Jennifer Garrison

Director of Candidacy Building

Jennifer graduated from Columbia University with degrees in both English and Jazz Studies. It was at Columbia that she fell in love with Ethnomusicology and pursued independent study on the connection between grief and music with the Ph.D program chair. Columbia exposed her to many new ideas and supported her in deepening her understanding of humanity. Her favorite moments in college include composing sound design for a theatre production of The Saliva Milkshake, interviewing the very musicians she studied, and taking such inspiring courses as Arabic Prison Writing and Applied Poetry.  Jennifer has also taken courses in psychology, English and film at Trinity College Ireland, UCLA and NYU. She is an active filmmaker, performing artist and writer.

Jennifer has long worked in the field of education. She started coaching drama, with an intimate understanding of embodiment and the voice, and enjoys bringing that into her work with students here at Ivy Scholars to help build their confidence and prepare them for interviews. She helped assist the Emily Shane Foundation’s SEA program in its early stages as a mentor and worked as a second teacher and behavioral coach for kids on the spectrum at The Help Group School. She joined Ivy Scholars as a lead candidacy building mentor in 2020.

Jennifer mentors and helps oversee the Candidacy Building program and is a huge advocate of its benefits not only for the ease of college applications, but also for the long-term foundation it builds for our students. She prides herself on being an idea consultant for our students, helping them make connections between seemingly disparate interests, connecting them to the greater community and instilling the soft and hard skills necessary for success. There is great wisdom in laying the groundwork now, and she uses a whole-person approach to her work with each student.

It is with much joy Jennifer witnesses her students’ growth. Under her guidance, her students have initiated many projects, including: 

  • Conducting research in university labs, including Rice and Rutgers.
  • A statistics project to demonstrate the efficacy of a local nonprofit and increase its grant potential.
  • A public art installation grappling with themes in linguistics.
  • A study under guidance of a Ph.D professor on the neurological effects of Parkinson’s and the impact of dance on patients.
  • Interning for a neurologist and presenting a paper at a national conference.
  • Publishing a children’s book to teach kids about pollution.
  • Starting an online magazine for youth to discuss current issues with 10 countries represented.
  • Interning for a judge and learning about the roadblocks in juvenile rehabilitation.
  • Taking on more leadership positions in school clubs leading to an internship at NASA.
  • Documenting oral histories of discrimination.


Her students have also worked or studied with many organizations, including The Cooper Union, PAIR, CoLAB Arts, Child Advocates, NASA, AAYGC, TWRC, SCA, 7cups, Curious Science Writers, and UCSB’s Student Research Academy.

Fun Fact: Jennifer loves to climb big mountains. Her highest backpacking summit to date was 17,769 feet high, and her longest multi-pitch rock climb was 4,180 feet tall!


Alma Mater: Columbia University

Based In: New York, New York

Favorite Quote

Attention is the key to transformation.” – Eckhart


Here are some of Jennifer’s past successes with students. Click to expand:

Jane was a very bright student, but when she first started working with Jennifer, she was suffering greatly from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. She was struggling with motivation, and didn’t have a spark of passion to follow.

Jennifer encouraged her to get started where she was; to look for some spark of interest, and then follow it. Since she was feeling so down due to the pandemic, the mental health of teens was a natural place to start. She began with simple research, but Jane quickly fell in love with mental health, and the field of psychology more broadly, sparking an interest in medicine, so Jennifer found further ways for her to get involved. 

She began by helping Jane find an internship where she worked as a peer counselor, which she threw herself into, amassing over 180 hours at the internship. This in turn taught Jane useful skills, and helped her learn to initiate, and to take the lead on pursuing her passions.

When Jane landed a shadowing opportunity, her new skills came in handy, as the initiative she showed allowed her to transform shadowing into another internship. Jennifer counseled her though this, helping her maintain her accountability and build professional connections. One research mentorship led to another, and then to a poster presentation at a conference.

These amazing experiences were great material for college essays, but also allowed Jane to learn and grow as a person, developing new skills and learning how to take the initiative when pursuing her passions. The skills she learned will no doubt help her in the future, as she prepares to study psychology at UC Berkeley.

Transform your college application.

Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!