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

Elise Molar

Eugene Lee

Lauren Thompson

Erin Brinkman

Hiro M

Negah Nafisi

Saad Mohammad

Lei Cong

Abhi Ganguly

Gloria Seo

Luke Rickford

Keely Chaisson

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

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

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.

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

Saad Mohammad

University of California, Irvine

Ph.D., Pharmaceutical Sciences (Expected 2021)

Northwestern University (Ranked 12th US News & World)

M.S., Biotechnology

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

B.S., Molecular Environmental Biology

Saad is a Pharmaceutical Science Ph.D. student at the University of California at Irvine, where he works on developing biocompatible nanoparticles for cancer therapy. He earned his M.S. in Biotechnology from Northwestern University and his B.S. in Molecular Environmental Biology from UC Berkeley. He believes efficiency in test score improvement is best attained through employing a strategic skillset in a focused manner. In his free time he enjoys hiking, biking local trails, and spending time at the beach.

Achievements:

  • Teaching Assistant for upper level science courses at UC Irvine
  • Mentored two high school students and one undergraduate student in a research setting
  • Tutored students ranging from middle school to undergraduate on a wide variety of subjects
  • Summited Mt. Morrison

Awards

  • UC Berkeley Scholarship
  • AP Scholar with Distinction
  • National Honor Society Member and President of High School Chapter

Tests

  • 99th percentile on SAT
  • 98th percentile on GRE Writing

Lei Cong

University of Chicago (Ranked 3rd US News & World Report National Rankings)

B.A. Economics, B.A. Statistics

University of California, San Diego

M.S. Business Analytics

Lei graduated from University of Chicago with dual degrees in Economics and Statistics. Immediately afterward, he put his quantitative skills to use as a derivatives trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where he traded short-term interest rate derivatives. Subsequently, he worked as an associate at a private equity firm before moving to southern California to pursue graduate studies.

Lei has extensive teaching experience at all levels. Most recently, Lei was a graduate teaching assistant for three business courses at the University of California, San Diego. Previously, Lei taught Chinese and Mathematics at Arizona Hope Chinese School. Lei believes that with patience, perseverance, and practice, any student can achieve their desired test results.

Awards:

  • National Merit Scholar
  • AP Scholar
  • Motorola Foundation Scholar
  • Rady Fellowship

Scores:

  • 99th Percentile on SAT and ACT
  • 800 on SAT II subject exams in Math, Chemistry, and Biology

Abhi Ganguly

University of California, Berkeley

B.A., Public Health

Abhi is originally from southern California, but attended college at UC Berkeley where he recently graduated with a degree in Public Health. During his studies, he pursued two research projects in the School of Public Health, studying cancer screening in South Asians and ergonomics in the workplace. He has a solid experience in medical scribing and wishes to pursue a career in medicine.

Abhi has extensive experience working with students, tutoring mathematics in high-school and founding a Math Olympiads program at Cerritos Elementary. He also worked as a dance instructor, while leading a non-profit that provides dance lessons to underprivileged children in Berkeley. Abhi is excited to share his tips and tricks for tackling the SAT/ACT with students and help them perform to the best of their abilities. He is confident that with personalized attention and tutoring, students will be to excel on these standardized exams.

Achievements:

  • Director of Dance the Bay
  • Fluent in English, Bengali, Hindi, and basic Spanish
  • Has been part of numerous sports teams, from varsity sports in high school to intramural teams in college

Awards:

  • AP Scholar with Distinction
  • National Honor Society

Scores:

  • 99th Percentile on SAT and ACT

Gloria Seo

Pomona College

B.A., Cognitive Science (Ranked 5th US News & World National Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings)

Coming from a low-income Korean background, Gloria worked and studied her way up, achieving a perfect score on the ACT and a score in the top 1% on the SAT on her first attempt at age 15. To attend college, she hunted down and acquired enough scholarships to fully fund her tuition and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science from Pomona College. Upon graduating from college, she started her own tutoring company after seeing the positive impact she could make in the industry by sharing her talents and applying them to help anyone from any background achieve the results of their dreams. Ready for a new chapter in her life, she has now decided to join the Powerful Prep team, and she is enthusiastic about doing so.

Highly fluent in all areas of the SAT and ACT, she understands what is required for one person to master all sections of the test instead of just one. Gloria understands what it means to persevere at all costs through hard work, reframing a problem, and working at it until it is solved. Having seen her efforts fulfill the dreams of her students motivates her to keep helping others achieve the school and future of their dreams, regardless of where they are at now.

Achievements:

  • Has tutored the SAT & ACT for over five years
  • Achieved a perfect score on the ACT on the first try

Awards:

  • Pomona College Scholar
  • National Merit Scholarship Finalist
  • AP Scholar with Distinction

Scores:

  • Perfect score on the ACT
  • 99th percentile on the SAT

Luke Rickford

Born and raised in Palo Alto, California, Luke ventured to the East Coast for two years at Harvard College before transferring to Stanford University, where he earned his B.A. in English. A full-time professional tutor, Luke supports students in standardized test prep, math subjects from pre-algebra to calculus, reading and writing skills, science, history, and study habits & organization. Since 2003, he has helped hundreds of students throughout California achieve academic excellence. An expert in SAT and ACT prep, he is particularly proud of the many students he’s helped gain admission to colleges which they thought were beyond their reach.

When he’s not teaching or learning the latest educational strategies, Luke loves playing ultimate frisbee, hiking in the woods, and spending time with his nine pets. He believes studying should always feel empowering and efficient, and works hard to give his students a sense of personal mastery and independence.

Achievements:

  • National Achievement Scholar
  • AP Scholar with Distinction

Scores:

  • SAT Verbal – 790
  • SAT Math – 800
  • ACT – 35 composite
  • SAT II (Math Level 2) – 800
  • SAT II (Spanish) – 800
  • SAT II (Literature) – 780
  • Perfect scores of 5 in AP: English Language, Calculus BC, Spanish Literature, Music Theory, Biology, US History, Psychology

Keely Chaisson

UCLA

M.S. Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

Purdue University

B.S. Microbiology

Keely has been tutoring since her time at Purdue University, where she helped pre-med, biology, chemistry, and engineering students get through rigorous science and math courses in their first two years, including organic chemistry! Since graduate school, she has worked as a science educator and a tutor. In her tutoring work, she has developed the skills to support students with test anxiety or learning differences in overcoming these challenges to succeed in honors/AP classes and on standardized tests. Additionally, she has coached already high-scoring students to deeply analyze their own performance on practice exams in order to further hone their skills and maximize final scores.

Awards:

  • National Merit Scholar — Full tuition Scholarship to Purdue University

Scores:

  • 99th percentile on the ACT
  • 99th percentile on the SAT

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