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How to Choose the Right Tutor

Authored By: 
Aviva Patz, Contributing Writer

One-on-one attention from the right tutor can make all the difference in your child’s academic success.

“If kids are out sick when the class is learning five-paragraph essay writing or they just never grasped fractions, they will stumble and get farther behind every time those things come up,” explains Maren Holmen, Academic Liaison at The Beekman School in Manhattan, which specializes in accredited tutoring for high school students. “The right tutor can help get those skills bumped up so your child can continue learning with everyone else at grade level.”

Whether your child needs to brush up on French conjugation, crack the code of advanced chemistry or just improve focus and time management, connecting with the right expert is key.

Finding a Tutor
Begin by asking your child’s teacher or school administrators for a list of recommended tutors. Friends and family may also be able to offer personal referrals. Next, consider reaching out to official tutoring services, such as The Tutoring School at The Beekman School. “They’ll be a little more expensive than a tutor you find on Craig’s List, but you have the benefit of their being pre-screened,” Holmen says.

A local resource such as the Parents League of New York (parentsleague.org) can point you to specific tutors as well as to referral services and tutoring centers. If your child needs course credit, make sure to seek out a center that is accredited. Expect to pay around $40 to $50 an hour for a college student with minimal experience, about $75 to $100 for a freelance professional tutor, and anywhere from $100 to up to $500 an hour for a tutor from a private service or center.

The Right Qualifications

The beauty of private tutoring is that you can cater to your child’s specific needs. Here’s what to look for:

  • Relevant experience. The tutor should have a background or expertise in the subject your child is learning, though PhDs are not required. “It’s not about the number or type of degrees they have,” Holmen says. “Tutors who keep an open dialogue and are flexible in the way they work with individuals will be able to meet the needs of most students and most learning challenges.”
  • Good fit. Consider the type of teacher who best reaches your child—whether it’s a man or a woman, someone older, who commands their respect, or someone younger, to whom they can relate. What’s the tutor’s personal style? Someone who is very approachable or uses humor may ultimately be more helpful than someone with an impressive résumé.
  • Logistics. Where will the sessions take place—at your home? The tutor’s home? The school? The local library? Make sure you and your child are comfortable with the arrangement. If transportation is an issue—you live in a remote spot or are often traveling—consider online tutoring. And when it comes to setting a schedule, research has shown that multiple weekly sessions are more effective than just one. You can always cut back as needed.

Next Steps

Check a prospective tutor’s references and don’t be afraid to ask for evidence of his or her successes, such as higher test results, improved grades and positive feedback from teachers or parents. See if you can arrange an initial meeting—and bring your child so you can gauge the chemistry.

Discuss what you’re looking for and your scheduling needs and see how well they match the tutor’s strengths and availability. Request a trial run and then have a follow-up conversation to see how it’s working. After each session, ask the tutor what’s expected of your child before the next meeting and any suggestions for ways you can offer support.

Finding the right tutor is not a perfect science. “It’s not like going to Amazon for one-stop shopping,” Holmen says. “Ultimately, you want someone who will really reach your child and help them thrive academically.” Stay engaged throughout the process and follow up as needed to make the most of the relationship.