Give Your Grades a Boost: How to Find the Right Tutor for You

by Therese Pope

As a re-entry student, you may find yourself in need of a tutor to help boost your grade. As a professional copywriter with a background in journalism, I moonlight as a tutor and assist students with their English and writing classes. I tutor re-entry students who have never taken a college-level writing course and/or are required to pass a writing class in order to maintain their current job position.

Math and writing are must-have skills you need no matter what career path you choose. However, math and writing does not always come easy to re-entry students. If your grades have slipped and you need extra help with your classes, here are five tips to help you find a reputable and experienced tutor.

1. Take advantage of your college’s tutoring center. Most college campuses provide on campus tutoring centers and services to their students. These tutoring services are usually free or cost a nominal fee. If you aren’t familiar with your college’s tutoring center, ask fellow students or your professor for help.

Tutoring centers often lead study skill workshops and connect you with tutors who have taken that specific class before. On-campus tutors also provide more than just writing expertise and assistance. They can also assist with organizing assignments, time management, and studying for tests.

2. Hire a fellow student. If your college doesn’t have a tutoring center on campus, seek out a student who performs well in your class. For example, an English major will have strong writing and critical thinking skills. They can easily assist you with writing composition and research papers. If you struggle with statistics or accounting, seek out a business major (or recent graduate) who received an A in the class.

College students are always looking for extra ways to earn money. Fellow students are more likely to cut you a break with reasonable tutoring rates. Another option is to negotiate and barter tutoring services. For example: if you’re an accountant and you’re a whiz with numbers, you can offer to help a student with a statistics class in exchange for writing assistance. If you cannot find anyone in your class to assist you, ask around for tutoring leads (see #3 below).

3. Reach out to friends, family, or a business professional within the community. Before you hire a professional tutor, connect with your personal network of friends, family, and colleagues. Do you know someone who is an English teacher who might be willing to tutor you during the weekends or evenings? Ask around in your community. There are kind and generous business professionals (i.e. writers, accountants, scientists, etc.) who enjoy helping college students and might be willing to tutor you pro-bono (for free).

4. Search online for an experienced tutor. There are college professors and high school teachers who moonlight as part-time tutors on weekends or during evening hours. If you have access to a Web camera and microphone, you can hire an online tutor and work from the comfort of your own home.

If you feel more comfortable meeting a tutor live and in-person, there are reputable companies that provide offline tutors. Check out the top sites below to find reputable and dependable college-level tutors. The fees and the tutors’ expertise vary for each site so make sure you properly research and do your homework first (see #5 below).

Some sites offer free minutes for signing up. Remember to read all the fine print before you agree to their terms of service. Many of the sites have tutors available around the clock. If you attend college in the United States and need writing assistance, make sure that your tutor is a native American English speaker and writer. British English has variations in its grammar and spelling.
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5. Ask specific questions before hiring a tutor. Before hiring a tutor to help you, it’s important to first talk to them. Ask questions such as, how many students have you tutored? Were you able to help them improve their grade? It’s important to review their resume/CV and ask for professional references. Make sure they have expertise in your class subject, are good communicators, and can effectively explain concepts to you.

Tutors don’t necessarily need to be teachers. However, if you feel more comfortable working with a teacher, seek out an experienced teacher with the proper credentials. Remember that an experienced teacher may charge more money for their fees. As mentioned above, teachers and professors sometimes tutor on the weekends and evenings. When hiring an online tutor, look at their reviews and testimonials from other students. Seek out tutors with high ratings and positive reviews.

When I work with new students, I set up an initial tutoring session (with an agreed upon fee) for one hour. This allows us to see if we’re a good fit and if we work well together. If the session does not go well and/or if you don’t care for the tutor’s personality, then you can politely thank him or her and seek out another tutor who is a better match.

Additional Tips: You don’t need to feel embarrassed about hiring a tutor. As a re-entry student, you may just need a push in the right direction. Be patient when working with your tutor. Depending on how much you struggle with the class, you may need only one or two tutoring sessions or you may need to consistently work with a tutor a few days a week. It’s better to be proactive and hire a tutor rather than fail and have to repeat the class.

Don’t be afraid to approach your professor for assistance. Sometimes professors offer extra credit assignments to help improve students’ grades. Remember that a tutor is meant to help and guide you with homework assignments, but they will not do your homework for you. Ethically, it is considered plagiarism for a tutor to complete homework on your behalf so keep that in mind when working with a tutor.

If you find yourself struggling with your classes, working with a reputable, experienced tutor can be a win-win situation and can help you boost a failing grade.

Therese Pope is a professional copywriter with a B.A. in Journalism. She moonlights as a tutor for college students and assists them with writing classes. Therese is also an online community teaching assistant for the University of Pennsylvania’s Modern & Contemporary American Poetry online course.

Tutoring at a Glance
1. Many believe tutoring should be used for remedial purposes, helping underperforming students raise grades to a passing level. However, all students can benefit from tutoring, and enjoy increased levels of academic success. 2. Having a tutor does not show that you’re not intelligent enough to master the material alone. It could probably be said that students who know how to utilize a tutor to raise their GPA are actually “smarter” than those who struggle through without assistance. 3. If you are taking an introductory college-level course in a complex discipline (i.e. biology, chemistry, mathematics, or physics), working with a tutor can assist with questions and provide effective strategies to move forward with difficult parts of the material. 4. General skills tutoring services address include: Computer proficiency and knowledgeability. Strong computer skills are becoming increasingly required in college and at the workplace, and many schools provide tutoring to help students become comfortable with ever-changing technology. Library skills. Information literacy is necessary for academic research, and universities may offer special workshops to help students efficiently browse catalogs and search online databases. English, mathematics and writing.  Most schools have a writing center or math lab available for students to brush-up on or increase abilities. English or ESL courses are also offered. College success.  If you are returning to college after some time in the workforce, introductory courses on achieving success in college are often available to help jump start your return to learning.