Meet Our Team

Your goals. Our team.

The McNeal Sams team leverages decades of experience in secondary school counseling, college and graduate school admissions, and career services, giving us resources and expertise to guide applicants through the admissions process.

Undergraduate, graduate, and transfer applicants partner directly with a lead counselor and have access to our entire group of college counselors, writing consultants, interview coaches, and career advisors. 

Cornelia McNeal,
Founder and Managing Partner

Cornelia McNeal (Nelie) earned her BA and M.Ed. at Harvard University, serving as a residential and academic advisor there before joining Harvard College’s admissions committee. As senior admissions officer, Nelie evaluated and presented thousands of American and international candidates for consideration. In her role as director of college counseling at Francis Parker School (San Diego) and Villa Duchesne-Oak Hill School (Saint Louis), Nelie supported students applying to a broad range of colleges and attaining merit scholarships.
In 2005, Nelie established McNeal College Consulting, eventually leading a team of specialists in working with clients from around the world.

Barbara Sams, Managing Partner

Barbara Sams provides comprehensive counseling to college applicants. Barbara had an extensive career in university admission and high school college counseling prior to partnering with Cornelia McNeal to form McNeal Sams College Consulting. She has expertise in college admission advising on admission to universities worldwide, advising future college athletes, advising international students seeking a US education, the US military academy process, and advising students with learning differences. 
Throughout her career, Barbara has earned local, regional, and national praise for her professionalism and commitment, and in 2019 the Princeton Review recognized her as one of the “20 School Counselors Who Make a Difference.”

Jeanie Grimm, Senior Associate Partner

Jeanie attended Brown University and translated her love of education into work there as an admissions officer. She earned her M.Ed. at Harvard University and developed an interest in counseling and the high school-to-college transition. At Harvard, she served as assistant dean of freshmen, an in-residence dorm proctor, and a senior admissions and financial aid officer. 

In 2001, Jeanie moved to Canandaigua, New York, where she taught for 14 years. She was appointed to her school district’s board of education in 2005, and has been its elected president since 2008. Jeanie brings an invaluable perspective to the college admissions process.

Elizabeth Schnell, Counselor

Elizabeth Schnell has supported clients in admissions and career development since 2014, providing interview and resume coaching that develops life skills of self-awareness, decision-making, and confidence. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard, she advised first-years there while earning her Master’s in Public Policy at the Kennedy School. She then conducted alumni interviews of Harvard College applicants for 25 years and recently navigated college and graduate school admissions and athletic recruiting with her four sons.

From her years as healthcare management consultant and non-profit board leader, Elizabeth applies strategic perspective, analytic tools, and listening skills to help students discern and articulate their strengths, values, and direction. 

Ellen Brannegan, Career Advisor

Ellen Brannegan advised hundreds of undergraduates during her eight-year tenure as a senior career consultant at Georgetown University’s Career Education Center. 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 joined McNeal Sams College Consulting in 2008. 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. She will earn her Doctor of Education in May 2023.
In the high school classroom, Rebecca teaches World History with a commitment to fostering empathy and multiple perspectives. She brings that same emphasis to her writing consulting, encouraging students to consider multiple arguments and empathetic writing during the creative process. 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 Sams College Consulting for the last four years. Ben attended public school in western New York and matriculated to Harvard College. He graduated first in his class in 2018 with a BA summa cum laude in the Study of Religion as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He also holds a M.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania. 
Ben is a former boarding school philosophy and religion teacher. He loves working with young people in a competitive academic environments, providing academic advising, and helping students become better writers. 
99 +
combined years of experience
colleges worldwide accepting our students
2000 +
Essays submitted