The tutoring industry is a mess. You have individuals and companies offering tutoring anywhere from $20 an hour to thousands of dollars per hour. How can you determine who to trust? How can you even determine your budget?
In this article, I’ll explain what to look for in a good tutor, and how to decide whether the price is right.
Let’s get started.
What to Look for in a Good Tutor
If all you want is a structured study plan that you can follow, it shouldn’t be too hard to create one by yourself. If you just want clear explanations for particularly abstruse subjects, Khan Academy happens to be a great resource that is also free. Why bother with tutoring, then? Because tutors have so much more to offer, in terms of both content and content delivery.
A guide needs to be familiar with the terrain s/he is guiding you through. Personal achievements are a prerequisite for being a good tutor – High academic standings (M.A. or PhD candidacy, awards & scholarships, GPA and standardized test scores), teaching experience, and positive student reviews. “Been there, done that,” basically.
In addition to the subject matter, you’ll also be learning your tutor’s approach to studying in general, which you can then apply to any other subject in the future. Ironically, even though you need these skills to excel in school, they aren’t something that you get taught in school. Most people have to figure it out by themselves, and having a tutor is like having a veteran soldier personally accompany you through a battlefield, showing you how to handle each situation as it arises.
Sometimes, you want more than just a quick solution to an impending academic challenge – you want to cultivate interest in a field for intellectual enrichment. Maybe you suddenly discovered a burning passion for physics, and would like a passionate physicist to assist you in uncovering the secrets of the universe. Or maybe you’re a parent of a middle school or high school student, and would like your child to have a positive role model to look up to. A regular presence in their life who is smart, trustworthy, relatable, and inspiring, capable of helping out not just with academic subjects but also with personal development. Tutors tend to be one of the best candidates for the role of a personal mentor, because they’re young enough to care with passion and old enough to speak with expertise.
Tutoring is just as much about the tutor’s communication skills as it is about how well they understand the content. The more experienced the tutor, the more adaptable their teaching methods will be. New tutors usually start out with a teaching style that is particularly effective for a certain type of student, but the best tutors have seen it all and know what to do for any student in any situation.
This is more important for teaching than people would usually expect. Given how diverse people tend to be, it’s rare to come across somebody who really gets you and speaks your language. We’ve all had the high school math teacher who tried very hard to be funny and entertaining, but it just didn’t work – What you want is the cool literature professor who can always grasp your attention because he’s always on your wavelength. Sharing hobbies and interests can work wonders for boosting morale, and it can also provide a rich bank of illustrative analogies to draw from when you encounter a particularly abstract concept.
Tutoring isn’t about cramming things in last-minute – it’s about pacing your studying over a period of time to achieve maximum efficiency. Constant rehearsal and practice is important for memory retention, and while it’s easy to maintain a good study schedule for one or two subjects, more often than not, students have to juggle four, six, sometimes even eight or ten subjects at the same time while also tending to clubs and extracurriculars on the side. Freeing up time is more easily said than done, and having an experienced tutor to help you adjust your study schedule as you go can save you a lot of stress, especially when unexpected circumstances arise. It’s why every sports team needs a good coach to manage the growth of each individual team member.
How to Decide if Tutoring is Worth the Cost
With tutoring, you need to identify what you actually want: A $100/hour tutor who can give you exactly that is better than a $50/hour tutor who can’t deliver, and a $300/hour tutor might be your best option if the stakes are high. You should always have a clear understanding of what you’re aiming for, and pay attention to the cost-effectiveness of your purchase.
Here are three main points you should take into account when evaluating your budget for tutoring:
- High levels of academic expertise, positive mentorship, and personal fit can be quite rare, so they might be valued higher depending on what you’re looking for.
- The importance of studying techniques and supervised rehearsal depend on how organized the student is and what good learning habits the student already has. It’s best to have a good tutor teach you these skills the first time around, so you can keep benefiting from them later on.
- Personal fit and teaching experience might be more important to an unmotivated student than to a highly motivated student, and they might be valued more highly when you’re trying to cultivate interest in a subject than when you’re studying for a standardized test.
Given the state of the tutoring market and how personalized tutoring can be, it’s impossible to provide a list of “fair” prices, as it can fluctuate greatly depending on the demand. However, that also means it can be tailored to each individual much better than a standard lecture class, so when you’re looking for a tutor, making sure to find somebody who can give you exactly what you want.
Get to know some of our featured tutors on our Tutor Spotlight: