Finding a tutor can be a daunting experience. You may feel like you’re not “struggling enough” to deserve help, or that accessing tutoring is “cheating”. You may be ashamed that you’re not able to do the schoolwork on your own. You may be worried about others finding out you’re seeing a tutor. The reality is that none of the above is true. People access tutoring for all sorts of reasons. They may not be able to effectively understand the way the material is presented in class due to having a different learning style than the way the instructor teaches. They may need additional support due to learning disability. They may simply just want a little bit of extra help and support to improve their grades even if they’re already doing well without tutoring. All of the above are valid reasons to come to tutoring. There are no wrong reasons for getting a tutor.
One of the first things you should do when considering tutoring is to figure out what you want to get out of it. Do you want one-off help right before a final exam? Do you want someone to help explain things in a way that makes more sense than what you’re getting from school. Do you want someone to help you understand the material on a deeper level instead of just memorizing things? Do you want the tutor to help you learn better strategies for studying, test-taking, and essay-writing that you can use throughout your academic career? Setting up and clearly communicating realistic expectations for yourself and your tutor can be helpful to both of you.
There is a lot of conflicting information about what makes a “good tutor”. Some people believe in a results-focused definition like “a good tutor is the one who can get you the best test score”. Others embrace a more holistic approach like “a good tutor is one who helps you have the most positive educational experience balancing achievement and minimizing stress”. Most people believe a good tutor is one who will help you achieve a thorough understanding of the material and equip you with the confidence and ability to apply it in practical situations, as opposed to just memorizing answers for a test.
A good tutor will be supportive and caring, but will gently push you to be the best you can be. They will listen to your limitations and comfort, but not allow you to rely too much on them or get out of doing the work themselves. A good tutor will believe in you and create a safe space where you can comfortably ask any question you want to know the answer to, without fear of judgment or shame.
Before you approach a tutor, you may want to consider looking into them online. Many have information available about their specialties, experience and pricing. Some offer a sliding scale for lower-income clients, while others do not. A lot of them may have public reviews or testimonials. You don’t just want to go with the tutor who has the highest reviews – you want to look at the quality of their reviews/testimonials and make sure they’re being recommended by people who have similar issues and needs to you, so that you can find the right match. The best tutor is the one that is the right fit for you personally, not the one that worked well for somebody else.
It’s important to know that you have a right to ask your tutor questions, especially before or at your first session. A good tutor will allow you to ask questions because they understand the importance of it and how it can build trust and help new clients feel comfortable. Many tutors will offer a free initial consultation to find out if you’re a good match. A good tutor wants to make sure they can actually help you – they aren’t just interested in taking your money.
One of the first questions I suggest asking is “How will I know when I don’t need a tutor anymore?”. I always say that as a tutor I strive to work myself out of a job. I will continue to support you as long as you need, but my end goal is to equip you with all the skills and tools you need to succeed academically on your own.
It’s okay to ask to change tutors if you’re not feeling the right trust/connection, if their style isn’t a good fit, or if you feel you are not progressing as much as you would like. Your tutor doesn’t have to be “bad” or have done something wrong for them to not be the right fit. When you ask to terminate the professional relationship and find someone else, your tutor should be professional, polite, and respectful about it.
Searching for the right tutor can be a tricky experience. Some people find a tutor who they work well with right away, while others may find their first tutor doesn’t work out and they need to keep looking. Hopefully, asking questions can help you to sort through the options available to you and find what you need. Overall, know that you are valid to want to “tutor shop” and find one that you feel more comfortable with.