Our College-Prep Expert Interview series gives parents and students an opportunity to meet an expert who can help them on their college-bound journey. We ask each expert how they got into the business of college-prep, why their work is so important and to share their biggest tips and tricks! DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase one of the products linked, I’ll receive a small commission. You will NOT be charged any additional fees if purchasing through an affiliate link.

Lauren GaggioliExpert: Lauren Gaggioli

Company: Higher Scores Test Prep & The College Checklist Podcast                 

Location: The World Wide Web (Broadcasting from San Diego, CA)

Catchphrase: ACCURACY > SPEED

Why we interviewed Lauren: She helps students get higher ACT & SAT scores in order to help them earn more cash for college. She’s taught in pretty much every manner possible, but loves offering courses online because it’s more affordable and flexible!

How long have you been working in the college-prep world?

10 years! Yikes!

How did you get into this work?

I graduated from NYU with a BFA in theater and decided to move home to LA after college. I needed something to pay the bills that was flexible enough to accommodate auditions so I started tutoring.

I fell in love with helping students get higher ACT & SAT scores and gave up acting to pursue it full-time.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through your experience?

Connection is important.

Many families are shelling out serious cash for lackluster results. Often disappointment occurs because a teacher or tutor comes highly recommended but doesn’t connect well with the student.

Referrals are a wonderful way to find prep providers, but families need to dig a little deeper.

Leap-frogging from one test prep ideology to another causes a lot of stress for the student. The whole family – but most importantly the student – needs to be all in on the same test prep program before registering.

As I tell anyone who calls me: make sure your student at least watches a video or two of mine before you buy. My strategies work, but if my voice is nails on a chalkboard to your child, test prep will be a constant struggle.

Families need to not only find a quality test prep company, but also make sure the student connects with the teacher or tutor before moving forward.

Why is your work so important?

Cash – more specifically merit aid and private scholarships.

College is expensive and test scores have the power to create tremendous financial opportunities for students – and not just for high scoring students.

I had a Higher Scores graduate, Darius, and his mother as guests on my podcast recently and they shared that he had won $160,000 at his dream school, Wake Forest.

What a tremendous reward for his hard work! And he’s not alone.

If you know where to look, you can find cash for college in your ACT or SAT score. That knowledge can change the trajectory of a student’s whole life.

It’s really humbling to be able to help families with the most stressful part of college admissions – cost – and help them find relief from it.

Who is your typical client?

My typical family has a busy college-bound sophomore, junior, or senior who needs a convenient ACT or SAT prep program that will fit into his or her hectic schedule.

Usually, the family understands the importance of the test scores but the student is struggling to achieve his or her score goals.

Most of my families are wary about online prep at first. There’s concern about whether or not students will get what they need from a video-based program, but they often buy for the convenience of it.

The way my courses are constructed allows students of all levels to find their perfect-fit strategies. They meet students where they are and guide them, step-by-step, to where they want to be.

I’ve worked with students who came in with ACT and SAT scores that were already in the 90th percentile who ended up getting perfect or near-perfect scores.

I’ve also helped frustrated “bad testers” stuck with ho-hum, middle of the road score push their scores into ranges that allowed them to stand out and win scholarships.

The affordable price and convenience of my programs are usually why families sign up, but the results are what cause them to leave rave reviews! 🙂

What have you found your clients struggle with the most?

I know that sounds silly, but the “My friend said this…” or “This person said that…” is probably the biggest obstacle I come up against.

I call it the Keeping Up With the Jones’s Kids mentality. All the noise out there about the “best ways” to do things on the road to college is distracting.

But there is more than 1 way to skin a cat.

Mine is not the only prep philosophy that works well; however, if  you try to blend advice from different test prep sources it will work at cross purposes which causes stress for the student and will diminish his or her scores.

This is one of the reasons that I still take the ACT and SAT as an adult.

Not only is it good practice to make sure I know what’s on the exam from experience, but my scores also validate my expertise with these exams in a way that no referral or review can because I can show you my official results of a 35 on the ACT and a 1580 on the SAT.

When deciding how to prepare, do you research early to make sure you’re working with someone you trust and then commit fully to that way of approaching the ACT or SAT.

What is the most important piece of advice you give them?


This funny little expression is the cornerstone of everything I teach.

Students are always stressed about the timing of the exams. Whenever I ask prospective students how a practice test went, the comment is usually that the test was too fast or they didn’t finish a particular section.

Timing isn’t the reason students aren’t getting the ACT or SAT scores they want. A lack of accuracy is.

It doesn’t matter if students cross the finish line if they insist on moving so quickly that they lose points along the way. Most students are surprised by how few questions they need to answer correctly to improve their scores.

This is truly a case of less is more.

The trouble is that not finishing a test doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel right. Our brains tell us we’re doing something wrong.

Using ACCURACY > SPEED as the foundation, I teach students how to reclaim the timing from ACT or College Board.

It gives them a sense of control and, once they prove to themselves that they can indeed raise their scores without answering every question, they’re like Neo from The Matrix.

They can see through the falsely constructed (albeit legitimately distracting) limitation. Then the sky’s the limit!

Do you have any tips or tricks to share with families on the college-bound journey?

Wear selectively permeable blinders.

What I mean by that is do your best to avoid the noise. Pick your 2 or 3 amazing sources of college information and only focus your attention there. Ignore everything else.

The ScholarPrep blog is a great place to start!

I’d also add that you should always put advice – even from trusted sources –  through the lens of logic.

Many families are so frantic on the road to college that they try to do everything. Instead, commit to completing family-wide gut checks. Collectively ask the question “Is this task, choice, or path right for us?” often.

Students don’t have to do everything to get into college. Rather, doing less helps your student tell a more powerful story about what’s most important to him or her.

Pursue what feels natural and authentic for your student and family.

This will help you limit the stress around the college admissions process and find a great college fit too!

What is your favorite college prep resource?

Am I allowed to say my podcast? I hope so!

I love The College Checklist Podcast – not just because I host it, but because hosting the show has taught me so much about the college admissions process.

It’s been a tough journey at times as I come to terms with the fact that I got college admissions all wrong in high school. But, fortunately, that has sparked a passion in me to help today’s students avoid the many mistakes I made.

I’m so excited for the incredible opportunities available to today’s young people and honored to be able to share some of them with families each week on the show.

It’s also the reason we met, Jordan, so that’s pretty amazing too! 🙂

What is one thing that makes what you do unique?

The thing that stands out as my most unique offering is how unified the ideology at Higher Scores Test Prep is.

Not only am I the curriculum creator and teacher who still takes the ACT & SAT as an adult, I’m also the marketing and sales rep.

There’s a philosophy that underlies every step of a family’s experience with me. It’s how can we make test prep as low-stress and highly successful an experience as possible for your family.

That ideology guides the kind of information I put out on my podcast and my blog. It guides our conversation as I help you plan your student’s testing timeline. It guides how I teach my courses.

The partitions that have to happen when you have a big company don’t exist for me because I choose to wear most of the hats here at Higher Scores – and can because I’ve elected to leverage the internet to help teach my courses.

I bring the feeling of a Mom & Pop shop to the internet in a way that allows me to reach a lot of people but still remain accessible to my students and families.

I think that’s really special anywhere today but especially in the test prep industry.


Why is your catch-phrase ACCURACY > SPEED?

This is true on the tests but it’s also important in life.

In the internet age, we have access to incredible amounts of information with just a quick Google search. We’re all running so fast and so hard but it’s tough not to feel that we’re always behind too.

Taking the time to make sure we’re doing good, deep work is imperative. We run the risk of living only on the surface when we skitter along as quickly as possible towards the various finish lines of life.

Be present, be deliberate, and enjoy the journey.

What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?

I brew my own beer, which is loads of fun. Some of my homebrews have even won awards!

I’m also a bona fide Disney fanatic. I’m an Annual Passholder at Disneyland and Walt Disney World and run the runDisney half marathons as often as possible.

Anything else we should know?

I have a phone number. If you have questions about testing or college admissions, please call me. I’m happy to help you.


Let’s chat.