Our Team

College Admissions Isn't One Size Fits All

Whether you’re aiming for the Ivies, hoping to get scholarship money, or just plain looking for the best fit college, everybody’s admissions experience is a little different.

At CollegeVine, we understand this intuitively. Each of the founders had a different personal experience with the admissions process, whether it’s Zack suddenly discovering his passions halfway through high school, Johan’s difficult ordeal with admissions as a first-gen immigrant with few resources, Vinay’s personal use of local college advisors that weren’t all that helpful, Mohan’s realization that he could have spent more time reflecting on what he actually wanted from college, or Jon’s experience that no matter what school you go to, it all works out in the end.

We’re human too (well, except Vinay). So if you find yourself nodding your head to any of our stories, feel free to drop us a line and consider learning about how we can help you through what we already experienced. It’d be our honor!


Our Founders

Zack Perkins

Business Development Lead
  • Undergrad Harvard
  • Studied Econ
  • Second-best Language German
  • Has a Pet Named Hudson

When Zack was in 6th grade, he moved to Germany where he quickly became trilingual, learning to speak Spanish and German fluently. In high school, Zack graduated with a 4.0 GPA and a 2400 (single sitting) on his SAT. Zack took a rigorous course load, culminating in 13 AP classes and a german political philosophy course at Princeton University. His main extracurricular interests were focused on politics and economics, as he participated and held leadership in clubs such as Model United Nations and Federal Reserve Challenge. Zack also practiced Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art. Zack developed an extreme passion for one of his activities, YMCA New Jersey Youth and Government, ultimately becoming elected to the highest position of Youth Governor, the student leader of the conference. Zack was also selected to attend New Jersey Boys State, the Youth Governors Conference, the Conference on National Affairs, and completed a summer internship in Investment Controlling and Supply Chain Controlling at Henkel AG & Co. KGaA in Dusseldorf, Germany. With his passion for community service, Zack led a statewide soup kitchen volunteering program that involved 94 high school students from around New Jersey. Additionally, he started a charity to fund solar panels for an impoverished school in Nairobi, Kenya.

I started CollegeVine because my high school career was characterized by significant personal development and I wanted to extend the lessons I’d learned to other students.

I grew up in a normal Caucasian household, played a ton of sports as a kid, and didn’t even think about college admissions until my sophomore year of high school. My parents wanted me to work hard, but they never exerted any pressure on me to intensively study or join a million activities. I entered high school expecting to be completely average, accepting the path that I was passively on. My friends used to joke that I was bad at math (probably fair even today).

But over the course of high school, something clicked. I developed a strong desire to achieve, and once I found the areas in which I was passionate, I devoted inhuman amounts of time to developing my skills and experience in those areas. I found myself continuously setting higher goals that were completely my own, and I achieved them too. In doing so, I carved my own path through school and had a really, really enjoyable high school experience.

My background has helped me recognize that everyone has a very unique potential, regardless of how that potential is forecasted by family, friends, or teachers. I wanted to be able to help students ignite the fire that makes them successful in any area that makes them passionate, because I saw firsthand how life changing it can be. I’m proud that CollegeVine is a driving force behind recognizing and developing the innate talents of our students, making them more successful leaders and achievers.

Johan Zhang

Marketing Lead
  • Undergrad Harvard
  • Studied Econ
  • Second-best Language Mandarin
  • Has a Pet Named Mario

Johan was named salutatorian of his graduating class with a 4.0 GPA and scored a 2400 (first take) on his SAT. In addition to taking 11 AP classes throughout high school, Johan also self-studied 4 AP tests during his junior year. He is the winner of various awards, including the National AP Scholar Award, the National Merit Scholarship, and the Nordstrom $10K national scholarship. Additionally, he was a semifinalist in the National Presidential Scholars program. Outside of the classroom, Johan served as Class Vice President for 3 years and President for 1 year. He successfully auditioned into the Region Jazz Band as 1st Chair Alto Sax for two years in a row. Johan is also dedicated to fencing – he is a 4-year varsity letterman who as captain led his team to its first ever District Championship. As an individual, he placed in the top 8 in the NJ State tournament and received All-State Team honors. Also, he co-founded a charity dedicated to fostering music education in his community; his organization has donated over $12,000. Perhaps Johan’s biggest accomplishment involves being elected Boys Nation Senator by 976 of his peers at New Jersey Boys State. As 1 of 98 Senators nation-wide, Johan was flown down to DC to meet various famous politicians, including NJ’s very own Senator Lautenberg and President Barack Obama in the White House.

I co-founded CollegeVine because I experienced the benefits of near-peer mentorship in my own life.

Throughout high school, I was fortunate enough to have had many incredible teachers. But when I think about the individuals who influenced me the most during those years, the names that first come to mind are friends—mentors—who were only a few years older than me.

What made these mentors so effective is that they embodied a unique combination of authority and rapport. I respected them because they were successful after having been in my shoes not too long ago themselves, and I wanted to be like them. Yet because they were still my peers, we were able to communicate on a level that was far more conducive to the type of deep learning that only comes through truly relating to the other person. Whether it was helping me navigate extracurricular activities, providing college admissions advice, or dealing with life in general, these mentors were directly responsible for leading me on the right path to achieving my dreams.

Of course, at the time, I didn’t know there existed an official academic term, “near-peer mentor,” that described this type of teacher (I preferred to use the more technical term, “bro"). Regardless, the core concept is one that I truly believe in. That’s why CollegeVine’s programs are designed with a unique mentorship-first approach—because it works.

Through CollegeVine, I hope to help other students discover the same life-changing mentorship that I was so lucky to experience. And in the process, I hope to create stronger students, better admissions outcomes, and ultimately more passionate contributors to society.

Vinay Bhaskara

Operations Lead
  • Undergrad UChicago
  • Studied Econ, Pre-Med
  • Second-best Language Telugu
  • Has a Pet Named Airbus A380

Vinay graduated with a 4.0 GPA and a 2400 (single sitting) on his SAT. Throughout his studies, Vinay genuinely enjoyed a wide range of subjects, ultimately leading him to take 19 AP exams (a school record), earning a score of 5 on all of them. In 2013, Vinay was named the State AP Scholar for the state of New Jersey, an award given to the one male and one female student in each U.S. state with scores of 3 or higher on the greatest number of AP Exams. He also scored perfectly on SAT subject tests in Math, Chemistry, US History, World Studies, and Biology. Vinay participated in a variety of clubs in high school such as Youth and Government, and Science Olympiad; however his main extracurricular passion was in aviation. He has spent six years working in the aviation industry, starting out as a lowly blogger and working his way up to become an analyst at an aerospace consultancy. His aviation analysis has been published by several publications such as Forbes, Business Insider, and Skift, and he has been quoted as an aviation expert in The Capital Forum, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He also published two ebooks on airline operations and co-hosted a podcast on Indian aviation. Separately, Vinay co-authored an SAT vocabulary book, drawing upon his extensive knowledge of the exam.

I co-founded CollegeVine because I wanted other students to have the guidance for the college admissions process that I was not able to receive.

As the first member of my family to attend college in the US, my parents and I were basically flying blind through the entire admissions process, and I had to build my understanding of the process entirely from scratch. My high school guidance counselor was too overloaded to provide me with specific advice and guidance, so I mostly relied on the internet and older friends to learn more about admissions.

Luckily, I had a background as a writer, so my essays were in relatively good shape (I even helped several of my classmates with their essays). But after spending hours scouring university websites, blogs, and asking my friends for assistance, I learned that there were several additional components to the application, ranging from the exact phrasing of activity descriptions on the Common App to the exact major that you put down on the application.

Now that I have a platform to help other students, I want to enable them find their voice and craft top-notch application essays, and more importantly help them get all of the information that they need to navigate the admissions process. No student, first generation immigrant or otherwise, should have to undergo as much stress as I did when applying to college. Admissions Hero is our way of working towards that goal.

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Executive Team

Jon Carson

Chief Executive Officer
  • Undergrad Babson
  • Studied Entrepreneurship
  • Second-best Language Business
  • Has a Pet Named Sparky

When Jon was a sophomore at Babson College, he started a beer keg delivery business for fraternities in the Boston area and an entrepreneurial career was born. Other than brief stints at Boeing (sales), McKinsey & Co. (junior analyst), and two years at the Yale School of Management, he has always worked on his own ventures which for the last 20 years have always emphasized a social impact mission. To date Jon has started, built, and sold four companies, the largest of which was Family Education Network which became the largest K-12 website on the Internet ultimately acquired by Pearson. His most recent company was BiddingForGood, a $60m marketplace for charity auctions. In 1999 Jon was profiled by e-School News as one of the 25 most influential people in education technology. In 2008 Jon was an initial inductee into the Babson College Alumni Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. In 2009 Jon was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year award (New England Region). In 2015 Jon was featured in Insights—Reflections From 101 Of Yale’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs. Jon has served on the boards of the National School Boards Foundation, The National PTA, Net Impact, Trinity Boston Foundation, and Americas Charities.

Why am I here? Why now?

I was introduced to the team as a mentor at the Harvard iLab and simply put I liked them and greatly respected their passion, drive, and intellect.

And the more I dug around into the college admissions space the more I realized there was something very troubled about this market. Nowhere else have I seen a paying customer set signaling such pain through anxiety and stress. At a fundamental level, college admissions is a market with information asymmetry where sellers (the universities) hold huge advantages over the buyers (families) who are making a high stakes decision.

The colleges are clearly in an arms race for rankings, and they are gaming the system in ways that are unhelpful to families. Moreover, as a product of private schools, I know all too well the advantages that accrue to those that can afford to opt out of public schools whose guidance budgets got cut 20 years ago and never recovered.

What if we could build a next generation admissions platform? What if we could harness the expertise that talented college students have gained by going through the process, knowing their schools, and receiving state of the art training? What if we could make the very best college admissions guidance available to everyone?

That is a big idea. That is why I am here now.

Mohan Zhang

Chief Technology Officer
  • Undergrad Cornell
  • Studied CS, Linguistics
  • Second-best Language Swedish
  • Has a Pet Named Ella

Taking an interest in computers around the age of six, Mohan launched his first website as an 11 year old to announce to the world how much he loved Final Fantasy VII, a video game for the original Sony PlayStation. In just two years’ time, the website grew to become the home of an active community working together to produce fan-authored content dedicated to the Japanese role-playing game franchise. Unfortunately, things quickly unraveled shortly after Mohan’s 13th birthday, once the older contributors on the site found out they had spent the last couple years of their lives working for a prepubescent boy.

A full decade and a half later, Mohan is finally starting to have age (and hormones) on his side, though the desire to bring people together with technology has always remained at the forefront of his imagination. Having graduated third out of 500+ in his high school class, Mohan went on to attend Cornell University, where he graduated magna cum laude with a 4.0 GPA in Computer Science and Linguistics. After college, he worked as an engineer in both the GPU and Mobile units of NVIDIA Corp., before leaving in 2012 to travel around the world for a year as a migrant farmhand on organic farms. Prior to becoming the CTO at CollegeVine, he was a Senior Developer at LegitScript LLC, a Portland, OR company specializing in healthcare and online merchant compliance.

When I think back to what I was like in high school and college, I realize how much of my identity and happiness in life came to me after leaving behind the educational system. Though I had a successful academic career by any measure, all the things I cherish most today are actually things I discovered as a young adult in the “real world.” Mostly, these are things that might lead someone in their mid-20s to a place like Portland, OR—where radical ideas like intellectual freedom, alternative diets, windsurfing, yoga, backyard chickens, and composting are commonplace.

This unfortunate case of DOH (“delayed onset happiness”) had to do, I think, with the fact that I am the first-born in a family of immigrants. Getting the most prestigious college education possible was not only the default path for me, but in fact the only path. Indeed, not knowing very much about the college admissions process, first generation immigrant families like my own have to play it very safe the first time around because our uncertain standing in society forces us to be risk-averse. Ultimately, there was an accepted mold that I had to fit into, exemplified by competitive academics, knowledge of a musical instrument (piano), and an “American” extracurricular activity like mock trial.

Although Cornell, Emory, and Rutgers took a chance on me despite this tired profile that nearly all academically inclined first-generation immigrants try to fit into, I am not surprised in retrospect that Harvard, Brown, and Northwestern all passed. To make matters worse, between the three schools I received big envelopes from, there was never really a question which one I would choose: the one with the highest US News & World Report ranking, of course. Factors like actual happiness, campus fit, and the fact that I might have to spend three years of my life walking up a 45-degree slope in the bitter cold never figured into the decision.

So let’s get this straight: an unavoidable naivete about the admissions process led me to pursue an admissions strategy that had about a 3% chance of actually working (for a similar Asian American male applying to top-10 schools in the year 2017, it has become even less effective). Yet ironically, the very things I love today, had I pursued them earlier in life, would have led to various interesting ECs and essays narrated by a unique voice that would truly stand out from the crowd—all while making me the person I always wanted to be anyway.

And this impedance mismatch is exactly where I see the opportunity in CollegeVine’s platform: this is our chance to foster genuine, interesting applicants that gain admission to their top schools for the right reasons. In this process, not only do we help them stand out, but we encourage them to do it in a way that doesn’t defer what’s actually important in life: their authenticity and identity. Colleges and universities can thank us later.

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Our Team Members

Amelia Wills

Release Coordinator

Chris Coffey

Software Engineer

James Sands-Berking

Program Director

Jennifer Morel

Logistics Manager

Mahdi Al-Farra

Design Lead

Ralph Morton

Software Engineer

Savanni D'Gerinel

Software Engineer

Tania Hintlian

Digital Content Marketing Manager

Thomas Pelkey

Customer Success Specialist

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