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Meet Sona Shah of My Private Professor

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sona Shah.

Sona, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Reflecting on my life’s trajectory, it may come as no surprise to many that I ended up creating an educational company that provides individualized tutoring in all subjects & supports opportunities for underserved students.  The inspiration behind My Private Professor, LLC stemmed from parlaying my drive for academic success into helping others reach their academic potential.

My journey as a student.
Attending public schools with large classes & few resources for individualized attention or assistance, I quickly realized that I needed to work hard & study effectively if I wanted to rise to the top of the class.  I also recognized that earning As in all of your classes was itself not enough to secure your college or graduate school path; you also had to take the most challenging courses, be immersed in multiple extracurricular activities at leadership levels, earn top scores on your college or graduate entrance exams, prepare a compelling application & personal statement that showcases your unique strengths, & seize every opportunity you could to stand out from your peers.

I followed this strategy throughout my years of schooling, & was rewarded with scholarships & acceptances into many esteemed institutions including Stanford University & a host of Ivy League universities for college & law school.  I attended UCLA, which was financially more feasible than the private schools, & graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, & with College Honors.  I went on to earn my law degree from UC Berkeley’s School of Law, where I benefited from in-state tuition, & practiced business litigation for many years before returning to something that had fulfilled me for decades: tutoring.

My experience as a tutor.
I first started tutoring when I was in 5th grade.  I would walk to homes in our neighborhood & help younger students with math or English.  Throughout middle school & high school, I helped classmates as well as students in lower grade levels with their classes & helped coordinate a free peer-to-peer tutoring program at our school.  As an undergraduate Teaching Assistant & a college lecture-note taker, I honed my ability to break down & explain complex concepts verbally & in writing to classrooms of my peers.

I always loved watching a student reach an “aha” moment, when all of the dots finally connected & he/she fully mastered a concept with which he or she was previously struggling, & I aimed to achieve that in my tutoring & teaching efforts.

After my senior year in high school, I happily shared my strategy for tackling the admissions process with students & parents who asked me for guidance with their child’s educational path, & found immense satisfaction in advising & assisting friends & clients with their college & graduate school applications & essays.  Hearing the exciting news that a student with whom I worked was accepted into top institutions such as Harvard Business School, UC Berkeley, & UCLA always made my day & served as a reminder that I had a knack for this.

The creation of a business.
With the birth of my son, I switched gears from practicing law & began helping students prepare for the law school admissions test & other exams as well as K-12 subjects.  Through word of mouth & over time, my clientele increased, my breadth of services expanded, & I added additional tutors to my team to meet the growing demand. Soon thereafter, I founded My Private Professor with a mission to provide top-notch, individualized tutoring to students in all grade levels & exams.

Today, we are privileged to work with students ranging from kindergarten to college, many for years at a time, & are grateful for the opportunity to continue tutoring many of our clients’ younger siblings as well as their friends & peers through word-of-mouth recommendations of our services.

Hearing the exciting feedback that a 3rd grader loves working with her tutor & is doing well in reading & writing, that a 10th grader has mastered his rigorous geometry class, that a 12th grader managed to raise his ACT score to over 30 in just a few weeks of working with our tutor, & that an aspiring college student gained acceptance into her top choice of Northwestern University after working with our college essays coach are just a few of the many reasons that motivate me every day to continue doing what I am doing.

A focus on philanthropy.
As much as I enjoyed my work, my philanthropic involvement ignited an even greater passion in me.  I am so grateful to have the opportunities & experiences that I have been given, & volunteering has always been an integral part of my life.  Serving in leadership positions in a number of philanthropically-driven organizations throughout high school & college allowed me to engage our members & steer our volunteering efforts on a grander scale.

Since law school, I have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors of nonprofits that do incredible work, from providing educational opportunities & support services to foster youth through Orangewood Foundation, to funding programs in our public schools through Tustin Public Schools Foundation, to offering resources & shelter to domestic violence victims & their children through the South Asian Helpline & Referral Agency.

From hands-on efforts of organizing backpack drives, coordinating care packages to scholars, & making meals for the youth to the strategic initiatives of matching innovative grants for teachers, providing scholarships to students, & securing funding for technology programs & labs, I appreciate that we can each make a positive impact on our community at any level.

I realized that if I integrated my passion for philanthropy into My Private Professor, I could make a difference in a way that more meaningfully aligned with my core values.  By dedicating a portion of our net proceeds to help students in need, we can maximize our impact of helping all students achieve & succeed while continuing to provide the highest caliber of tutoring to our clients.

Has it been a smooth road?
We are very selective with who we add to our team, requiring that we review the information of every prospective tutor & interview each of them to ensure they are the right fit for our clients.

This is a time-consuming endeavor, but we are not willing to compromise on the quality of our tutors.  My rule of thumb is that I will only consider hiring tutors with whom I would want my own children to work.  By not cutting corners & only hiring the cream of the crop to our team, our clients are assured the best tutoring available.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
My Private Professor provides one-on-one tutoring to students in-person & online in all K-12 subjects, SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, & college counseling & essays.

I appreciate how frustrating it is for parents who see their children struggling in school, falling behind in a class, or navigating without a roadmap for college, but do not know where to go outside of school to seek reliable help.  It is hard enough to keep up with a family’s busy schedule; trying to carve out extra time to find & vet a tutor for your child is time-consuming. Additionally, having to trek to a tutoring center whenever your student needs help is neither convenient nor practical.  Moreover, being required to prepay for large packages of tutoring hours with the large tutoring companies before learning which tutor would be assigned to your child does not provide transparency or trust.

This is where we come in.  We work around our clients’ schedules on weekdays & weekends at times that work best for them.  Our clients appreciate the added convenience of our online tutoring sessions, which feature live video chat & an interactive whiteboard through which problems can be solved.  Our in-person tutoring sessions take place in a student’s home or at a library with expert tutors who are background-checked. Clients know which tutor will work with their student before they commit, & there is no prepaid package requirement.  We want our clients to continue to work with us because they want to & not because they are obligated to do so.

Our clients range all grades & all levels.  From a kindergarten student needing assistance with phonics, to a 2nd grader who would like help with reading & arithmetic, to a 6th grader seeking to better understand common core math for their grade, to a 10th grader who needs help with AP Chemistry, to an 11th grader who needs guidance preparing for the SAT or ACT, to a 12th grader seeking help with college applications & essays, to college graduates needing assistance in preparing for the GMAT & LSAT, we do it all.

Our secret sauce lies in our exceptional team of tutors, which are comprised of college students, graduate students, & alumni from Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Pomona College, University of Virginia, University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCI, & other top universities & programs.

Our team includes certified teachers with masters degrees in education, tutors who scored in the 99th percentile on their college & graduate school entrance exams, tutors who earned 5 out of 5 on all of their AP exams, & tutors with incredible leadership roles & extensive tutoring experience.

We are proud to have been named “Best SAT & ACT Prep in Orange County” by CBS2 & KCAL9, & are grateful to have a college counseling & essays coach on our team who has an impressive track record of getting every student who has followed her advice into at least 1 of his/her top 3 universities.

What makes our business unique is our strong commitment to do what we can to help students in need.  By donating a portion of our net profits is used to help underserved students succeed, we have been able to support some incredible educational initiatives, including covering the cost of tutoring for underserved students through the nonprofit Learn to Be Foundation, covering the cost of test prep mentoring & college counseling for underserved students through the nonprofit College Spring, providing iPads & covering the cost of tutoring homeless & other at-risk children through the nonprofit Schools on Wheels, & supporting the College Bound initiative at the nonprofit Boys & Girls Club of Central Orange Coast.

I am proud of creating a company that helps all students reach their academic potential & thrive in school & beyond, & I look forward to making an even larger impact in our community.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Having lived most of my life in Los Angeles & Orange County, I appreciate being able to establish my tutoring business here.  With a multitude of public & private schools residing in both counties, there is a great opportunity for growth as the demand for our tutoring services increases.  I love being based here & would recommend anyone who is starting a business to consider Southern California.

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1 Comment

  1. Pallavi

    February 7, 2019 at 18:57

    Sona we are so proud of you on your hard work and success. Good luck.

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