Meet Our Advisor Team

All top-tier MBAs with professional writing and coaching in their background as well as determination as they withstood being trained by Kathryn who is unapologetically ruthless, our advisors give their all to help clients realize their business school dreams. To ensure they're able to give their all to clients, they work with no more than 6 clients at a time; many work with only 1-3. Our advisors are why our success rate is what it is.



With former top business school Career Management members as well as an award-winning author who was formally trained at Harvard and USC to build his creative writing chops, our leadership team can't imagine a more rewarding way to spend their days (and often nights) than providing clients the support they need to move from square one to business school. They too are why our success rate is what it is.

Kathryn Lucas, Founder

In 2009 Kathryn Lucas founded Square One Prep, an MBA Admissions firm that has partnered with 900+ clients and sustained a success rate that no other firm matches.

With a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Auburn University, after which she practiced architecture for seven years, and an MBA from Wharton, Kathryn ventured into MBA Admissions in early 2003 when she became a GMAT preparation consultant at Veritas Prep. Later that year, she joined the commercial development team at Forest City Ratner to help manage the development of Atlantic Yards/Barclays Center, a $4 billion, 7 million square foot, Brooklyn-based project designed by Frank Gehry. She dedicated herself to that endeavor until June 2007, when she left the world of development to write a book, It Is What It Is, published in July 2008. Inspired by how her book motivated people to introspect, face challenges, and dream big, she then re-joined Veritas Prep as an MBA admissions advisor so she could continue to help people assess their lives and reach for their ambitions. Not long after, realizing that her approach to partnering with applicants was distinct and unusually successful, she started Square One.

Kathryn’s approach involves providing expert, hands-on advice with wit and candor, thereby making the notoriously grueling application process enjoyable for clients. She's also ruthless and trains her team to be equally supportive and relentless in their effort to guide their clients to craft customized, authentic applications that make the admissions committees feel something and want to know more.

In addition to being involved in all PREMIUM partnerships (we have two services: PREMIUM and PREMIUM NEED-BASED), Kathryn also conducts 100% of the firm's free consults. She'll tell you what she believes the truth is, based on her empirical data and experience. Sometimes what she says will align with what you want to hear (and you'll think she's amazing!), while at other times what she says may lead you to want to throw your phone and end the call! But you can trust that she is trying to offer you supportive candor.

With expertise in creative writing, academic coaching, and marketing, Kathryn has personally guided 220 clients, with a success rate of 97%. Simply put, she loves helping folks make their aspirations come true.

Kathryn is also a member of AIGAC (Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants). When she isn’t busy helping her clients manifest their career dreams, she enjoys practicing yoga, traveling, dancing, trying to learn French, training for half-marathons, and exploring artists in the electronic music space.

Samuel Johnson, Lead Editor

Samuel Johnson, Square One Prep’s Lead Editor, is an award-winning writer and producer who has been working with writers to help make their writing pop since he ran his high school comedy magazine… Working alongside Kathryn, he uses his creativity, sense of humor and eye for detail to review every piece of Square One Prep client writing to ensure it shines the best light on clients’ applications and sets them apart from the pack.

Samuel graduated from Harvard in 2007 with a degree in Russian Literature—his favorite authors are still the Russian greats—and from the feature film producing MFA Program at USC in 2009. While at Harvard, Samuel was a writer and editor of the longest-running comedy magazine in the world, the Harvard Lampoon, for four years and became its Vice President his senior year. He also wrote and produced a musical comedy as part of Harvard’s “Arts First” Festival. At USC, Samuel was awarded the Jack Oakie scholarship for excellence in comedy screenwriting and a second-year production grant for a short film he wrote.

Since graduating, Samuel’s writing has appeared in the Huffington Post and Nat. Brut as well as on Cartoon Network and Pixl TV. He continues to write screenplays which have been selected by such organizations as the Cinestory Foundation Fellowship, the WeScreenplay screenplay competition, the StoryPros screenplay competition, and Shriekfest Film Festival.

For the last eight years, Sam has worked with students applying to MBA and other graduate programs to craft the most compelling essays possible. He approaches each student as a unique individual—as there is no cookie-cutter method of writing a winning MBA essay! He has read and edited thousands of essays.

Samuel speaks French, Mandarin and Russian and will talk your ear off about movies if you let him.

Ashley Wren Collins, Editor

Ashley Collins is an award-winning published author as well as a producer, director, choreographer and actor. She received her BA in English and Theatre Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and her MFA from the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater School Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University. Ashley’s various artistic disciplines, in combination with her Ivy League pedigree, combine to create her dynamite skill of working alongside Kathryn to review Square One client work and ensure it sets our clients apart from the competition.

Ashley is the co-author (with Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Entertainment) of Produce Your Own Damn Movie! (Focal Press, 2009) and the sole author of The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Los Angeles (Globe Pequot Press, 2011), as well as the reviser and updater on The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to New York City (Globe Pequot Press, 2014), all of which received rave reviews. She is a frequent contributor to MovieMaker Magazine and The Huffington Post. Her short story, “Daddy’s Girl,” was published in the St. Petersburg Review and her short story, “Aunt Maryann Was Stolen,” won her a scholarship to the 2015 Disquiet International Literary Program. Ashley edits manuscripts and book proposals and is currently working on her next three books; two non-fiction and one fiction.

Ashley produced Chasing Taste, the 2014 Manhattan Film Festival and 2013 Burbank International Film Festival “Best Comedy” winner. She is also a co-creator of the musical comedy, Mother Eve’s Secret Garden of Sensual Sisterhood, recently optioned for a national tour and off-Broadway production by Hemisphere Two Entertainment. Ashley was a member of the 2015 Directors Lab at Lincoln Center Theater.

Ashley speaks conversational Russian and Spanish and has lived in Moscow. She currently resides in Harlem with her Colombian classical guitarist husband and their daughter. She is immensely passionate about travel, hiking, theater, film, yoga, biking all over Manhattan any chance she gets, cereal and hotter than hell summers.

Wendy Bagdi-Durrua, Career Narrative Expert

Wendy Bagdi-Durrua is one of Square One Prep’s Career Narrative Experts. She brings to Square One clients her passion for coaching and mentoring, helping others develop personally and professionally to achieve their goals

With corporate experience across finance and audit, marketing and customer experience strategy, client relationship management, investor relations, business development and program management, Wendy offers a broad perspective to her clients. In addition to working for American Express, General Motors and PwC, Wendy has worked with non-profit organizations and small businesses. Leveraging her expertise transitioning across organizations, industries and disciplines, Wendy guides her clients to define their professional journey and vision in order to communicate their story in a thoughtful, authentic and credible way.

Wendy graduated with an MBA from The Wharton School and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. She is a member of the Wharton MBA resume review team and participates in the Boston College mentorship program. She received her diploma in coaching from New York University.

When not coaching, advising or taking classes for her own development, Wendy enjoys entertaining, travel and outdoor adventures and spending time with her husband, family and friends.

Luis Bellon, Career Narrative Expert

Luis Bellon is on the Career Narrative Expert Team at Square One Prep, where he works zealously with clients to help them explore career options and craft visions that are ambitious, grounded, authentic, and of course admissions committee-proof. He loves learning from and educating his clients, all of which occurs due to the tough questions he asks that lead clients to do research, introspect, and come back to discussions having learned more about themselves and what they do or don’t want to do.

With a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.E. in Coastal & Oceanographic Engineering, both from the University of Florida, Luis spent 10 years managing large scale projects in the heavy civil and marine construction industry prior to earning his MBA from Berkeley-Haas and receiving his certification in Advanced Leadership and Coaching from the Berkeley-Haas Center for Executive Education. He was a lecturer of Leadership Communications at the UC Berkeley-Haas School of Business from 2014-2017 and today runs his own executive coaching firm.

Luis speaks English and Spanish, both with native proficiency.

Viewing physical conditioning as the bedrock for personal growth, when he isn’t busy guiding clients, Luis travels the world to surf, climb, and mountaineer.

Horatiu Stefan, Career Narrative Expert

Horatiu Stefan is committed to helping his Square One clients reach their potential. As one of our career narrative experts, he loves helping his clients articulate their unique stories and personal brands in authentic, engaging ways. Beyond showcasing skills and experience, Horatiu guides clients to thoughtfully and strategically bring their passions, values, and goals to life in career narrative.

With a BA in Economics and Political Science from Swarthmore College / LSE and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Horatiu has had extensive cross-industry and cross-functional international business experience. He’s held various strategic, operating, and advisory roles with Fortune 500 multinationals and Silicon Valley startups including Deloitte, eBay, Mercedes-Benz, Samsung, Aetna, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Homejoy, and Serviz.

Horatiu has also been involved with MBA admissions consulting and MBA recruiting throughout his career. He played a key role in scaling Samsung’s MBA recruiting strategy at Top 10 MBA programs and most recently served as Associate Director of Career Development at the USC Marshall School of Business, where he guided a highly-diverse international student population through all things career planning and development.

Fluent in Spanish, French, Italian, and Romanian, Horatiu lives in an old loft in downtown Los Angeles, but his heart is in Tokyo…his ‘happy place’. When not enjoying chocolate, raspberries, medium-rare steak, or Trader Joe’s Key Lime pie, he’s working on a book of Tokyo street photographs or scouring the web for deals on Margiela kicks.