Meet The Academic Match Team

Paula Friedman - Founder of The Academic Match

Paula Friedman

Founder & President

Paula Friedman founded The Academic Match in 2011 and serves as the practice's managing director and principal college and career advisor. She is the co-creator of BIG Essay Ideas Cards, a unique tool that provides inspiration for thoughtful personal statements and essays for college, graduate school, internships and scholarships.

Paula earned her UCLA Extension College Counseling Certificate With Distinction, attended the IECA Summer Training Institute, and interned in the Newbury Park High School College & Career Center. Paula was the official Substitute College & Career Guidance Specialist at Newbury Park High School in 2017-2018 & at Thousand Oaks High School in 2018-2019. She is currently working as the part-time College & Career Center Technician at Oak Park High School.


Paula enjoys conducting college essay and application workshops and has been a guest speaker at Conejo Valley Unified School District College Information Nights and at College Knowledge Nights at Synergy Academics in West Hills.

Paula is an active member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), Western Association for College Admission Counseling (WACAC), Higher Educational Consultants Association (HECA), and CWICC (Consortium of Women in College Counseling).

Paula is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Duke University, where she double-majored in Psychology and French. While at Duke, Paula worked in the Duke University Admissions Office for all four years, reviewing student applications and portfolios. She received her MBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross Graduate School of Business, where she concentrated in Marketing and worked in the Career Placement Office for two years. Paula was a Duke Alumni Admissions Interviewer for over 20 years and conducts mock interviews with her students.

Prior to becoming a college and career advisor in 2011, Paula’s professional experience was focused on marketing research and consumer insights. She worked on numerous internationally recognized brands for a wide range of consumer product companies, including Gatorade at The Quaker Oats Company (PepsiCo), Capri Sun, Crystal Light, and Kool-Aid at Kraft, Nesquik at Nestle, as well as most products in the portfolios for Newman’s Own and for Dole Foods.

Jodi Sears - College Advisor at The Academic Matc

Jodi Sears

College Advisor

Jodi Sears, who joined The Academic Match in 2014, received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.  She also studied abroad at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel and the University of Salamanca, Spain.  As an undergraduate, she interned with Western Public radio and for KGO-Radio where she wrote copy on consumer affairs issues. She received a Master of Business Administration from the University of Southern California, where she graduated Beta Gamma Sigma. Her graduate fellowship was in the Career Planning & Placement office at the Marshall School of Business, where she coordinated speaker panels, industry recruitment events, as well as internship and job search workshops.  She spent many years working in retail, marketing and advertising.  As an executive with a major Los Angeles advertising agency, she managed multi-million dollar budgets and advertising campaigns for a variety of internationally recognized brands.


Jodi has been actively involved in the Las Virgenes Unified School District (LVUSD), serving as the Donation Drive Chair, GATE Math Olympiad instructional assistant, and Western Association of Schools and Colleges Parents’ Committee Representative. Jodi volunteered for nine years in the Agoura High School College and Career Center, guides students at college essay writing workshops at Agoura and Calabasas High Schools and has been a speaker at College Nights at Synergy Academics and at Conejo Valley School District high schools. She was elected to the Agoura High School Site Council and was selected by the district to serve on the Curriculum Council, Rigor Task Force and the College and Career advisory committee.


Jodi has successfully helped numerous students navigate the college application process and knows it can be less overwhelming and more exciting with the enthusiasm and guidance of an experienced college counselor.  She completed her certificate at UCLA in College Counseling, Earned with Distinction and is a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), Western Association for College Admission Counseling (WACAC) and the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA).

Laura Gallop - Writing Assistant at The Academic Match

Laura Gallop

Writing Assistant

Laura Gallop has worked with Paula Friedman and Jodi Sears at The Academic Match for the past several years as a writing advisor to high school students, assisting them with their college application essays. She enjoys the process of helping students transform a rough draft essay into a final version that showcases the student's unique strengths, passions, qualities, and character. Laura is particularly skilled at making sure the student's personal statement is reflective of his or her experiences, is grammatically correct, and is clearly written with the student's own voice.

Laura earned her Bachelor's Degree in Social Science from the University of California-Berkeley and her Master's Degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago. In addition to helping high school students with their college essays/personal statements, Laura has also edited memoirs and small business marketing materials. She was a Senior Analyst for the City of San Jose where she wrote several successful grants and was the department editor for a multitude of written materials. She focused on youth programming, oversaw a city-wide afterschool homework center program, and worked with the Gang Prevention Unit.

Laura also worked for the Cal Alumni Association, where her responsibilities included coordinating information sessions for newly admitted students and supervising the Alumni Scholarship interview process in Southern California. During her free time, Laura is a volunteer Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriages for the County of Los Angeles and enjoys performing civil weddings in the San Fernando Valley. She served on the Every 15 Minutes Committee at Agoura High School, a biennial program that realistically portrays the dangers and consequences of driving under the influence or distracted driving.