Impressive Credentials.
Guaranteed Results.

Our Experienced Instructors Know Firsthand What It Takes to Achieve Higher Test Scores and Acceptance to Top Schools.

Our Instructors Are Graduates of Elite Universities, Including:

99.9% Scorers

All of our instructors have scored in the 99.9th percentile on the SAT and ACT.

Top College Graduates

We only hire instructors with degrees from the nation's top 20 universities.

Experienced Teachers

Every Powerful Prep instructor has prior classroom and one-on-one teaching experience—and has completed a rigorous training program to learn our unique, adaptive approach.

Meet Our Instructors


Matt Larriva

Dominique Ingato

Mary Dickson

George Pianka

Elise Molar

Eugene Lee

Ryan Fisher

Yassi S

Annie Yau

Lauren Thompson

Erin Brinkman

Jeff Swaney

Daniella Cho

Hiro M

Negah Nafisi

Matt Larriva

University of Pennsylvania (Ranked 9th US News & World)

B.SE., Economics

Matt is the founder of Powerful Prep. After working for a major test prep company for 2 years, and surveying the test-prep landscape, he found the industry was largely confused and cluttered. Some companies offer guarantees but don’t show results—others brag about long hours in the classroom every day. Matt believed a good test-prep program should have only one goal: to produce the highest point-gains possible in the least amount of time.

Matt comes from a background of finance and computer science, and he approaches test prep with the same analytical mindset. When not working, he loves throwing the Frisbee for his Corgi, Summer, and traveling.

Achievements:

  • Passed 2 of the 10 hardest tests in the world, as ranked by DegreeLibrary.Org
  • Mensa Member
  • Chartered Financial Analyst Charterholder, passed all three levels on first attempt (8% pass rate)
  • Played oboe at Carnegie Hall twice
  • Author of Advanced Prep: SAT Writing and Advanced Prep for the New SAT Writing Section
  • Published three white papers on test prep, college counseling, and admissions.

Awards

  • National Merit Hispanic Scholar
  • AP Scholar
  • Quora: Most Viewed Writer in SAT, ACT, College Admissions

Tests

  • SAT & ACT: 99.9th percentile

Dominique Ingato

University of California, Irvine

Ph.D.,  Chemical and Biochemical Engineering (Expected 2017)

University of California, Irvine

M.S., Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

University of Pennsylvania (Ranked 9th US News & World)

B.SE., Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

University of Pennsylvania

B.SE., Chemistry

Dominique is a chemical engineering Ph.D. candidate at the University of California at Irvine, where she works on developing nanoparticles for cancer therapy. She earned her B.S.E. in chemical & biomolecular engineering and second major in chemistry from The University of Pennsylvania. Dominique has won numerous teaching awards including the highly competitive UC Irvine Pedagogical Fellowship for her work as a tutor with Powerful Prep and a teaching assistant at UC Irvine. She believes that one of the greatest challenges with SAT prep is developing students’ confidence in the subject material, and she focuses on methodically building her students’ confidence through developing personalized problem sets that build upon each other. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing and performing with the Orange County Symphony.

Achievements:

  • Won 2 of the most competitive national research fellowships for engineering research
  • Won a Pedagogical Fellowship given by UC Irvine based on outstanding teaching reviews
  • Guest lectured in the engineering department at Santa Ana College
  • Performed as a cellist with competitive orchestras at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center

Awards

  • National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist
  • UC Irvine Teaching Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Tests

  • SAT & ACT 99th percentile
  • Perfect score on SAT Math Level 2 Subject Test
  • Perfect score on mathematics portion of GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

Mary Dickson

UC Irvine

Ph.D., Chemical Engineering

Columbia University (Ranked 4th US News & World)

M.S., Chemical Engineering

Columbia University (Ranked 4th US News & World)

B.S., Chemical Engineering

Mary is a chemical engineering Ph.D. student at UC, Irvine. In addition to her three years as an SAT and ACT tutor with Powerful Prep, she has over 10 years of teaching experience. Mary’s has served for four years as a teaching assistant and undergraduate and high school student mentor at University of California, Irvine. She has tutored 8th and 9th grade students as part of the Rocket Science Tutors program in Santa Ana and tutored elementary school students in Afterhours Tutoring in New York City.

Achievements:

  • Published three first-author papers
  • Filed five patents on three different medical devices, contracted by industry partners as well as the US Army
  • Mentored over one dozen undergraduate and high school students in chemical engineering research
  • Played trumpet in state-ranked jazz band

Awards:

  • Federal GAANN fellow, 2016
  • UCI Public Impact Fellow 2015-2016
  • Best poster award, Chemical Engineering, 2013 & 2015
  • Chemical Engineering TA of the Year Award

Scores:

  • SAT & ACT: 99th percentile

George Pianka

Duke University School of Law (Ranked 8th US News & World Rankings)

J.D. Candidate

Cornell University (Ranked 15th US News & World Rankings)

B.A., Modern European Intellectual History, B.A., Analytic Philosophy

George graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in Analytic Philosophy and Modern European Intellectual History before attending Law School at Duke University School of Law. He is currently building an indie e-publishing business and has put his legal studies on hold to pursue his entrepreneurial goals. George is an experienced tutor who has prepped students for the SAT, ACT, and LSAT. He approaches teaching as a dialogue, where the tutor is more of a guide than a lecturer. George adjusts his methods to the student’s learning style as he finds new approaches to get over mental hurdles. George is an avid reader and maintains a broad range of interests, which allows him to relate to his students and create engaging learning sessions. He believes that a sharpened, focused mindset is indispensable regardless of a student’s career path, and the value of a great education is enduring.

Achievements:

  • Author: The Other Sense: Olfaction and the Human-Animal Relation in The Columbia Undergraduate Journal of History
  • Author: Interweaving Voices: The Polyphonic Chanting of Lithuanian Sutartines in The Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines’ Annual Publication of Knight Contest Winners.
  • Author: The House That Jack Built in The Duke Law Advocate.
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine Personal Trainer
  • Level 1 of The Court of Master Sommeliers
  • EMT-B New York State Department of Health
  • U.S. Sailing Association Small Boat Certification

Scores:

  • SAT & ACT: 99.9th percentile
  • LSAT 99th percentile

Elise Molar

Harvard College (Ranked 2nd US News & World Rankings)

B.A., Neurobiology

MD, University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, Class of 2020

Elise began tutoring for Powerful Prep in 2013 after tutoring math and sciences throughout high school and college. From her own experiences with the test prep industry and standardized testing, Elise aims to help students learn content, develop strategy, and build confidence to better create good test-taking habits and consistent improvement.

Elise approaches testing and academics the same way she approaches athletics: you’ll play how you practiced, so practice how you’ll play. Her sessions focus on addressing patterns in testing performance and targeting the areas that will yield the highest score gain. Elise is currently a medical school student at the University of Arizona-Phoenix and spends her free time hiking, swimming, and napping with her cat.

Achievements:

  • 99th percentile scorer in the Verbal Reasoning section of the (MCAT)
  • EMT-B

Awards:

  • 2013 Collegiate Water Polo Association Women’s Division I/II Varsity Scholar-Athlete of the Year

Scores:

  • SAT & ACT: 99th percentile
  • MCAT: 95th percentile

Eugene Lee

University of California, Irvine

Ph.D. candidate 2016,  Biomedical Engineering

University of California, Irvine

M.S.,  Biomedical Engineering

Johns Hopkins University (Ranked 10th US News & World National Universities Rankings)

B.S.,  Biomedical Engineering

Eugene is a biomedical engineering Ph.D. student at UC, Irvine. His Ph.D. project entails building better drug screening platforms using stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes and machine learning. Prior to his Ph.D., Eugene worked at the National Institute of Health, where he was involved in the analytics for decision funding of research grants. In addition, he was involved with programs to promote Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) to various age groups. He also has prior experience in the medical marketing and defense industry. Eugene earned his B.S. degree in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2010.
Eugene has been tutoring multiple subjects to students of various grade levels in the past 10 years. He has also been involved in a university-based cooperative agreement that promotes STEM to children as young as 6. He has designed a science toolkit that teaches electricity. This toolkit was produced with funds that were successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter.

Achievements:

  • Cardiovascular Applied Research and Entrepreneurship Fellow (NHLBI T32)
  • Finalist at Johns Hopkins Business Plan Competition & Mass Challenge Start Up Competition
  • 2nd place at Yale Business Plan Competition & University of California, Irvine, Beall Student Design Competition
  • Semifinalist at Rice & U.C. Berkeley Business Plan Competition

Awards:

  • BMES Reviewer’s Choice Award for Poster Presentation SLAS2016 Tony B. Academic Travel Awards
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention
  • Intel’s ISEF (International Science Engineering Fair) Finalist
  • National Merit Scholarship Program Finalist

Scores:

  • SAT & ACT: 99th percentile

Ryan Fisher

Northwestern University (Ranked 12th US News & World National Universities Rankings)

B.A., Economics

Northwestern University

B.A., History

Ryan is a Director and Tutor at Powerful Prep. He has spent much of the last 10 years in the test prep industry working with students in Austin, TX; Shenzhen, China; San Diego; and now in Orange County. Ryan genuinely enjoys the process of helping young students reach the important goals that they have set. Throughout his life he has participated in and coached athletics of all types. He views the test prep process through a similar context. The test can be prepared for and conquered much like an opponent on the sport’s field. Ryan also has a unique background in hospitality sparked by employment on cruise ships for nearly a decade. This helped to create a deep interest in travel which continues to this day.

Achievements:

  • Has worked with over 2000 students on test prep strategies
  • Has helped over 1000 students gain admissions to college
  • Has stamps in his passport from over 70 countries spread across 6 continents (Including Antarctica!).

Scores:

  • SAT & ACT: 99th percentile

Yassi S

University of California, Berkeley (Ranked 20th US News & World National Universities Rankings)

B.A., Cognitive Science

Yassi graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science from UC Berkeley, where she was a National Merit Scholarship Recipient. While studying, she supported research on the linguistic relativity of spatial relationships and the neuronal investigation of selective auditory attention.

Before starting with Powerful Prep, she managed international client and a Partner Operations support team at Google Play. She has extensive experience working with youth, including as a tutor, behavioral therapist, and yoga instructor.

Achievements:

  • Certified 200-hour Yoga Teacher
  • Multilingual: Farsi, French, Spanish, German

Awards:

  • National Merit Scholarship Recipient
  • AP Scholar with Distinction

Scores:

  • SAT & ACT: 99.9th percentile

Annie Yau

UC Berkeley

B.A. Molecular and Cell Biology

Annie is an OC native, graduating as valedictorian of Cerritos’ Whitney High School before graduating from UC Berkeley with honors. She majored in Molecular and Cell Biology and minored in Global Poverty. Annie has tutored high school students for several years and is dedicated to improving her students’ test scores. Using her own experiences in college admissions and test preparation, Annie aims to help her students develop efficient test-taking strategies and gain admission to their top schools.

Achievements:

  • Completed clinical research project in India

Awards:

  • Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship
  • National Merit Scholarship Recipient
  • AP Scholar with Distinction

Scores:

  • SAT: 99th percentile
  • MCAT: 96th percentile (99th percentile in the Chemical and Physical Foundations section)
  • Perfect Score on SAT Math Level 2 and SAT Biology Subject Tests

Lauren Thompson

Rice University (Ranked 15th: US News and World)

B.A. Asian Studies

Rice University (Ranked 15th: US News and World)

B.A. Theater

Lauren is an OC local, graduating with a Full Baccalaureate Diploma from Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, before graduating from Rice University in Houston, Texas. She majored in Asian Studies with a China focus, as well as in Theater. Lauren is an experienced tutor dedicated to improving her students’ test scores. Using her own college admissions experience, Lauren aims to help her students master the skills needed to ace the SAT and get accepted to their top schools.

Achievements:

  • International Baccalaureate Full Diploma
  • Studied abroad in Haerbin, China
  • Station Manager of Rice University Television Station
  • Certified Open Water Scuba Diver

Awards:

  • National Honor Society
  • AP Scholar with Honor
  • Girl Scout Silver Award

Scores:

  • SAT: 99th percentile
  • Perfect Score on SAT Writing Portion

Erin Brinkman

Harvard University (Ranked 2nd US News & World Rankings)

B.A.,Government: Magnum Cum Laude

London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art

MFA., Classical Acting

University of North Carolina School of Law

Juris Doctorate: Deans List

A native of Laguna Beach (and graduate of Laguna Beach High School), Erin attended Harvard University, where she earned a degree in Government with a Special Citation in Spanish and French (graduating magna cum laude).  Erin then pursued her lifelong passion for the performing arts by moving to London to attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), where she earned a Master’s Degree in Classical Acting. After moving to North Carolina to work as the Political Director for a presidential campaign, Erin attended The University of North Carolina School of Law, from which she earned her Juris Doctorate degree. 

While at Harvard, Erin volunteered her time with the Philips Brooks House organization by teaching Civics to middle school students in economically challenged areas of Boston. It was this experience that inspired Erin’s passion for teaching and tutoring. For the past 16 years, Erin has tutored (and taught as a substitute teacher) almost every subject imaginable. Erin is incredibly excited to be working with Powerful Prep students, and she looks forward to meeting you!

Achievements:

Reiki Master
Political activism: serving in the offices of Bill Clinton, Edward Kennedy, and on the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Lorretta Sanchez, and Dianne Feinstein 

Awards:

National Merit Scholarship finalist

Scores:

Perfect Score (800) on the SAT verbal section
178 on the LSAT
Passed the CA bar exam

  • Got a perfect score (800) on the SAT verbal section
  • Was a National Merit Scholarship finalist.
  • Scored a 178 on the LSAT.
  • Passed the CA bar exam.

Jeff Swaney

University of California, Irvine

Ph.D., Physics (expected 2019)

Vanderbilt University (Ranked 15th US News & World National Universities)

B.A. Physics, Mathematics

A St. Louis native but a bit of a Southerner at heart, Jeff graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 2014.  He is now working towards his Ph.D. in physics, programming and testing an app that turns smartphone cameras into cosmic ray detectors.  A lover of all forms of problem-solving, he has recently taken up the sport of rock climbing and spends his free time figuring out how to climb boulders in the San Jacinto Mountains.

Having worked in education every year since high school, Jeff has helped students of all walks of life, 1st grade through college seniors, achieve their full potential as students.  As a TA for 11 courses in the dreaded college physics curriculum at UCI, he understands the struggle of a subject that doesn’t seem to “click.”  Yet, having witnessed that “a-ha!” moment for student after student, given a careful nudge in the right direction, he believes that the barriers to academic success are more fragile than they often seem.

Achievements

First author of a publication in Physical Review
Climbed Yosemite’s Half Dome

Awards

1 of only 7 inductees to Vanderbilt’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter as a junior
Multiple scholarships and fellowships, including full tuition at Vanderbilt
Invited to present at Vanderbilt’s Undergraduate Writing Symposium

Scores

99th Percentile on GRE Critical Reading, Perfect score on GRE Math
99th Percentile on SAT & ACT

Daniella Cho

University of California, Berkeley (Ranked 20th US News & World National Universities Rankings)

B.A., Peace and Conflict Studies, magna cum laude

A Southern California native, Daniella recently graduated from UC Berkeley with high honors, where she majored in Peace and Conflict Studies with a double minor in Music and Korean Studies. Daniella is a seasoned tutor with a genuine desire to help students achieve their full potential, through efficient and effective test-taking techniques as well as healthy mental preparation.

Outside of the classroom, Daniella enjoys chasing sunsets, discovering new and delicious food, and singing. She is currently gaining experience working in local government as she prepares to further her studies in international relations.

Achievements

Member of Sigma Iota Rho, Honor Society for International and Area Studies
Valedictorian of the graduating class of 2012
Vice-President and Lead Vocalist of Ra-On, UC Berkeley’s Korean Band

Awards

Berkeley Undergraduate Scholarship
Dean’s Honors for five semesters
2012 Change a Life Scholarship
National Honor Society
AP Scholar with Distinction

Scores

SAT: 99th percentile

Hiro M

Hiro attended Carnegie Mellon University for one year prior to transferring to Northwestern University in Evanston, IL where he studied Economics and Asian American studies. Following his undergraduate education, he joined a technical consulting firm. He has many years of experience in tutoring students on various subjects; and at Powerful Prep, he is dedicated to helping his students ace the standardized tests.

Awards

AP Scholar with Distinction

Scores

99th Percentile on ACT
Perfect score on SAT Math

Negah Nafisi

University of California, Berkeley (Ranked 20th US News & World National Universities Rankings)

B.S., Society & Environment

University of California, Berkeley

M.S., Civil & Environmental Engineering

Negah graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree from UC Berkeley, where she was involved in various departments. She worked on research projects focused on archaeology in Dhiban, Jordan, the development and use of bio-sand water filters for developing countries with a case study in Danli, Honduras, and most recently a study on how to best incentive Americans to switch from gas-powered vehicles to electric cars through her work with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

She has extensive experience working with students, as both a tutor and a teaching assistant for an engineering course at UC Berkeley, as well as through volunteering for nonprofits such as AYSO, Public Advocates Inc., and the Ocean Institute. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, swimming, and traveling.

Achievements

Skipped 5th grade
Received fellowships from the top three engineering schools for graduate school
2015/2016 MIT Impact Assessment Fellow
2015/2016 University of California Center on Economic Competitiveness in Transportation Fellow
2016 CITRIS Invention Lab Fellow
Presented at the 2016 UCCONNECT Research Conference
Certificate in Sustainable Business and Engineering, Haas School of Business

Awards

National Merit Scholar Finalist
1st place paper and presentation for 2016 Fuels Institute Future of Transportation Case Competition
3rd place paper and presentation for 2016 Green Swan Award for sustainable transportation papers
Finalist business plan and presentation for 2015 Toyota On Ramp Smart Mobility Challenge

Scores

GRE: 99th percentile
SAT & ACT: 99th percentile
National AP Scholar

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