Our Team

Jay Benanav - Founder

Jay is a longtime college consultant and is committed to helping families find the right academic, social and financial fit. He served on the St. Paul City Council for 10 years, has a law degree from St. John’s Law School and has attended Harvard School of Government and Columbia University School of Business.

Jay’s wife Lucy is a clinical social worker and a former teacher in the St. Paul Public Schools. They have three sons all of whom have attended and graduated from college with very little debt.

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Chris Wills - President

As a college student, Chris founded a company now helping over a half million high school students transition to life after high school and has had a passion to help families with the college admission process ever since he and his parents made many mistakes and learned things the hard way.

He has been a featured speaker at college admissions, school counseling and financial services conferences around the country, and he and his wife Vanessa, a high school teacher, have two young sons, John and Thomas.

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Cozy Wittman - Education and Partnerships

Education and networking are a way of life for Cozy. At College Inside Track she runs both the parent events as well as professional development training for those who work with families who have high school students. She speaks nationally about college search, training financial and other professionals.

Cozy is excited connect with organizations and families interested in learning more about the complex college process.  She is a mom of 5 kids with very different goals for college, so she is no stranger to the college search challenge.

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Susan Westerholm - Education and Partnerships

Susan’s 20 year passion of coaching volleyball to all age levels inspired a desire to professionally work with teens and their families.  Susan loves to educate families through College Inside Track events and meeting with families one-on-one to help build knowledge and confidence in their own high school student’s college search.

Susan and her husband Al are looking to the future with excitement as they prepare their own 3 daughters for a successful college search.

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Suzy Fallon - Consultant

Suzy admits to loving teenagers! She has a passion for helping them figure out what’s important to them and finding colleges that will fit them academically, socially and financially. Suzy is an avid lifelong learner and is a certified life coach, health coach and public speaker.

She received her undergraduate degree from Binghamton University in New York, her law degree from California Western, and her college counseling certificate from UC Irvine. Suzy lives with her husband Larry, and two active kids, Elle and Cooper.

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Jennifer Danforth - Consultant

Jennifer has been a school counselor for over 20 years, first at St. Louis Park High School and then with Nova Classical Academy, where she personally developed and launched the highly successful college counseling program.

Jennifer is past president of the Lakes Area Counseling Association and is a licensed school principal. Her son Zach is currently attending college.

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Susan Whalen, PhD - Consultant

Susan especially loves the mentoring elements that come into play in admissions work, and exploring with students how their interests and skills might develop in particular college programs. She spent the first part of her career as a professor and associate director of a human rights archive at University of Colorado Boulder, followed by teaching and consulting for high performing high schools.

Susan earned a B.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and has an M.A. and Ph.D from Pennsylvania State University. She lives in St. Paul, where she grows tomatoes and is obsessively searching for a puppy to bring home.

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Matthew Andrews, PhD - Consultant

A graduate of Stanford University, Matthew has founded education companies serving over 1 million students in 63 countries. He has developed college counseling curriculum for business and schools and has been a featured speaker at education conferences around the world.

Matthew's expertise includes designing, implementing and assessing educational programs, and he has used clinical interviews and surveys in a 4-year longitudinal study to understand how adolescents develop a sense of purpose in the world.

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Greta Van Ochten - Consultant

Greta has a passion for helping students navigate the college search process. She has a unique understanding of the college campus environment from her previous career in higher education publishing where she visited campuses and worked with college and university faculty and staff.

Greta graduated from the University of Michigan and currently lives with her husband Greg. They have two grown daughters, both in graduate school.

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Lessa Scherrer - Consultant

Lessa has worked with many populations of students, including homeschoolers, students with learning differences, and the gifted. She is active in Mensa and also spent seven years teaching ACT test prep. She has also designed a college prep study skills curriculum for students preparing to apply to highly selective colleges.

Lessa is a graduate of the University of Michigan and holds a Certificate in College Admissions Counseling through UCLA. A former homeschooler, Lessa lives in Eau Claire, WI with her husband, two goofy dogs and, at any given time, one or more of her three boys.

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Tiffany Kolb - Consultant

Tiffany has worked with students and families throughout her professional life, as a teacher, administrator, and college counselor. She loves working with teens and young adults; finding a creative solution to a problem; and seeing the expression on student faces when they reach success.

Tiffany has a BA from Loras College, and an MA from Viterbo University. She and her husband Doug have lived the college application process with their three kids and understand how crazy it can get when parents try to do all the research required to figure out the college admission process.

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Lisa Hansen - Consultant

Lisa has worked in the counseling and advising field for over 20 years, with expertise in both academic and college advising and mental emotional/social fit. She authored a renowned curriculum on social skills for students and is passionate about working with students and helping them find their college fit.

Lisa has an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in school counseling and prior to joining CIT, she was a high school counselor in a large suburban school.

Lisa and her husband live in Minnesota with their three children and the baby of the family, their pet goldendoodle.

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Donna Wilkerson - Office Assistant

Donna worked for the Rochester Public Schools in the business service department for 37 years before coming to College Inside Track. During her time with the district, she managed payroll, purchasing, budgeting and forecasting.

She and her husband, Jim, have two children and four grandchildren.

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Colleen Loerzel - Office Manager

Colleen has worked in the customer service and office administration field for most of her career and is passionate about creating raving fans. She and her husband, Lloyd, have three daughters and eight grandchildren.

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Amy O'Neill - College Essay Coach

Amy is a Gifted and Talented Teacher in the Minnetonka School District and prior to that was a classroom teacher in the Edina Public Schools.  She has a true passion for writing and coaching students through the essay writing process.

Amy earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder and a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. She lives in Minnetonka with her husband and three children. Their oldest son recently graduated from high school, so Amy now brings her personal experience of the college search to her coaching.

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Brendan O'Hara - College Essay Coach

Brendan is an English/Language Arts Instructor at Nova Classical Academy, where he teaches a variety of courses and has extensive experience running workshops and creative exercises centered on the college essay process.

His other educational pursuits include working with local cohorts to promote equitable and just practices into classroom and school-wide settings, and a continued push to complete an MFA in creative writing at Hamline University.  When he is not buried in one of his crafts, he is exploring and adventuring with his wife and two sons.

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Kelly Bunte - College Essay Coach

Kelly co-directed the highly regarded Minnetonka High School Writing Center, where she assisted hundreds of high school students with their college essays. She currently teaches at Minnetonka and has worked with students from a wide variety of backgrounds, also teaching in rural Illinois and Paraguay.

Kelly has a BA from Lawrence University and a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University - St. Paul. When she is not writing lessons or grading papers, Kelly enjoys cooking at remote campsites, running errands on her bike, and hanging out with her husband and three teenagers.

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Nelly Konkin - College Essay Coach

Nelly is a Language Arts and Rhetoric Instructor at Nova Classical Academy and has worked in a variety of educational settings, from a public middle school to a college. She enjoyed her stint as a college admissions counselor, reveling in the moment when students she recruited unloaded their parents' stuffed cars and battled new roommates for the top bunk. (Pro Tip: Always be the first to move in and the first to move out!).

When Nelly is not grading papers or tutoring students, she enjoys growing succulents (they're virtually indestructible), teaching her daughter the proper way to catch frogs, and sipping Irish breakfast tea on the porch with a good book.

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Angie Nijhawan - College Essay Coach

Angie has been a part of the education profession for over 25 years, most recently as the founder of a tutoring service focusing on writing and communication. She enjoys helping students navigate the writing process and craft essays showcasing their individual message and voice.

Angie received her B.A. in English and Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She and her husband live in Eau Claire, WI and have two sons in college.

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Sara Seal - College Essay Coach

Sara teaches upper level literature and rhetoric courses at Nova Classical Academy, part of which includes college essay writing and college preparatory skills. She has also worked as a tutor at Sylvan Learning Center.

Sara's other educational pursuits include attending NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes to further her learning on various subjects, notably the Spanish Influenza of 1918. When she is not teaching or reading, Sara enjoys spending time with her husband and two young children.

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Joe Schiltz - College Essay Coach

Joe has worked as a writing tutor in a number of locations, including the Center for Writing at the University of Minnesota. He also worked as a College Advisor with College Possible, where he assisted over two hundred students through all stages of the college-application process (although working on the college essay was always his favorite part).

Joe now works as a middle-school youth minister. He spends most of his free time reading or writing, but also loves watching and discussing movies and movie award shows.

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