When you work with us, you actually work with us!

During the last twenty years, Ahead of the Class has helped over 5,000 students achieve their college dreams. We’ve helped students gain admission into every major university in the country, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Notre Dame, USC, Cal Tech, UCLA, Berkeley, etc.

We also employ a different teaching philosophy. Rather than just teaching tricks to get students through the SAT and ACT, we teach students permanent skills: how to read more quickly and efficiently, how to write better essays and how to use logic and reasoning to solve math problems.

What makes us unique?
No college students, no inexperienced tutors.



Heather Chagnon Gruenbaum is the co-owner of Ahead of the Class, a private education and test preparation company based in both Sonoma and Orange County, California.  For more than eighteen years, Chagnon Gruenbaum has worked in the field of college admissions, helping over a thousand students with college application essays and personal statements. A nationally recognized college admissions essay expert, Chagnon Gruenbaum is regularly quoted in national news publications.

Chagnon Gruenbaum’s students have gained admission to all of the top colleges in the nation, including all of the University of California and Ivy League schools.

During her own college admission experiences, Chagnon Gruenbaum was awarded thousands of dollars in academic scholarships, fellowships and grants.  This personal experience and knowledge allows her to help her students understand how to access some of these similar opportunities.  

Chagnon Gruenbaum was never denied admission to any college she applied to, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, a remarkable feat in today’s college admissions world.

Chagnon Gruenbaum’s constant interaction with students and ever-changing college admission situations, as well as a wealth of contacts at major universities throughout the nation, enable Chagnon Gruenbaum to keep abreast of the most recent college admission and college essay trends. Chagnon Gruenbaum is also a professional historian and published researcher.  Her writing expertise provides her students with a unique approach to college admission essay writing.

Chagnon Gruenbaum has recently released her first book, 50 College Admissions Myths and Mistakes, to critical acclaim!




David Benjamin Gruenbaum is the co-owner of Ahead of the Class, a private education and test preparation company based in both Orange County and Sonoma County, California. Gruenbaum graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in economics and psychology. After graduating, Gruenbaum worked in undergraduate admissions at University of Chicago. During the past 28 years, Gruenbaum has personally prepared more than 7,000 students for their SAT and ACT college admissions exams.

A nationally-recognized SAT and ACT expert, Gruenbaum has appeared on CBS’s Early Show and Fox National News. His work has also been featured in The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, Newsweek, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle. Gruenbaum is the author of eight books, including New SAT 2016: First Look, the world’s first New SAT book.

Gruenbaum differs substantially from the majority of other tutors. Most tutors are micro: they only go problem by problem, addressing individual math or English questions. Gruenbaum is a new breed of tutor: macro. Because of Gruenbaum’s psychology background, he is able to focus on test-taking traits that affect students in an overall way. For example:

1) Does a student second guess himself/herself?

2) Is a student a perfectionist? (This may explain why the student doesn’t get through tests in time.)

3) Does a student burn out by the end of the test?

Gruenbaum uncovers test-taking traits, such as the ones above, and then helps his students overcome these problems so that they can have much greater success not only on the SAT and ACT, but school as well.