At McNeil Admissions, we help you craft essays and applications that stand out and get results

We helped 96% of our clients get into top-35 universities and 26% into an Ivy. How? Our full-service consulting focused on crafting breakout college essays. Spots are limited.

John is heading off to Dartmouth! I think it came down to the essay. It was phenomenal… We hung it on the fridge at the end of the cycle. If Alex and team are available, stop looking.

Jeanette S., McNeil Admissions Client (21-22')

We've helped hundreds of students get into schools like these.

1 (3) 2 (3) 3 (3) 4 (3) 5 (2) 6 (2) 7 (2) 8 (2) 9 (2) 10 (2) 11 (2) 12 (2) 13 (1) 14 (2) 16 (2) 17 (2) 19

A full-service college consulting firm—with a flair for essays, an exceptional record, and a reputation for care.

Meet your new admissions team.

Our partners are experts —former admissions officers and superb writers from schools like Vanderbilt, Stanford, and Harvard. Combined, we've worked in elite admissions for more than 30 years.

Everyone on our team has a stake in every application. And we share a common view that our best interests lie in being obsessed with client outcomes.


Alex McNeil, MA
Founder, McNeil Admissions

Alex is an experienced writing coach and admissions thought leader who has helped 500+ students get into the best schools in the country. He writes regularly about admissions and moderates Reddit' s r/ApplyingToCollege community, the largest admissions community in the world. Alex holds a graduate degree in political science and studied at the University of Puget Sound, SF State & UC Berkeley.


Ben Bousquet, M.Ed
Former Assistant Admissions Director, Vanderbilt University

Ben is the former Assistant Director of Admissions at Vanderbilt University and was a Resident Director of the 2018 Harvard Pre-College Program. Ben has reviewed 20,000+ applications, presented files to the admissions committee, and selected students for top merit scholarships. At Harvard, he facilitated admissions workshops for 500+ high-achieving high school students. 


Irena Smith, PhD
Former Admissions Officer, Stanford University

Irena is a former admission officer at Stanford University and has led her own admissions practice for 15+ years. She works in consultation with McNeil Admissions, providing application strategy feedback to team members. Irena's writing on college admissions has been featured in The Atlantic, San Francisco Chronicle, and NPR.


Kylie Kistner, MA
Former Admissions Counselor, Willamette University

Kylie is a former admissions counselor at Willamette University. She has been a writing coach at three institutions, worked with thousands of students on writing, and has supported neurodiverse students through writing, planning, and project management. Kylie co-created a university-wide writing handbook used across 200+ undergraduate writing courses and to teach writing in several countries. 

Our Results

While college admissions rates plunge, our students’ acceptance rates to their top schools keep going up. 98% of our students with GPAs over 3.6 have gained admission to one of the top 35 schools in the country. 26% of our students with GPAs above 3.8 received admissions to an Ivy League school (if they applied to one!).

"No stone unturned."

My wife and I's efforts to help our daughter kept ending in meltdown fights. Alex and his team took over and it was smooth sailing. Essays were great, applications left no stone unturned. Thanks!

Jesse T., McNeil Admissions Client  ('20-'21)

"Wouldn't have gotten in otherwise."

I got in touch when I applied for a second BS degree at NYU. Alex helped me start my essays over from scratch and they turned out amazing. There is no way I would have gotten in otherwise :) 

Emily S., McNeil Admissions Client (21-'22)

"Our hero throughout everything."

My daughter (first child) took care of the process on her own. My son, on the other hand, had ADHD and needed some serious help navigating the process. Alex was our hero through everything. He helped Luke write essays that we had no idea he had in him. Highly recommend Alex and his team. 

Joy N., McNeil Admissions Client (19-20')

"My results were amazing."

I was anxious going into things because I had a pretty generic resume and was applying to very competitive schools. Alex was so good at helping me frame my application in a way that made up for the holes in my resume. My results were amazing also. Studying CS at Berkeley next year!

Ellie H., McNeil Admissions Client (21-22')

Want to know the secret to elite college admissions? Here's the deal:

Pretend you're an admissions officer... It's Thursday, 4pm. The 28th application of the day slides across the desk. You start reading, trying to stop your gaze from wandering up to the clock every few moments. Ugh, Another essay about machine learning?

Academic rigor, grades, and extracurriculars matter. But those factors only get you to the starting line. Then, the real test begins.

Ben, team member and former Admissions Officer at Vanderbilt University, tells us what makes an application great:

Your application must knit your transcripts, extracurriculars, scores into a coherent story that a reader connects with. If your story doesn't connect with your reader, your app is often DOA. That connection usually happens in the essays.

Ben Bousquet, Director of Applicant Strategy @ McNeil Admissions (Former Vanderbilt Admissions)

We work with you at every phase of the college application process to build an application that hits a reader like a bolt of lightning.

In turn, you get peace of mind knowing you've created the best application possible.

"Couldn't be happier."

We’ve worked with Alex for four years and have had nothing but an amazing experience throughout. Our son did his applications with Alex and got into Brown, so we asked him to work with our daughter. In junior/senior year he helped my daughter build a school list and coached her through writing essays that were as amazing and personal as our son’s. She's now at Bowdoin. Couldn't be happier.

Jian B., McNeil Admissions Client (21-22')

"Truly gifted writing coaches."

We hired McNeil Admissions to help my son research what he wanted to study in school. Alex helped him land an amazing research position and brought my husband and me up to speed on the admissions process. Alex has become a mentor to Ken. They know the college process in and out and are truly gifted writing coaches. We recommend McNeil Admissions to everyone.

Kerry H., McNeil Admissions Client (20-21')

Balanced applications, lightning-strike essays. Don't leave anything up to chance.

A service for every phase of the application process.

Juniors and seniors constitute the majority of our clients. We also work with younger students—first-years and sophomores—on extracurriculars and early planning. No matter where you are, we have a package for you.

"Great result."

Our sophomore needed help thinking about career & major. Set up meetings twice a month and were ready to go by senior year. Brown BS/MD great result!

Hanish L., McNeil Admissions Client (21-22')

"Helped me brainstorm an essay I loved."

I like writing but the college essays are so weird. I had never really written a personal essay but Alex broke it down and helped me brainstorm an essay I loved.

Lily S., Georgetown University '26

Private Consulting FAQs

What kind of students do you primarily work with?

We are experienced working with every type of college applicant, but about 50% of our practice area focuses on students applying to STEM programs--with emphases on computer science, engineering, and life sciences. 

Otherwise, we work with students interested in business programs, the humanities, and social sciences in equal measure. 

How many students do you take on every year?

We prefer working with a small cohort of students - no more than 12 to 14 for each full-time consultant we employ. 

Keeping our class size limited allows us to ensure that every student we work with receives our full attention at every step throughout the admissions process. 

Our small annual cohorts is one of the features that separates us from larger admissions firms that saddle their consultants with up to 30 or 40 students each cycle. 

Will we be meeting in-person? How many hours of in-person time will we have?

Our packages are built around deliverables, so we'll meet as many times necessary until all of those deliverables are complete. 

At minimum, we meet once per week until we've completed every element of your package. During this one-on-one time, we'll work on drafting and refining essays, extracurricular sections, refining narrative strategies, doing school research, etc., etc.

That is to say: If it needs to be done and is included in the package, we'll be working on it in the sessions. We also will provide essay edits "offline," i.e., over Google Docs, outside of our in-person session time. 

What is your essay development process like? How does that work?

We've perfected an essay development process that's hands-on while allowing students to find their voice. 

We work closely on essays in sessions, helping students articulate their best stories in whatever way suits them. That might mean talking through paragraphs as the student writes, alternating between writing and revising, or whatever strategy works to get the words onto the page.  

We never write essays for students. In addition to being unethical, it would rob them of the opportunity to go through their own writing journey.

Our collaborative method focuses on providing deep essay support while maintaining the student's ownership of the writing process and product.

Are parents included in the application process?

Yes. Parents have known their child the longest and often provide invaluable insights for personal statements. Incorporating the voices of the student as well as the parents is an essential part of locating the most compelling and genuine personal narratives a student has to offer.

We create space for parents by offering bi-weekly office hours that families can sign up for. During these times, we are available to answer questions about a student's application strategy or anything else that may be on your mind. 

What is your admissions experience?

McNeil Admissions has been in business since 2017. During that time we've helped over 200 students apply to college. 

However, our team's experience reaches deeper. We bring 9+ years of elite admissions office experience to the table and 10+ years' experience helping students write personal statements. 

Do you only focus on essays, or do you help with other parts of the process as well?

We help with everything. In addition to our services directly focused on the critical application window (usually between the springs of junior and senior years), we offer: 

  • Early counseling in freshman/sophomore year - resume building, school research, career research, and narrative counseling.
  • Extracurricular consulting
  • School list building in junior/senior year  



Ready to see if we're a fit?

Fill out our inquiry form (the button below) to take the next step. You'll get a detailed sense of our pricing options based on where you are in the application journey and a link to book an introductory call—right in your inbox.