The Ivy Scholars Team

Meet our team of expert college admissions consultants, mentors, and tutors. Our team members have extensive experience in all aspects of college admissions and come from top universities. From experience, our team knows what universities are looking for in an application and how you can make yours stand out.

Meet the Team


Sasha Chada

Founder & Chief Executive Officer 

Anyone who holds a true opinion without understanding is like a blind man on the right road” – Plato

College & Major

Johns Hopkins University – BA in Philosophy, 2013, Pre-Medical and Humanities Honors


College application coaching, candidacy building, test prep, time management & organizational coaching, special projects… pretty much everything related to college admissions.

Fun Fact

I love teaching my Great Danes new tricks!

To Sum it Up

Patient, driven, motivated 

After learning about the admissions process firsthand at the Johns Hopkins University, Sasha founded Ivy Scholars in Houston, Texas in 2015. Having watched hundreds of students and their families get lost in the admissions process and endure the stress of denial, he dreamed of providing a crystal-clear journey of self-reflection and coaching to help students craft great applications. Four years after he’d started, hundreds of his students had been accepted to their top-choice school – and enjoyed themselves in the process. 

Sasha guides the vision of Ivy Scholars, oversees the hiring and coaching of mentors, and acts as the first point of contact with every student and parent. With over half a decade of experience in college counseling, Sasha has shepherded a diverse group of students – from genius coders to journalistic refugees – successfully through the admissions process. 

Sasha is driven by a desire to change students’ lives through the college admissions process. Higher education is a cornerstone of advancement in today’s society, and Sasha wants nothing more than to see our students in the college that best sets them up for future success.

Sasha’s vision for Ivy Scholars is to educate, enable, and empower student to achieve the best versions of their lives by exploring their intellectual curiosities, proving their talents, and telling their stories to top-tier admissions committees. 

To learn more about Sasha, read his interview.


Jennifer Garrison

Director of Candidacy Building 

The movements of our hands help build the Unseen. We add to the universe by our efforts. Whatever we do, we should never think it is irrelevant; whatever we do, we should not conclude it is so important either. Between those two poles find your balance; between those two regions your talents will bloom.” Hafiz

College & Major

Columbia University – BA in English, Special Concentration Jazz Studies


Candidacy building, time management & organizational coaching

Fun Fact

I climbed a mountain in Yosemite for 18 hours straight!

To Sum it Up

Direct, supportive, connector of ideas

Jennifer began working with middle school students 14 years ago as an acting coach at Oaks Christian and continued working with elementary to early high school students as a tutor, assistant teacher, and behavioral aide at The Help Group and with the New York City public school district. She familiarized herself with Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s), managing the classroom, preparing curricula, and helping students with behavioral change, using the whole-person approach. She helped with the initial launching of the Emily Shane Foundation’s Successful Educational Achievement Program, collaborating with the program founder to identify the needs of the student community to better serve the growth of the nonprofit. She is a writer with a strong background in research and APA style. She has worked as an editor and content proposal writer for film production companies and undertook independent research at Columbia in Ethnomusicology. She uses her creativity and artistic background to help students with public speaking and developing their self-articulation for college applications. Her avid interest and self-study in life coaching and interpersonal skills give her many tools to offer her students for Candidacy Building.


Alex Nelson

Director of Test Prep 

“The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” – Bertrand Russell

College & Major

Rice University – History


Test prep, all subjects, time management & organizational coaching

Fun Fact

The first time I played the “Simon” memorization app on my phone, I got the world record.

To Sum it Up

Driven, devoted, diligent

Alex has been a full-time mentor and tutor for twelve years. After scoring a perfect 1600 on his own SAT in high school, he joined The Princeton Review, where he worked as a college admissions mentor and tutor for the SAT, ACT, ISEE, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT. Over nine years, he became their highest-level “Premiere” tutor and teacher trainer for all of Houston.

Alex joined Ivy Scholars in 2018. He specializes in improving organization and study habits, and he is a master of helping high-scoring students raise their SAT and ACT scores to the top 1%.

Alex had an unusual college admission process. Ever since 7th grade, he had his sights set on the best college within 1,000 miles of his hometown, Rice University, in Houston. With a perfect SAT, a funny personal statement, and hundreds of service hours tutoring his peers in math, Alex applied early to Rice and was admitted before needing to apply to other schools. Due to his success finding scholarships, Alex was able to attend Rice for only $900 a semester.

Nick Madincea​​​

Director of Business Development

“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.” -Sun Tzu

College & Major

Baylor University – Finance


Growing Ivy Scholars while ensuring we deliver exceptional results for our families

Fun Fact

I set two world records for flying drones.

To Sum it Up

A strategy-centric leader obsessed with delivering the best customer experience possible.

Nick Madincea is a seasoned entrepreneur with over half a decade of experience leading startups. In 2016, Nick co-founded Drone Parks® Worldwide: a startup dedicated to building indoor drone centers. In 2019, the Houston Chronicle named Nick “one of the most influential people in the emerging drone industry.” Nick contributes strategic and operational insights to Ivy Scholars with a focus on the customer experience, marketing, and business development. Nick believes that any decision made by a startup begins and ends with you, the customer.

“Ivy Scholars exists to empower students through mentorship and academic coaching, to grow intellectually into the kind of candidates that their target universities want to accept.”
-Sasha Chada


Antonio Cruz


 “All that is gold does not glitter; not all who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkein

College & Major

University of Chicago – BA/MA in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations


Test prep – English, Math

Fun Fact

Thanks to a ritual offering I took part in while in Peru, I am protected from ghosts.

To Sum it Up

Insightful, determined, easily amused.

Antonio graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA/MA in Near Eastern archaeology, and worked as an archaeologist and as an educator before coming to Ivy Scholars in 2020. He now works as both a mentor and a researcher, creating many of the documents used in the curriculum and on this site. He is also in charge of the Ivy Scholars blog. A strong writer both now and in high school, it was his personal statement and supplemental essays that got him accepted into the University of Chicago. He now focuses on helping students improve their own writing, and teaching them to self-edit. Helping students tell their own story through their essays is easily his favorite part of this job. In his free time, he plays DnD with his friends, and dances classical ballet.


Nick Popow

Mentor | Rutgers University, BA in Philosophy

“We fill preexisting forms and when we fill them we change them and are changed” – Jorge Luis Borges.

College & Major

Rutgers University – BA in Philosophy


College Application Coaching, Test Prep

Fun Fact

I am addicted to reading books that have no practical relation to my life.

To Sum It Up

My approach to college essay writing with my students is to find a spark of interest in something unique, outside-of-the-box, or just plain odd.

I have been teaching SAT and ACT reading, writing, and English sections for five years. In the last two years, I have been heavily involved in writing coaching; I help students construct and polish English essays, college personal statements, supplements, WHAP assignments, and more. My approach is two-pronged: 1. I get the student involved in the formation of comprehensible, grammatically correct sentences that “sound right.” 2. I try to liberate and nurture the sense of excitement and freedom that comes when the student begins to see writing as, not merely an arduous task, but as a means of personal expression, as a medium for the display of their own personality.


Matthew Gasda


“I feel lucky to have a job that genuinely helps people get where they want to go.”

College & Major

Syracuse University – BA in Philosophy, Lehigh – MA in English


Writing, tutoring, and college essays

Fun Fact

In my free time, I enjoy reading, writing, dodgeball.

To Sum it Up

Passionate, expressive, and helpful.

Hi readers! I’m Matthew Gasda. I’m a tutor, writer, and director in New York City with a passion for bringing the humanities to life through artful, nuanced writing. Helping students develop their ability to understand and express the best of themselves is the favorite part of my job – I love being able to help young people grow so they can get where they want to go. I believe real growth is exponential, not linear; I want my students to feel comfortable leaping into new intellectual challenges as growth opportunities, not just hoops to jump through.
Before Ivy Scholars, I worked as an English teacher at a charter school, but found that bureaucracy and the need to enforce classroom discipline detracted from my mission of helping students develop intellectually. At Ivy Scholars, I work with students on candidacy building, college applications, and English test prep. 
When I help students build candidacy, my mission is to understand what they find personally valuable and what they love learning about, then help them research and connect with opportunities to make the most of their curiosity. So far, I’ve helped my students initiate urban renewal projects with the Greater Houston Community Foundation, create podcasts and blogs that curate retro-futurism in art & media, and rediscover a love of literature.
When I help students with college applications, we focus on crafting standout essays with thoughtful, nuanced responses to prompts that will differentiate my students while remaining true to their interests. I also love helping students understand the cultures of different universities in the Northeast so they can be sure they’ve found the right home for the next four years.
When I’m helping my students prepare for standardized tests, I teach them to parse the complex prose of archaic English that plagues the SAT and ACT. Additionally, I like to break down SAT & ACT grammar rules into simple maxims that let students solve those problems without thinking too hard, saving their energy for the more difficult passages. 
When I’m not reading poetry, literature, or philosophy, I can be found penning screenplays or playing dodgeball.
Want to learn even more about me? I’ve published my thoughts in the Huffington Post and been interviewed about the plays I’ve written.

Ari Schwartz

Mentor | Northwestern University


“Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final” – Rilke
College & Major
Northwestern University, Double Major in Economics and Radio, Television, & Film

College Application Coaching, Candidacy Building 

Fun Fact

I performed at Madison Square Garden when I was ten years old

To Sum it Up

Creator, story sculptor, compassionate 

Ari Schwartz joined Ivy Scholars on the heels of three years working as an applications consultant and test prep tutor with companies such as CollegeVine and Mindfish, where he helped numerous students gain admission to top-ten universities. Ari graduated from Northwestern University with a B.A. in Economics (which made his parents very happy) and Radio, Television, & Film (which produced a slightly different parental response), with a focus on screenwriting. His strong background in dramatic writing uniquely positions him to help his students compose the most compelling applications narrative possible. In his spare time, Ari can be found writing screenplays, reading Harry Potter in a foreign language (Hebrew and German down, French up next!), making music on Logic Pro X, and spending an inordinate amount of time trying (and failing) to correctly solve those Captcha things. Ari believes that everyone is the protagonist in their own story, and he is driven by the ethic of giving every student the necessary tools and platform to have their story heard.


Andy Catanese


“What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” –Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda

College & Major

University of Connecticut, Mathematics and Secondary Mathematics Education


Test Prep

Fun Fact

I have memorized the first 314 digits of pi

To Sum it Up

Determined to dispel math’s reputation as the least liked subject

Andy Catanese studied math and math education at the University of Connecticut. He originally intended to become a high school teacher, but after realizing that his favorite part of teaching was working one-on-one with students, he decided to pursue tutoring instead. He has tutored for over ten years and has previously managed a math tutoring company, but left management so that he could return to working with students directly. Andy also designs math curriculum for a database used by teachers around the world.
When he’s not neck-deep in a math problem, Andy likes writing and composing for musical theatre, as well as directing, performing, or just being in the audience. He loves the outdoors, despite being allergic to spring, summer, and fall, and he enjoys going to new places, learning new things, and meeting new people.
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!