It’s no longer a stigma to ask for extra help.
Almost 65 percent of students in one Dallas suburban school district used a tutor or received after-school coaching in the classroom, according to a 2011 study reported in D magazine.
“Sometimes kids ask for it, sometimes parents,” says Libby Sassano, a private tutor in the Ridgefield, Conn., area, who works with high school students. “Parents know when the grades start to go down or when their kids are really stressed out.”
Our experts say a tutor or coach can build the confidence so critical to success, whether it’s in a high school subject or test prep for the SAT or ACT. But there are so many options: help from teachers or peers, online coaches or classes, test-prep groups or one-on-one tutoring. How do you know where to start or questions to ask a tutor?
Here’s where to start, whether you’re looking for a summer tutor or for support during the school year:
1. Figure out what you need.
Talk with teachers about what you need. Organization? Stress tips? Comprehension? “I have a student who I work with in mostly English and history, but when he started to fall in math, I could help him because it wasn’t the content that was impeding his learning, it was, ‘How do I access this information?’” says Anna Kontos, a private tutor and learning specialist in the Boston area.
2. Consider styles.
Are you disciplined enough for an online course? Assertive enough for a group setting? Someone who needs one to one? Consider that online tutoring has become increasingly sophisticated. A 2011 article in Educational Psychologist says studies have found it to be almost as effective as personal one-on-one sessions.
3. Use the community grapevine.
Through another mom at the gym, Karen Glou Joseph, from Natick, Mass., connected with Prepped & Polished, a tutoring and test-prep firm in Wellesley, Mass. First, Joseph only wanted to assess if her daughter should take the ACT or the SAT. Then, she signed her up for one-on-one test prep.
4. Consider costs.
Khan Academy, through a deal with the College Board, offers free online tutoring for the newly designed SAT. A 30-hour SAT-prep online class through Princeton Review runs about $1,600 per person (four-student maximum). Private tutors can range from around $50 to hundreds an hour, depending on locale and expertise. Negotiate, Joseph says. For example, do fees have to be paid all upfront, or can you pay as you go?
5. Check all resources.
At Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, a public Grade 7-12 college-prep exam school, teachers, an on-staff test-prep specialist and student tutors help after school, during study halls and on Saturdays, says Tanya Ficklin, the head guidance counselor. Her office maintains a list of free peer tutors. The district also has recently purchased ALEKS, an online service that uses artificial intelligence to assess and help with math and science.
6. Look for a good match.
Meet the tutor before you pay any money, says Alexis Avila, owner and founder of Prepped & Polished. “Even if it’s for 15 minutes, it’s important. It’s an investment,” he says. Isabel Arthur, 18, now a senior at Natick High School near Boston, worked with a Prepped & Polished tutor on SAT prep who made her feel “really comfortable.” “I think that’s huge,” she says, “and I wouldn’t have done as well if we didn’t have that relationship.”
7. Create a team.
Ask your school if a tutor will be allowed to meet with teachers, work with a student on school property or attend learning conferences. At the very least, be sure everyone – teacher, student, parent, tutor – is communicating, says Kontos. “I don’t want to be any family’s dirty little secret.”