Today we’d like to introduce you to Brandon Cohen.
Brandon, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
In January of 2008, I was a Junior at the University of Michigan and, planning to apply to law school, I started my preparation for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). I took a practice exam and received a 153 (approx. 52nd percentile). I quickly fell in love with the exam; with the exam’s focus on logic, rather than information, it was different than any other standardized test or classroom exam. After studying for almost 9 months, I received a perfect 180 on my official LSAT — something only 3 out of every 10,000 students taking the exam receive.
I immediately began tutoring other students and continued to do so as I progressed through University of Miami Law School. By the time graduation came around, I had formalized my methods for attacking the test and recognized that my students were seeing improvements well above the industry norm. Combined with my continued enjoyment of the exam and a tremendous sense of purpose in helping my students drastically alter the course of their personal and professional careers, I opted to pursue teaching LSAT full-time.
Over the next two years, I tutored LSAT full-time, while also creating a full written curriculum and course guide. In November of 2013, I officially founded State Of Mind Test Prep and began teaching the full courses in Coral Gables. For the last 4.5 years, State Of Mind has seen their students continue to set new industry standards, with average improvements over double the national average, while continuing to reach more and more students per year.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Is there such a thing? I have been blessed to have seen the consistent growth year-over-year, but the nature of the test prep industry is high client turnover (the average student studies for 3 months) and unpredictable seasons. Further, I have gone through a lot of trial and error on things such as the best course models that balance costs, scheduling, and the ideal learning experience. I had gone up and down with hiring other tutors, finding difficulty matching the reliability and predictability of branding and product offerings. I have also spent countless “non-business hours” continuously breaking down the latest trends and updating my curriculum and course models accordingly — speaking of which, I am now facing major changes as it was just announced last week that the LSAT will be dramatically changing its implementation format (shifting from paper-and-pencil to digital only exams).
Finally, and more personally, I think the biggest challenge has been the continuous doubters that questioned my decision to pursue this career. Having gone through law school and passed two bar exams (NY and FL), it seemed counter-intuitive to most that I not pursue a more traditional legal job. This is still the case and, most of the time people hear that “I’m just a tutor,” it always came with those looks of judgement. While it used to bother me and I would try to explain my passion for teaching and the business opportunity I felt was available, I have learned to ignore it. The reality is, I do not think I could be happier doing anything else and, really, that is all that is important to me.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about State Of Mind Test Prep – what should we know?
Beyond what I have previously described, there are two key things that separate my business from others:
1) Our curriculum and teaching philosophy –> The actual curriculum and strategies taught in our courses are original and go much more in depth than the alternatives. Coupled with our persistence to maintaining a personalized approach that allows each student to maximize the processes that work best for them, we consider any of our programs to be far superior to anything else available.
2) The ability to get free advice and counseling from me –> Something that every student who takes any class or tutoring lesson with us has full access to me as a resource. Whether it’s a specific question on a practice test, strategizing for the official exam, or admissions advising, students know they are welcome to text or set up a phone call with me at no extra cost. I truly care about making sure every student feels comfortable with every step of their process into law school.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
From the teaching perspective, it can frustrate many when the ideas that make perfect sense in your head doesn’t seem to click to the student. Rather than becoming frustrated, I find it a personal challenge to find another way to explain it until it finally does click with the student. This goes back to the previous question and our teaching philosophy. I will never leave a student seeking some other resource to better understand the content; that is exactly what they came to us for!
From the business perspective, I have learned that advertising, brand recognition, and overall growth is all a long-game. In my first year in Miami, for example, I was invited to an UMiami undergrad event for a “Battle of the Test Prep Event” that brought the various LSAT prep companies to each speak about the exam and their course options. I had initially thought I had done a good job, but after the days, weeks, and months went by without any of the dozens of students in attendance signing up, I doubted myself. However, about a year later I had multiple students who called to sign up for classes and had just gone to the event earlier than they planned to start their studying! In fact, just this last year (almost 3 years after the event), I had another student sign up that was at that event. This type of slow turnaround has become typical and I’ve learned to have patience with any “marketing” I do.
#2) Customer Service / Satisfaction
In a service business especially, your reputation is everything. While I mentioned marketing in the previous point, 90% of our business is pure word-of-mouth referrals. Even prospective students/clients that never turn into everything sometimes refer others. Sometimes even in your personal life, the people you encounter ultimately refer friends or relatives. Fortunately, I have continued to see that growing “web” of referrals and I work hard to satisfy even the most demanding clients.
- Full Semi-Private Courses, $2,860 – $4,290
- Address: 135 San Lorenzo Ave
Suite 710 Coral Gables, FL 33146
- Website: www.StateOfMindTestPrep.com
- Phone: 786-393-0444
- Email: BCohen@StateOfMindTestPrep.com