ABOUT US

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Melanie Talesnick
Founder

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.   

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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.

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Arden Dean
College Counselor
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Lindsay Johnson
College Counselor & Essay Coach

Lindsay began her professional career working in college admission. She spent over 10 years reviewing applications, reading essays, and conducting interviews at a variety of institutions including: North Carolina State University, Saint Anselm College, and Fairfield University. Currently she works as a college counselor at an independent school in NJ, where she draws upon her prior experiences as she advises students and their families through the college process.

 

Lindsay recognizes the importance of transparency, clarity, and communication when it comes to providing information and guidance to students as they navigate the challenge of making the transition from high school to college. She is committed to providing support at every stage in the process with the ultimate goal of finding a college match that will allow each student to thrive.

 

A graduate of North Carolina State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Sociology, Lindsay later completed her Master’s of Science in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Fairfield University.  She remains connected with college admission representatives and stays abreast of current trends in higher education as a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools (ACCIS). Additionally, she dedicates time every year to attend professional conferences and visit college campuses nationwide to continue her individual education of the various options available to students and study of the ever-changing landscape of college admission.

 

An avid equestrian, Lindsay spends her free time riding and showing her Arabian horse, Casimir. 

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John Cherichello
Essay Coach

Arden comes to Admit U with a background in secondary counseling from diverse high schools. She is currently a School Counselor at nearby Madison High School in Madison, NJ. Prior to that, Arden worked at both Watchung Hills Regional High School and Metuchen High School as a leave-replacement school counselor and interned at Red Bank Regional High School. Currently, Arden is pursuing the College Counseling Certificate through UCLA Extension to better assist students in the college application process and she is an active member of the National Association for College Admissions Counselors (NACAC), New Jersey Association for College Admissions Counseling (NJACAC), and the American Counseling Association (ACA). Arden earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and her Master’s with Distinction in Counseling Services from Rider University.

 

In her free time, Arden loves to travel. Some of her favorite trips include Southern California, Alaska, New Orleans, China, Israel, Italy, Greece, and the United Kingdom. If possible, Arden will always stop to visit a university or two during her travels to get a feel for what each campus is like.  Back at home, she loves to cook, especially international foods, and enjoys making up her own recipes. Most importantly, Arden enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and three dogs.

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Jacqueline Speigel
Essay Coach

Jackie graduated from The University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts in English & Creative Writing and Political Science and a minor in Philosophy. She graduated with Honors in English & Creative Writing and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. At the University of Iowa, Jacqueline refined her workshopping, editing, and writing skills under accomplished authors and professors. Her favorite genre to write is creative nonfiction, though she has an immense admiration for poets and is interested in blurring the boundaries between genres. 

Jacqueline has continued to pursue her passion for coaching writers by volunteering with writing camps, running writing workshops, working as an essay coach, and tutoring students. Everyone has a story to tell, and Jacqueline is passionate about helping that story reach its best form. She has continued to write herself and is currently working on a piece considering her family history, how the present reflects the past, and the roles we play in time.

A lifelong soccer fan, Jacqueline has refereed games ranging from seven-year-olds who need her help to tie their cleats to national finals and college matches. She enjoys watching and playing soccer, and her favorite team is currently Chelsea. She also loves traveling and has done a number of workaways in order to travel on a budget. During these workaways, she has learned several unexpected skills, including how to stomp grapes by foot (watch out for the wolf spiders!), how to gather honey from hives (tape down your sleeves!), and how to get a stuck car out of mud (sometimes, this involves giving up for the night). 

Jacqueline believes that to write well, you must read voraciously. Some books she recommends are Halls of Fame: Essays by John D’Agata, This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers by Jeff Sharlet, and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine. 

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.

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Sophiana Leto
Essay Coach

Sophiana Leto first cultivated her love for writing and working with students as a Writing Fellow at the University of Delaware. After graduating from UD with a B.A. in Anthropology, Sophiana went on to pursue a career in the “for-good” sector, supporting philanthropic efforts at non-profit organizations including buildOn, the Montclair Art Museum, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula. 

 

At the Montclair Art Museum, Sophiana was in a dual role supporting major gifts development and the volunteer/intern program. She loved designing valuable, hands-on learning experiences for students and coaching their final presentations and reflection papers.​​ Following her passion for writing, Sophiana went on to support grant writing at the Museum, securing a competitive Association of Art Museum Directors grant to create internship opportunities for students from underrepresented communities.

 

In 2019 Sophiana made a big life change, moving from the Garden State to the Golden State! She relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area and took on a new role as a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, an organization working to close the opportunity gap and enhance college access for underserved students. 

 

After two years in sunny California, Sophiana moved back to the East Coast to be closer to family and friends. She took another big leap and started her own business, a freelance writing service and philanthropy consultancy for non-profit organizations and small businesses. She enjoys the opportunity to work with clients across a variety of industries. 

 

Known for never leaving the house without a book, Sophiana is an avid reader. She dreams of one day having a home library for her ever-growing book collection. When she’s not writing or reading, Sophiana can usually be found gardening, playing tennis, or snuggling her rescue pup, Pepper.

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Lori Wilansky
Essay Coach

Before transitioning into college consulting, Lori began her career in education as an elementary school teacher in Montgomery County, MD. She later received her secondary certification and taught high school English. After moving to the Chicago area, she helmed a successful freelance writing and tutoring business through which she wrote material for textbook companies and worked privately with high school students needing support in their English and history classes. After going through the college application process with her own daughter in 2016, Lori decided to focus on dedicating her time shepherding students through the college application and essay process while giving them honest advice and nurturing encouragement.

Lori’s professional career is now devoted to guiding and inspiring students to feel confident in their writing skills to bring their essays to life while making the process smooth and rewarding. 

In her downtime, Lori is an avid knitter, and she and her husband love rooting for the Washington Capitals, working out, and visiting their daughter in New York. 

Lori has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master of Education in Administration/Supervision from the University of Maryland, College Park.

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Emily Schmidt
Essay Coach

Emily is a full-time journalist with a passion for mentoring students through the college admissions process. She recently graduated with her Master's degree in mass communications (Health Disparities Journalism concentration) from Arizona State University and completed her undergrad at Stanford University with two degrees in English (Creative Writing concentration) and Spanish. In December 2020, she published her first novel, The Galvin Girls, based on her great-grandmother's emigration experience from Ireland in the 1920s. 

Emily has five years' experience guiding students to write their college admissions essays in a way that demonstrates their unique passions and personalities. She has worked one-on-one with dozens of students through Common App and supplemental essays, using positive yet honest feedback through a multi-draft process. She understands that writing is a vulnerable (and sometimes scary) experience, so her goal is to develop mutual trust with students to share their most important stories. Her students have gone on to attend Harvard, Stanford, UChicago, UC Berkeley, and many other rigorous academic institutions. 

 

In her spare time, Emily loves being outside in the Arizona heat. Originally from Philadelphia, she enjoys hiking and biking in shorts during the winter months and escaping to the mountains in the summer. When Emily isn't writing, she can be found playing with her new kitten, Birdie, or finding the best tacos in the Phoenix Valley.  

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Thomas Adams-Wall
Athletic Recruiting Consultant

Thomas was a three-sport varsity athlete in football, basketball, and baseball in high school before matriculating at The College of Wooster in Ohio. At Wooster, he was a member of their nationally-ranked men’s basketball team, finishing as the D-III National Runner up in 2011. Thomas returned to Wooster after graduation as an assistant coach for a year before being hired as a coach and admission officer at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, OH, where he has now been for nine years. He received his graduate degree from Ohio University with a Master of Science in Athletic Administration.

 

He is now the Director of Boarding Admission & Athletic Liaison and Head Girls’ Basketball Coach at Western Reserve Academy. In his nine years at WRA, he has been an assistant football and track coach, the head coach of the boys basketball team, and recently took over the girls basketball program in 2020. Thomas has a wide network across all levels of collegiate athletics. Being the son of two former college counselors, he has visited hundreds of college campuses across the country. He has coached student-athletes who have gone on to continue their education and athletic career at schools like Columbia, Williams, Bowdoin, Oberlin, Kentucky, Elon, and more.

 

Thomas prides himself in his ability to connect with others, as well as helping students find the best fit for them to achieve their long-term goals. When Thomas is not working, he enjoys traveling back east to see his family and friends, as well as spending time with his two dogs, Kenya and Riggins. He is an avid sports fan and loves to root for his favorite sports teams (NY Jets, Knicks, Yankees, and Rangers).

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Rachel Shapiro Cooper
Performing Artist Consultant

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!

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Nick Wierda
Tutoring 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.

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Jamie Kideckel
Office Manager/Marketing Director

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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