Meet The Disruptors: Harvey Wizard, The College Wizard On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine
Published in
12 min readAug 16, 2023

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Hedge your bets. Anytime you are trying something new, it’s going to be risky. It’s better to never go all-in on an idea until it’s been validated. I always assume 90% of my disruptor ideas will fail, as long as I’ve got money in the kitty, I can survive long enough for one of my ideas to take off. Testing Facebook ads is a perfect example of this. Try 20 different approaches with just $5 behind them, and see which ideas get traction.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Harvey Wizard.

Harvey Wizard, The Guy Who Beat The SAT, has been a disruptor since he started his first photography business at age 11 — with the proceeds earned winning a national coloring contest he figured out how to beat by watching an episode of 60 Minutes.

Over the years, Harvey has proven his ability to beat complex systems, including not only the SAT (with a score high enough to gain admission to Dartmouth College in 1976) but also the Google Adwords algorithm itself, which led Harvey to become an internet multimillionaire with his story told in the NYT Bestseller, “Get Rich Click.”

Harvey is a true polymath, having proved his mettle as not only a successful serial entrepreneur, motivational speaker and social media influencer, but also a bestselling author, published songwriter, award winning photographer, philanthropist, globetrotting standup comedian and owner of Lugar de Papi Azucar, Costa Rica’s only English language comedy club, where Harvey performs as his standup comedy alter ego, Papi Azucar.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My mother never liked the idea of me being too different or drawing too much attention, and once recommended that I try to be more like a kid named Billy. “But Billy is a moron, mom,” I said. “Yes, but Billy knows how to fit in and you stand out like a thumbtack on a toilet seat.”

If I was too different to fit in, I decided, I would just focus on getting good at the things I liked to do. I went to the library and taught myself the subjects I’d be studying the following year. I taught myself how to play piano and I rode my

bicycle all over town singing at the top of my lungs to develop my breath control. I also became an early hacker using my high school’s rudimentary computer terminal.

Though it had never been done before, I found a way to complete 4 years of high school work in three years, just for revenge against a kid a year older who claimed he was smarter than me. I even beat him to valedictorian.

While doubling up on courses to graduate early, I also beat the SAT starting with my hypothesis that the College Board — from a business standpoint — would be most vulnerable if anyone could ever successfully could win a lawsuit over a second answer that was also “correct”.

So I determined the College Board must have formulated objective bases for every correct answer to avoid lawsuits, and I trusted that I could reverse engineer the test by painstakingly studying it to discover the objective patterns

that ungird it. That’s how my 54 College Wizard® rules were born, enabling me to catapult my own disappointing 1200 PSAT score to a stellar 1580/1600 on my SAT. I began providing SAT tutoring to high school students with my SAT Codebreaker 54 System to make extra money when I arrived as a freshman at Dartmouth in 1976.

Dartmouth was a very conservative place back in 1976. I stuck out and I was miserable. I suppose that fact that I was banned from speaking at Dartmouth in many classes for my “off-center” remarks was a hint I was going to be better off as an entrepreneur than a company man in the future.

I quit my first job at an ad agency to start a personalized songwriting business back in 1986, and I haven’t worked a regular job since. My friends called me crazy until I started supplementing my income with the $150 an hour I figured out how to earn as a street musician.

The personalized songwriting company I launched quickly became profitable as well, but I wanted more.

I started a pregnancy massage business New York City back in 1991, which quickly grew to 7 figures.

I figured out how to beat the Google Adwords algorithm in 2003 and became one of the most successful affiliate marketers in the world, earning millions of dollars a year based almost exclusively on my copywriting ability.

When Skype became more popular around 2010, I disrupted the SAT tutoring industry by offering unlimited Skype lessons worldwide. In those early days, there was a lot of resistance to the idea of tutoring that wasn’t in person. Funny how the pandemic changed all that.

College Wizard® is another 7-figure business I built from scratch. Between all my ventures, I’ve probably earned over 30 million or so since 1986 and I’m completely self-made.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

My College Wizard® Program has completely reinvented the SAT prep and college admissions industry. Even John Katzman, the founder of the Princeton Review, an industry leader, exclaimed, “Well, Harvey, I guess I could say our systems are cousins of one another, but to be honest, I would be your very stupid cousin.”

As the Guy Who Beat The SAT, I guarantee 1530+/1600 SAT scores, Top 25 school admission, and full-ride merit scholarships — all for a fraction of the industry’s cost. While others charge up to $100,000 for the exact services I offer with no guarantee, but I’m able to offer a money back guarantee even though my all-inclusive fee is only $3900. The way I see it, if my creativity isn’t enough to get you in, it’s a matter of honor to simply refund my fee.

How do I do it? I’ve replaced the outdated billable-hour model with a results-driven approach. My operations in a tax-free zone in Costa Rica enable me to recruit superior educators at a fraction of the cost. This, combined with my proprietary, systemized teaching method, ensures unmatched consistency and quality.

But I don’t stop at test prep. I personally empower each student, transforming them into budding entrepreneurs and philanthropists in mere weeks using my marketing expertise. When students commit to my guidance, I can confidently guarantee their entrance into a Top 25 school (commensurate with GPA and class rank, of course.) It’s not just education; it’s a revolution.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I tell this story as a cautionary tale to marketers who fail to learn from their potential customers. It was 2003 and I was a bit desperate, because we were having some trouble getting paid by some large insurance companies. I sought an extra income stream, and my idea was to offer custom marketing consulting at a rock bottom price to ordinary people. I got on call after call, but nobody was buying.

On one call, I created what I thought was a brilliant marketing plan for a part-time mechanic. I advised him to advertise his “Dr. Auto” business in local throw-away papers in the used car section. The concept was that he would arrive on site to do pre-sale car inspections, getting not only paid for that job but also allowing him to compile a list of used car owners whose trust he had earned and who would therefore be long term clients. After my whole detailed presentation, his only response was, “Don’t you have some kind of booklet to sell me?” At that moment booklets were what people were used to, that’s what people wanted, and so I started selling booklets, too — copying other affiliate marketing ads and making them better. I guess you could stay I just stumbled into becoming an internet multimillionaire. And the lesson learned is: Give people what they want, which may or may not be what they actually need.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I never really had a mentor. More like anti-mentors. People telling me what I was trying to do was impossible. Never really had people who believed in me. But I used all the naysayer energy as fuel to prove that I could indeed do the impossible. And I have.

I do have to give recognition though to an amazing Dartmouth history professor — Dr. David Lagomarsino, who saw potential in me, encouraged me and made me feel good about my unique abilities. I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to thank him personally for my success.

I think the fact that I never really had a mentor motivates me to mentor as many students as I can through my College Wizard® Program.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

The truth is that evaluating disruption is always a matter of perspective. Recently, I had discussions with a magazine ad salesperson, and it was like watching a dying industry. Practically impossible for old school advertising vehicles to compete with platforms like Facebook and Instagram. For the old school advertising salesperson, it’s bad disruption. For an online marketer like me, it’s good disruption.

My goal as a disruptor is never to create “me-too” products. I’m not interested in doing what’s already being done. I’ve been called a visionary, so I do see things most others don’t, which is what makes me confident in the value of my disruption.

I see my College Wizard® Program as good disruption because I can not only save parents thousands and thousands of dollars, but I can save their children up to 90% in total preparation time. My clients see it as good disruption. But the competition sees it as bad disruption and have been particularly aggressive in trying to shut me down out of pure spite and fear.

But I think a good rule of thumb for disruption is that if you can create more benefits for the customer while offering profit to the entrepreneur, do it. Not many people can or will.

Can you please share 5 ideas one needs to shake up their industry?

1 . Look for status quo stupidity. Pay attention to things that frustrate you about how businesses are run, or things that seem illogical or inefficient. For instance, pretty much everybody in the college coaching industry uses a billable hour model for helping students write their college application essays, which inevitably results in a high volume of meetings being scheduled and paid for. Good for the consultant, bad for both the student and parent. So by using my College Wizard® Program “all you can eat” model with unlimited everything, I can do whatever is most efficient, and I do. One long draft written by the student and one editing round by me per essay reduces writing time from months to a couple of days, thereby saving students up to 90% in their essay writing time and ending up with a higher quality product.

2 . Hedge your bets. Anytime you are trying something new, it’s going to be risky. It’s better to never go all-in on an idea until it’s been validated. I always assume 90% of my disruptor ideas will fail, as long as I’ve got money in the kitty, I can survive long enough for one of my ideas to take off. Testing Facebook ads is a perfect example of this. Try 20 different approaches with just $5 behind them, and see which ideas get traction.

3 . Always be observing. Your mind should always be working to pay attention to human behavior and pick up on trends. I recently opened an outdoor nightclub in the back of my house here in Costa Rica, mostly to have unlimited stage time (which is the dream of any standup comedian.). But then someone in town asked if they could hire out the nightclub for their birthday party, and they told me what attracted them the most to my space was the fact that it was private, and so Costa Rica’s strict anti-smoking laws don’t apply. Turns out I’m the only event place in Costa Rica where you can smoke (even outside.). I’m currently capitalizing on my observation and marketing Lugar de Papi Azucar as a smoker’s paradise.

4 . Build an amazing team. This is a must for any good business, but if you are a visionary trying to disrupt, it is vital that you have the best people on your team and that they share your disruptive vision. I hired a high salaried Yale MBA not too long ago for the College Wizard®, and it was a bit of a disaster. The Yale MBA had a lot of trouble coloring outside the lines, so to speak, and I had to let him go. In contrast, I hired a teacher who had never made more than $3000 a month as a teacher, and she now earns mid 6-figures as my partner in disruption because she rose to the challenge and the opportunity I presented her.

5 . Allow yourself to dream. Probably the most important idea of all. Be very careful before you deem anything impossible. They said it was impossible to become a headlining standup comedian in less than 10 years or so, but I did it in 8 months because I knew my life story was so funny it would give me an edge on material, and it has. Not only have I headlined all over the world and built Costa Rica’s only English-speaking comedy club, but I can write material so fast, I’ve recently been accepted to attempt to win the Guinness World Record for Longest Standup Comedy Routine By An Individual.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

First, I want to get my SAT Codebreaker 54 system into every high school in the country because it’s simply a better system than what anybody else is using. I’m also working with local politicians here in Costa Rica to teach locals how to utilize the country’s advantageous tax system to harvest more American dollars. Costa Ricans are exceptionally well educated, and so I’m creating a digital marketing/AI training program here to allow Costa Ricans to beat out American businesses on an industry-by-industry basis.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

At a particularly low point in my life, a therapist gave me a copy of How To Make Yourself Happy And Remarkably Less Disturbable by the noted psychologist Albert Ellis. The therapist told me to read it. Reading that book completely changed my life. And it continues to do so to this day. Amazingly, all the book really teaches is that we control how happy or unhappy we are minute by minute based entirely on how we choose to frame our life. In other words, if you focus on why you should be unhappy, you will be. But if you focus on why you should be happy and joyful, you can feel that way instead.

For whatever reason, the book’s message got through to me, and I have followed it religiously ever since. When my only daughter died in a tragic accident in 2020, it was probably the greatest test of Albert Ellis’ advice. As horribly traumatic as my daughter’s death was, I immediately considered how long I would want my loved ones to suffer after my passing. And that change of viewpoint gave me immediate peace and the ability to start living life again must more quickly than anyone I have known who has been through the experience of losing a child.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is, “Success is doing what others are unable, unwilling or too scared to do.” I formulated this quote a number of years ago, in attempt to explain as simply as possible how I’ve managed to do all the “impossible” things I’ve done in my life:

• Started photo business at age 11 (1970)

• Beat the SAT (1975)

• Graduated valedictorian of the class ahead of me (1976)

• Earned $150/hr as a street musician (1986)

• Published songwriter in New York & Nashville (1987)

• Self-made millionaire (1998)

• Internet multi-millionaire (1985)

• Became a headlining standup comedian in a matter of months (2019)

• Bestselling author (2022)

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would like to make disruption something people welcome and participate in instead of fear. That could be truly world changing.

How can our readers follow you online?

Visit my website and followme on social media for my disruptive views on college admission.
WEBSITE: https://thecollegewizard.net

YOUTUBE: https://youtube.com/c/harveywizard

INSTAGRAM: https://instagram.com/officialharveywizard

FACEBOOK: https://facebook.com/collegewizard

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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