Barb Buchholz has been a freelance writer for 14 years and has worked in communications for more than 25 years. She is excited to bring her passion for storytelling to her role as an Essay Expert. “As a writer, it’s my job to engage readers and present organizations in the best possible light. I’m excited to coach students to do the same by helping them write essays that highlight their unique strengths and experiences. I know every one of them has a powerful story to tell!”
Barb has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Business Communication degree from the University of St. Thomas. In addition to her business, she is a board member and communications consultant for Saving Grace Village, a nonprofit that provides weekend retreats for adolescent girls. She lives in Lakeville with her husband and son, a sophomore in high school. She is a student at heart and loves taking classes, reading and downhill skiing.
Cindy has been working as a freelance copy editor since 2012, which has enabled her to work on a wide variety of editing projects. She is looking forward to working alongside students as they develop and write their uniquely individual stories for their college applications. Cindy holds a degree in Nutrition & Food Science and worked as a registered dietitian before her first child was born. Her lifelong love of the written word, though, eventually led her to pursue a specialized certificate in copyediting from the University of California, San Diego, and she couldn’t be happier with the career change! Cindy and her husband Dell live in Apple Valley and have two sons—their oldest is a junior in college and their youngest is a junior in high school just starting his own college application process. In her free time, Cindy enjoys reading, visiting new places, working crossword puzzles, and spending time with friends and family.
Elaine Bransford has been teaching English for 12 years. She started her career in New York City, and now teaches AP Language and Composition at St. Croix Preparatory Academy in Stillwater, MN. She works carefully with students on all aspects of the college essay writing process, from finding a “hook” to developing an authentic voice to polishing a final draft. She lives with her husband and two sons in Stillwater, and enjoys exploring museums, traveling, and getting lost in a great book.
Heather Lyons is first and foremost a mother of three beautiful children. She is also an English Language Arts and English as a Second Language teacher at Minneapolis South High School. She joined the College Expert team in 2009 and loves working with students in her role as an Essay Expert and co-leader of the summer essay writing workshops and Jam Sessions. When asked to write this bio, she responded, “Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit…I will be brief.” (Shakespeare, Hamlet)
Jean has been College Expert’s Office Manager since 2012. While she thoroughly enjoyed helping her three daughters find ideal college fits, she wishes she had known about College Expert’s services at the time. Jean’s penchant for structure, organization and making sure processes run smoothly is a good fit for the dynamics of College Expert. She has vast experience in a variety of administrative and educational roles, including substitute teaching and working with youth at the St. Paul Police Department. Jean holds a Criminal Justice Management degree. Jean enjoys baking, cooking, boating, and reading, but more than anything she enjoys planning outings and spending time with friends & family – especially her grandchildren!
Kris Olson has been an Essay Expert with College Experts since 2013. She looks forward to working with juniors and seniors each year because of their excitement and enthusiasm for the future. Although Kris focuses mostly on the essay portion of applications, she also helps with all other aspects of the college application process. Kris will be co-hosting some of the essay writing workshops over the summer, and working at most of the jam session held at the west-suburban location throughout the year.
“The best part, for me, is seeing students find their individual voices while crafting an essay only they could write from their own unique experiences.” Kris graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, with a B.A. in journalism, and has worked in a variety of writing and editing positions for more than 25 years. She has two children, one who is now a college graduate and the other is a college senior. She lives in Excelsior with her husband Greg.
Common Application Expert
Lindsey joined the College Expert team in 2013, after serving for two years as a high school coach with College Possible. At College Possible, she guided 40 students through the college process, including ACT testing, college applications, financial aid, and scholarship applications. Lindsey currently works as the College Success Manager at Genesys Works – Twin Cities, a nonprofit internship and college access program for high school seniors. Lindsey routinely staffs College Expert Jam Sessions, where she works one-on-one with students as they’re researching colleges or working on applications. Additionally, she’ll be involved with Scholarship and Interview Prep workshops over the summer. Lindsey graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2010. She thoroughly enjoyed her time at Wash U and loves talking with students who are considering applying there!
As a recent college graduate of St. Olaf College, Michelle Anderson is ecstatic about supporting students into their own adventure at college! Michelle graduated in 2014 studying Sociology/Anthropology with a concentration in Management Studies. Since then, Michelle served two years with AmeriCorps through College Possible coaching high school juniors and seniors through intensive ACT preparation, college applications and essays, financial aid, and college readiness curriculum. Now, she is a One Stop Counselor at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities providing assistance for student with financial aid, billing, payments and university financial wellness initiatives. With College Expert, she will be staffing Jam Sessions and assisting individual students as an Essay Expert.
Toni Marie O’Daniel
Common Application Expert
I graduated from the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, MN with a BA in Business. Working at two private schools in the twin cities area for over fifteen years in the college counseling office as well as being the Registrar at both schools has given me extensive amount of experiece with the admission process. In 2016 I also started working with underserved students at the Hmong College Prep Academy as the College and Scholarship Manager.
Completing my Certificate in College Counseling from University of California-Los Angeles in 2010 and immediately started Chrisalem College Couture was a pivotal point in my career. I also become an associate of College Expert in 2010 and started doing seminars and presentations for students and their families. In 2011, I attended the Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions and the IECA Summer Institute on College Counseling. As a member of IECA, HECA, MACAC and NACAC I have wonderful contacts with other college counselors throughout the United States and Canada. Working closely with other college counselors and IEC’s throughout the country has given me extensive information on each different college and university. Visiting colleges is an important step for any IEC and I have visited over 100 different colleges throughout the United States and Canada. I love to work with students on the application process especially the common application, resume’s and scholarship opportunities.
As an avid photographer, Tracy often shoots two hundred images in pursuit of a single image which conveys a moving or unexpected moment. Her Essay Expert role is similar. She respectfully guides each student through the process of selecting and examining a specific life experience to create an introspective admissions essay. It’s all about the unfolding of a well-crafted story – and the correct use of there, their, and they’re, of course! Tracy also is a researcher at heart. Her joy comes from teaching students how to dig into college websites to develop content for the nuts and bolts essays about potential majors, extracurricular activities, and career aspirations.
Tracy holds a double major in speech and women’s studies, summa cum laude with departmental distinction, from St. Olaf College. She was the grand prize winner of the Minnesota Zoo’s 2015 photography contest. The Schuffenhauers live in Apple Valley with a canine resident, Mr. Scruff, who is all terrier. Tracy’s son was a College Expert client.