Meet our team.

Our firm is small by design, built around a partnership model. 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.

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Alex McNeil, MA 

Since founding McNeil Admissions in 2017, Alex has helped 500+ students get into the best schools in the country by crafting unforgettable applications. He graduated with honors from the University of Puget Sound before pursuing an M.A. at San Francisco State, completing advanced graduate work at UC Berkeley.
Alex writes regularly about admissions, provides essay workshops for high schools in California and Washington, and moderates Reddit's r/ApplyingToCollege community, the largest admissions-focused community in the world. He is an experienced writing coach and admissions thought leader who believes that a strong essay strategy is at the heart of every successful application.

Ben Bousquet, M.Ed 
Partner, Director of Applicant Strategy

Ben is the former Assistant Director of Admissions at Vanderbilt University, former Admissions Officer at University of Mary Washington, and was a Resident Director of the 2018 Harvard Pre-College Program.  Ben has a deep understanding of elite admissions, having 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.  Ben understands the critical importance of the written components of an application, which are often the difference between a deny and an admit.
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Kylie Kistner, M.A.
Partner, Director of Essay Strategy

Kylie is a former admissions counselor at Willamette University. She has been a writing coach at three institutions and has worked with thousands of students on their writing. In her role as an academic consultant, Kylie has also supported neurodiverse students through writing, planning, and project management. A writer herself, Kylie co-created a university-wide writing handbook standardized across 200+ undergraduate writing courses and used to teach writing in several countries. With her experience as an admissions counselor and writing coach, Kylie guides students seamlessly through the writing process, enabling them to craft exceptional essays that stand out.


Irena Smith, PhD
In Consultation

Irena founded her college consulting practice 14 years ago, drawing on her experience as an admission officer at Stanford University, where she read and reviewed thousands of applications. Now, she helps school students find and celebrate their best stories as they navigate the application process. 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.