We had the good fortune of connecting with Paul Nicholas and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Paul, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I was working as the Academic Director of an educational company in Beverly Hills in 2011 and I had fundamental principles of disagreement with the owner and how they ran their business. By that time, I had grown the company from barely getting by, to having month-over-month growth consistently for a few years. Rather than do that for someone else, with the support of my amazing husband words, alma mater, were always a core part of the arching educational philosophy of my high school, The Potomac School, in McLean, Virginia. I thought…what better way to connect and communicate the mission statement of my company than the Latin words, Alma Mater. The nourishing mother of education that all students are nurtured by. Now we are proudly celebrating our tenth year in business faithfully serving our students as Alma Mater Educational Services.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
As a child of Romanian immigrants, I’m first-generation American, and that squarely informs how I was raised, the educational opportunities afforded to me, and the intersection of cultures that I was immersed in from a young age. Picture me in lederhosen at age 6 dancing on a table to Nana Mouskouri and then boogieing down to vinyl ABBA in our garage on my Fisher-Price record player. That happened. Thanks, mom and dad!

I left middle school to attend a progressive boarding school in Surrey, England, where the students called the teachers by their first names. I took my preliminary secondary school GCSE examinations and returned to the states to finish high school. From there I was off to New York and then after I graduated I moved out here to continue to pursue my professional career as an actor.

Bet you didn’t see that coming.

I worked in film, television, and commercials and found myself frustrated that I had to wait for the phone to ring, or for other people to make choices that would impact my life. Although I found myself working with luminaries like Teri Hatcher on Desperate Housewives and Andre Braugher on Homicide: Life on the Street, it never lasted long enough. So after getting tired of that, I took a job in education and have been living, working, and thriving in that space ever since.

I learned that you get out of life what you put into it. I learned that the only person you are competing with is yourself. And, I learned that as a college counselor, I have so much to learn from my students. They keep me young, up to date on tech, call me out when I sound hokey, and share their stories with me so that they can tell them in their college apps and essays. That is my favorite part of the college application process, the writing. Amplifying their voices so they can make their mark on the world. Bring it!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First, we would grab a bite at the Mexican restaurant right up the street from my home in Mid-City/West Adams. Los Anaya is some of the best and most affordable Mexican in LA. Their portions are very generous and they always satisfy.

https://www.taquerialosanaya.com/

Next up, we go to The Grove/Farmers Market. Having worked there as a waiter back in my previous lives and also as a culinary instructor at Sur La Table, it’s a great spectacle of all things Los Angeles. Old School Farmer’s Market meets trendy outdoor lifestyle shopping mall with a fountain that dances and a trolley that rings its bell. Great people watching there.

I’d take them to the Mulholland overlook at night so they can see the valley slowly glimmer and bustle with life.

We’d go up PCH to Malibu where we would go to the Rosenthal Winery Tasting Room. These are great wines and the owner is like the Willy Wonka of wineries. He only opens up his estate in Malibu twice a year to the public. He goes on the tour with you and you can buy directly from him there.

Home

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have a few. I need to do East Coast & West Coast.

East Coast: To my high school college counselor at Potomac, Andy Welch, who even then in 1992 knew that I would be a great fit for Sarah Lawrence College. To my comedy teacher at SLC, Christine Farrell, for trekking out of Manhattan to teach stand-up comedy for the theatre department. She now is our Artistic Director, LOVE you, Christine! A huge east coast shoutout to Sam Lee @IndeCollective. Sam graduated from my first alma mater, Potomac, and awarded me a full scholarship to their Fall Cohort where Sam and IndeCollective are on a mission to help top independent workers supercharge their careers. I am now tuning in live for ten weeks with more than 100 of my distinguished peers, coast-to-coast, and spanning more than 40 cities, 20 states, and Canada, El Salvador, Brazil, Mauritius, the U.K., and Germany. It’s a modern MBA for the modern, independent worker.

West Coast: To all of the nurses, techs, respiratory therapists, PT’s/OT’s, and doctors at Cedars and California Rehabilitation Institute that saved my life in April when I was hospitalized in the ER from a seizure. Even in the beginning throes of Covid, they always showed up and are some of the bravest, dedicated, and most reliable people I have met. Dr. Milton Little (Cedars) and Dr. Amanda Schaap (CRI), are some of LA’s finest. To Cher Van Amburg, Michelle de la Riva, and Brian Camden at Innovative Artists, who always, somehow, believed in me. They put their necks out there for their clients, and that’s what classy looks like. Not the glitzy big talkers~~they pick up the phone, work their relationships, and their clients love them for it. To the Culver City Chamber of Commerce, I may be a new member but I am in great company.

Finally, I want to recognize the inimitable Jodi Walder, who befriended me during a class we were taking through UCLA Extension’s College Counseling Certificate program in 2011. She invited me to complete my practicum with her and her students at her practice, College Admission Coach, in Portland, Oregon. She has steadfastly been a mentor, friend, and suggested I join the Higher Education Consultants Association, HECA, where I have developed meaningful relationships with my colleagues and continue my professional development.

And my dear husband, Samuel Morales, and our rescue doggo, Cooper. You are my everything.

Website: www.almamater.net

Instagram: yougotocollege

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-nicholas-b9baa320/

Twitter: @yougotocollege

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yougotocollege

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/alma-mater-educational-services-los-angeles-3

Image Credits
Joanna Degeneres Photography, Steven O’Connor

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