In the 2009 film The Blind Side, the tutor and my favorite character Miss Sue, played by the charming Kathy Bates, wouldn’t let Michael quit when he became fed up with writing assignments, algebra problems, and choosing the best college. Miss Sue was an important presence in Michael’s life because his adoptive parents recognized their son was struggling and needed help.
For current high school students, effective tutoring can help them fill the academic gaps they need to help them get into college, with many recent gaps caused by COVID-19. All students suffered a loss in learning during the pandemic, and yours may need some extra help. Good tutors can determine a student’s unique skill set, help them focus on their strengths and improve their weaknesses, come up with a solid academic plan, and measure the student’s progress.
When should you consider a tutor?
Admitting your student is struggling is never pleasant, but the benefits of help outside the classroom speak for themselves. Here are some warning signs that might lead you to consider private tutoring for your student.
They’re struggling or falling behind
It’s important for parents to respond quickly if their student’s grades are dropping. There are many factors that could lead to poor academic performance, and hiring a tutor is a great way to assess any underlying issues. Tutors have a different vantage point than teachers, as it’s often difficult for a teacher to assess the situation when they have 25+ students in a class. Many teachers will work in collaboration with the tutor, but it’s the responsibility of the parents to facilitate that discussion.
They’re losing confidence
A lack of confidence can leave students reluctant to complete work and prevent them from reaching their full potential. Ultimately, this is what tutoring is all about—not only picking up on problem areas but highlighting skills and offering the personalized encouragement needed to offset learning anxiety that could otherwise lead to academic delays. This support isn’t always possible in a crowded classroom, but a tutor or other outside support network can fill it.
They’re feeling stressed
Today’s high school students are inundated with pressure about grades, college, and the future. Preparing for college is an exciting time, but it’s also extremely stressful. If you notice stress is causing academic difficulties, a tutor can help your student focus on their strengths and work through any stress caused by the rigors of preparing for college.
They need help preparing for standardized tests
Standardized testing is stressful at best and terrifying at worst. But working with an experienced private tutor offers a huge advantage in preparing for them. By devising a blueprint for studying for the SAT or ACT, students can reduce their anxiety and drastically improve their scores. Ultimately, a good tutor will help target strengths and weaknesses, alleviate stress, promote motivation, and help students develop test-taking and study strategies they can utilize later.
Related: The 3 R's of Overcoming Test Anxiety
What makes a good tutor and where to find one
Your student’s tutor should be able to assess and understand their needs before starting the tutoring process. Experts say a good tutor should be able to recognize your student’s strengths, work on their weaknesses, and guide their learning. The goal is to teach them to study independently by providing the proper skills and tactics needed to achieve success. Additionally, your student should look forward to their sessions and feel more confident after each one. A good tutoring relationship can do more than just improve academics. So where do you start looking for a tutor like this?
Ask for help at their high school
Depending on the level of help your student needs, you can start your search for a tutor at your student’s high school. Ask relevant teachers for help finding tutors or tutoring resources. You can also consult high school counselors who may be able to recommend local tutors or can provide student tutors; some high schools offer student-led tutoring sessions after school in specific subjects.
Private tutoring centers give students assistance in a group setting, usually with two to four students per tutor. Your student won’t necessarily receive the one-on-one learning experience they’d get with a private tutor or tutoring service, but there’s still a lot to offer. There are companies like Sylvan Learning Center and a number of private companies that offer tutoring through partnerships with libraries and community centers. These learning centers typically offer tutoring for last-minute questions as well as ongoing academic needs.
Online tutoring options have exploded with the widespread use of Zoom during the pandemic. With so many tutors in these online networks, you’re not just limited to the tutors who are available in your immediate area. That means within minutes, your student can be connected to an expert in whatever subject they need help in.
Private in-person tutoring
Your student may be more comfortable with in-person tutoring. Most tutors have backgrounds as teachers, professors, or professionals in specific subject areas. Many are experienced in providing standardized test tutoring as well. The advantage of this type of tutoring is your student can establish a strong relationship with their tutor—who can also serve as a mentor—and you have the opportunity to personally observe and witness your student’s progress.
How much should you spend on tutoring?
Tutoring prices vary depending on the type of tutoring your student receives. For instance, the cost of private tutoring can vary depending on where you live; it’s generally more expensive in large cities and metro areas where the cost of living is higher. If your student has learning differences, you’ll likely pay a higher fee because the tutor will adjust lesson plans to fit their needs. Tutor.com provides parents with a list of average tutoring prices:
- Private tutor: $25–$80 an hour
- Online tutoring: $25–$50 an hour
- SAT & test prep: $45–$100 an hour
- Tutoring centers: $150–$200 per month
Obviously, tutoring services at public schools are free, but be aware that this option is limited by the resources (or lack thereof) the school has access to.
Don’t wait to step in when you see your student struggling academically. They most likely won’t ask for help, and a student who struggles in high school will likely struggle in college as well. Take the first step by talking to your student and their teachers and counselor. Determine what type of help they need and do your research. Making an investment in their learning can give your student confidence and assurance academically, helping them make the right college choices. So invest in their future by choosing the best tutoring option for your student and budget.
Find more great advice to help your student navigate high school and college in our Parents section.