educational settings continued to be a theme as she took on a position as a reading, test-taking, and study skills coach for a company in the Boston area after college. Far from her native New York, Cara worked closely with high school students in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia, and Australia, learning more about the differences in these educational systems and how students were successful within them.

Cara’s quest for travel encouraged her to accept a position at the Phi Beta Kappa Society, an organization that focuses on honoring students studying arts and sciences at highly selective universities. This position required monthly visits to the 300+ campus chapters, allowing Cara to be on the ground observing students, faculty, and curricula in the post-secondary setting. 


Ultimately, she realized her true passion was working directly with students. So she returned to school at George Mason University, earning an M.Ed. in School Counseling. Since 2013, Cara has been a high school counselor in the Washington, D.C. area, serving students from diverse backgrounds and helping prepare them for life after high school. She prides herself on strong relationship-building as a means to inspire students to tell their story in innovative ways. In her spare time, Cara loves to cook overly complicated meals, watch terrible reality television, and foster needy but adorable animals.

Joseph Verdon
Athletic Recruiting Consultant
Rachel Shapiro Cooper
Performing Artist Consultant

Joseph has been working with Admit U as a tutor and athletic recruiting consultant since 2015. In addition to working with Admit U, he spends his time teaching English, coaching baseball and basketball, and filming high school football games. He has a passion for helping high school students succeed both in the classroom and on the field/court and takes great pride in helping student-athletes achieve their short- and long-term academic and athletic goals. Joe was a recruited athlete himself, and a successful student-athlete at a Division I school. He was on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll while at Lafayette College, and graduated summa cum laude. Joe understands the recruiting process and helps potential student-athletes navigate the process. As a teacher, coach, and recruiting expert, Joe has helped numerous athletes in various sports navigate the recruiting process and achieve their dreams of continuing their athletic careers in college.  The walls of Joe's classroom are lined with college pennants given to him by students and athletes he has taught and coached over the years.

Rachel attended the High School of Performing Arts and Music and Art and then received her B.F.A. in Acting from Carnegie Mellon University, School of Drama which included study at the Moscow Art Theatre school (MXAT) in 2001. Commercially, Rachel has worked as an actress in theatre and television. She is a proud member of SAG, AEA, and AFTRA. As a casting associate, she worked on Broadway shows such as Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and City Center Encores. Through her graduate work at NYU, Rachel earned her M.A. in Educational Theatre. As an arts educator, Rachel has worked for the last eight years in Newark developing curriculum and facilitating instruction in networks including North Star Academy and KIPP:NJ where she was the Department Chair for the Arts and the founding teacher at their most recent campus: BOLD Academy.


Most recently, Rachel joined the faculty at Newark Academy in 2016 as the Director of Theatre. Rachel is thrilled to be able to assist talented and hard-working artists discover the college of their dreams. She has the experience to be able to help students select and execute the best performance pieces for auditions. She approaches this work with the precision required to identify and highlight students’ strengths coupled with the empathy to guide them through this dynamic experience. Rachel's goal is that students are prepared for their auditions/pre-screens and have a clear path to and through this process. When not coaching, Rachel can be found performing and directing on stages in NYC and NJ, hanging with her two daughters, and food prepping!

Nick Wierda
Tutoring Director
Jamie Kideckel
Office Manager/Marketing Director

Nick founded First Choice Prep in 2010. With a focus on test prep and academic tutoring, he developed a curricula and pedagogy that have helped thousands of students improve their grades and test scores. He has spent more than a decade learning the SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE, and a plethora of other admissions tests inside and out and continually improving First Choice Prep’s course materials. Nick has two main claims to fame – his frequent perfect scores on ACTs and SATs and his appearance on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. He also has had a streak of excellent Halloween costumes.

Prior to founding First Choice Prep, Nick worked at a variety of tutoring companies in New Jersey and New York. His career in the field began as a sophomore at Rutgers University, when he began tutoring for a local company.  He majored in History and minored in Political Science, but opted to pursue his passion of teaching after college.

In his spare time, Nick enjoys watching sports, reading, traveling, playing guitar, and using fancy vocabulary words to impress his friends. Nick lives in Jersey City with his wife and two children.

Jamie is a marketing executive with over 20 years of experience in the print and digital media space.  Before joining Admit U Consulting, she worked as a Marketing Director at Time Inc. and helped drive both revenue and readership growth for Real Simple and Sports Illustrated across both their print and digital extensions. In addition to working alongside product development and social media teams, Jamie worked with various agencies to develop, implement, and manage media across multiple platforms. Prior to that, she worked at Conde Nast as a marketer for Gourmet Magazine and Teen Vogue, where she helped launch the highly successful Teen Vogue franchise.

After realizing her family needed her closer to home, Jamie brought her marketing and organizational expertise of large-scale businesses to Admit U. Jamie spends most of her free time with her husband and their two daughters. She is constantly a fan at the sidelines of their games and can be found cheering on her alma mater, University of Wisconsin, any chance she gets! Go Badgers!

Gold medal winners for 2017, 2018, and 2019 for Best of Essex Educational Center

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