BY SYLVIA KOHL
There are several reasons why you might be struggling with a specific subject. You might have a professor who’s hard to understand. You might have missed a few lectures due to illness or a family emergency. Or maybe the subject has just never come easy to you.
In any case, you’re not on track to get the grades you want, and you feel like you’re behind the other students in your class. One option is to hire a private tutor to help you get back on pace, but is this the best way to go?
Initial Steps to Take
Before hiring a private tutor, there are a few steps you should take to gauge how far behind you are, and potentially catch up:
- Invest some extra time. You’ve probably already taken this step, but just in case—take some extra time to review the material. If you budget 5 hours a week for studying, add two more hours specifically for this subject, either considering the coursework or finding online resources to guide you. In a couple of weeks, you may find yourself understanding it better.
- Talk to other students in your class. If you’re still struggling, have a conversation with the other students in your class. If everybody’s struggling the same as you, it means something’s wrong with the class; if nobody’s struggling, you may be able to ask them for advice or help.
- Talk to the professor. Talking to your professor is never a bad idea—they’re here to help. Ask them for pointers, or explain that you’re struggling; they may be able to offer you different coursework (unless you’re trying to get out of a test last-minute).
Pros and Cons
There are several options for where to go from here. For example, you could double down on your studying habits, you could work with a study group to improve collectively, or you could consider retaking the course at a later date. Hiring a private tutor is another viable option, and offers unique pros and cons that the other possibilities can’t.
- Dedicated attention. First, private tutors will give you specialized attention that you won’t find in a classroom or group studying setting. They’ll be able to adjust their instruction to fit your strengths, weaknesses, interests, and personal preferences. It alone may be enough to help you overcome your academic obstacles. You’ll spend extra time on your most difficult challenges, and you’ll have a coach to keep you motivated along the way.
- Incentivized, structured time. Private tutors are also an excellent way to hold yourself accountable. If a group session meets twice a week and will continue regardless of whether or not you’re there, it’s easy to skip or show up late. But when you’re paying out-of-pocket for a tutor in a dedicated session, you’re much more likely to show up on time, every time.
- Of course, you do have to consider the cost of a tutor. If you pay one of your peers to help you out, you can probably negotiate a low rate, but if you want an experienced professional, you might have to pay hundreds of dollars. On top of your other college costs, this can be financially crippling.
- Priority shift. Some research indicates that students working with a private tutor may be less inclined to attend their traditional classes; they believe tutoring is enough to help them succeed, which makes the traditional classroom less efficient. Fortunately, this disadvantage is easy to overcome, so long as you’re aware that it’s a possibility and are willing to work proactively to prevent it.
How to Choose a Tutor
Let’s say you’ve decided to hire a tutor. You should know that not all tutors are alike, and there are some key criteria you’ll need to consider when reviewing your options:
- Training and education. How familiar is this person on the subject you’re struggling with? Have they had any formal training in the education field?
- How long has this person been a tutor? Are they professional, or are they doing this on the side for a few extra bucks?
- How much does this person cost? How do other tutors compare?
- What kind of goals and coursework is this tutor prepared to offer? How long will it be before you’re ready to move on?
- Spend some time talking to your tutor before hiring them. Do you enjoy their company? Are they easy to get along with? This is more important than you might think.
- How available is this tutor? Will they be able to meet with you around your schedule, and keep that schedule consistently?
For many students, hiring a private tutor is the best possible choice to recover from an academic slump. For others, it’s an expensive distraction that may pull you away from your classes and primary studying strategies. Understand your studying style, and don’t be afraid to draw on other resources for help; just make sure you know what you’re getting into before you make a final decision.
Sylvia Kohl is an IT teacher with more than 8 years of professional experience. Her main spheres of interest are e-education and she convinced that learning process doesn’t stop after years in school and university.