Finding a tutor for your high school student might seem like a simple task, but there are many factors to consider.
You want someone experienced enough to teach at your child’s grade level, who is an expert in the course or courses most challenging to your student, and who has the academic ability to improve your student’s grades. But you also want someone who fits your schedule, budget and student’s learning style.
One option might be searching your student’s high school for a suitable tutor. Also consider in-home, classroom-based or online tutoring from professional tutors or tutoring services. This guide will help you determine what route is best for you.
There are some telltale signs when a student needs help with schoolwork, including:
- It’s too difficult for the student to finish or keep up with homework.
- Hours of studying don’t result in strong grades.
- Schoolwork is too much to handle, and grades are slipping.
- The student is frustrated, and it’s affecting his or her confidence and willingness to go to school.
Parents might be tempted to ignore these problems and think the student needs to learn on his or her own how to manage difficult academic situations, especially in preparation for college. But if students work with the right tutor, they can get the kind of help they need before they give up on the class – and possibly on school itself.
Any student who needs to build study skills overall or in particular courses would benefit from working with a tutor.
Tutoring can be a lifeline for students with learning disabilities or who have difficulty in a particular subject, such as English, math, science or a foreign language. The one-on-one attention from a skilled tutor can help these students deal with their unique challenges and get crucial feedback.
More successful students can benefit, too, from tutoring sessions that improve study skills, confidence and overall interest in school. They’ll be challenged in a way they might not be in class, which can help them prepare for more advanced classes in high school and college.
There are several types of high school tutors, ranging from a high school classmate who works with your student at school to a professional tutor who visits your home or conducts training online.
You can find the ideal tutor by evaluating your student’s needs and planning out your budget and schedule. For example, a weekly online tutoring session might work well for a student with a full class schedule and several extracurriculars.
Personalized Study Plan
Number of Subjects Offered
|In-Home Tutors||$$||Yes||Yes||Typically One|
A personalized, one-on-one tutoring program is the most expensive type but also is likely to produce positive results. With private tutoring, the student and his or her needs are the sole focus, and working at home or in a community space like a local library can make learning more comfortable. Also, by being in the same room, the tutor can react to the student’s body language, which can help build understanding and trust during sometimes difficult study sessions.
In-home tutors are also more likely to be local and possibly from the same school district, which can make it more likely that they have experience with the class or teacher giving the student the most difficulty.
The goal of classroom tutoring is to build a structured, base-level understanding of a particular topic for a group of students.
While students with a private tutor receive one-on-one attention based on their needs, students might not know what their full needs are. With classroom tutoring, the instructor covers the most important parts of a particular course or topic, to make sure everyone learns the basics.
If students are too shy to ask questions, they can learn from ones asked by their classmates. These courses, usually taught by professional tutors at a tutoring service or center, may take place after school or at night and are often less expensive than private sessions.
Online tutoring provides flexibility for students whose busy schedules make it hard to arrange a private tutoring session. And for students who live in remote areas, online tutoring offers access to professional tutors.
If students need to reach a tutor right away, some services can connect them to an expert in minutes. Having an online tutor may be particularly useful to students whose school was closed due to the coronavirus or for those who are home-schooled.
The cost is usually less than for private, in-home tutoring, and sometimes instruction is free. However, even the best online connection can’t replicate reading the body language of someone in the same room. Technical difficulties – especially if the student or tutor doesn’t have up-to-date technology and a strong internet connection – can cause problems.
Possibly the most convenient and affordable tutoring option is enlisting a fellow student or teacher in your child’s own high school. Other schools in the area, organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and local and state government agencies may also offer free tutoring.
Most high schools offer free tutoring services from students who have excelled in a particular subject. Teachers also are usually available to help at designated times during the day or before or after school.
Using a student tutor might be less effective, since a professional tutor likely has stronger credentials. Additionally, the free tutoring sessions might be situational – dealing with a particular test or project – and not ongoing, on-demand or as personalized as other options.
Tutors can help students:
- Be more successful in school. Sometimes all students need is a bit of help getting through a rough patch in a class.
- Build better study habits. Some students never learn the best way to study. Through tutoring, they might develop study skills they can carry through high school and possibly earn better grades as a result.
- Get challenged. School can get boring for high-achieving students, and it might take a tutor to give them the academic challenge they need.
- Get individual attention. Your student’s learning style might be dramatically different from others in the same class. Outside of normal class time, tutoring gives students the kind of individual attention they may need.
- Encourage independence. The goal of most parents is to have motivated students who can effectively handle day-to-day coursework. Working with a tutor could help build those skills.
- Overcome academic roadblocks. Instead of letting your student say he or she is “bad at math” or some other subject, a tutor can help the student overcome these issues and improve test scores.
- Prepare for college. Working with a tutor on study plans for challenging high school courses can ready students for what’s to come.
Tutoring services are usually charged on the half-hour or hour. While in-school personal tutors are usually free, professional tutors – whether on their own or through a referring business – will charge.
The fees for independent tutors are often based on their experience level, location and travel time. For example, an experienced tutor who has worked as an educator might charge $25 and up for a half-hour of personal math instruction, while a high school student who works as a private tutor could charge much less.
Some businesses work on a subscription model, providing 24/7 access to tutors with a variety of hours-per-month options. For example, a plan that provides one hour per month could cost $40 per month, while a plan that offers three hours might cost about $115. Another package could be for a bucket of hours over a longer time period, such as 50 hours over six months for about $1,500.
Classroom tutoring businesses generally charge less per student, but you’re not getting the same amount of personalized attention as you would in one-on-one tutoring.
The most affordable option is the free tutoring offered at high schools through students and teachers.
Tutors can provide valuable instruction in a particular subject and study skills training, but it’s important to not overestimate the effect they might have on a high school student’s academic success.
When a student has a problem in a particular subject, a tutor who has a track record of success in that academic area can be a valuable resource and possibly turn the student’s grades around.
Tutors can improve students’ study skills, which are vital for success in college.
Sometimes assistance from an interested and experienced third party such as a tutor can build a student’s confidence in one or more subjects and enjoyment in school overall.
Not all students have the ability to attain high test scores in every class, and it’s unrealistic to expect a tutor to change that.
If a student has emotional issues that are unrelated to academic performance, it’s best to address those separately and possibly delay the introduction of a tutor.
Just because a tutor charges a high price doesn’t mean that person is that much more effective. It’s more important for a tutor’s approach and experience to gel with the student’s personality and needs.
Tutors are offered for a variety of subjects. Make sure to hire one who has specific experience in the area where your student needs help.
Chemistry, Physics and Biology Tutors
Students taking science courses might find themselves struggling with new concepts, like the periodic table, thermodynamics or the structure of a cell. A tutor who has a background in the subject is extremely valuable for a student struggling in class.
Trigonometry is a challenging math topic that requires students to have foundational knowledge in the subject as well as keep up with new concepts, models and laws as the year goes on. A tutor with a strong background in math is most effective.
Tutors concentrate on a variety of algebraic skills with the student, including equations, formulas, word problems, polynomials, graphic equations and algebraic expressions. Be sure the tutor has experience in the appropriate level, which can range from pre-algebra to algebra II.
Students who study precalculus are expected to know the concepts from all math learning before this course, including algebra and trigonometry. Students might need assistance with expressions, functions and inequalities, which means the tutor needs a background in those subjects as well.
Tutors focus on key concepts, such as integrals, limits, derivatives, chain rule, Riemann sums and Newton’s method. A tutor can help a student learn the key concepts for each of these areas before moving on to the next. A tutor with the highest level math skills is the best choice for this topic.
English is a foundational subject, so by the time students reach high school, they are expected to have a strong knowledge of spelling, grammar and sentence structures. A tutor would be expected to brush up students’ skills in all of those areas and more, as many subjects are dependent on solid English skills.
High school students will be expected to have adequate writing skills during their college years and when they start in the workforce. A writing tutor works with a student to communicate clearly and persuasively, elevating their writing skills.
Spanish, French and German Tutors
Foreign language tutors help students master grammar and basic speaking skills, as well as writing and reading. French, German and Spanish are some of the common languages taken by high school students. It’s important in all of these subjects to master the basics of a new language because rules tend to build on one another. A tutor needs an advanced command of the language to help students gain knowledge and confidence and learn proper pronunciation.
Tutors for students with learning differences should have previous experience in that area as well as appropriate mastery of the subject your student needs help with.
It might require a longer search to find a tutor who is experienced and qualified enough to address the needs spelled out in your student’s individualized education program, or IEP.
Whether your child has an autism spectrum disorder, ADHD or language-based learning disabilities, or is hard of hearing or visually impaired, the tutor ought to be able to adjust his or her teaching style to accommodate. If you’re in a small town or remote area, you might need to look online for an appropriate tutor.
Ideally, the parents, teachers and tutor work together to ensure the tutor knows the student’s relevant history and needs. Patience is key, for both the tutor and parents. It might take longer than expected, such as more than one session per week, to make progress, but the student should improve through repetition and reinforcement.
Preparation for the ACT, SAT, PSAT and other college-related assessments should focus on the topics covered on those tests, to make sure the student has a strong foundational understanding. Only after that should the tutor delve into test-specific tips.
Look for test prep tutors who provide a personalized plan for the student. This is especially important if the student has taken a PreACT or PSAT test that shows particular strengths and weaknesses. Tutors should focus the instruction on the areas that need the most help, giving the students tips for tackling test-specific sections and question types
Private test prep tutoring often takes place over several weeks, giving the tutor and student a chance to work on the areas that need the most attention. Some programs are all in a classroom setting, providing the basics to a group of students. Others combine the two.
Some high schools offer test prep within the school, and a few even offer a semester long class to prepare for the ACT or SAT.
If a student needs tutoring for an Advanced Placement test, consult the course’s teacher. It’s likely some class time will be dedicated to reviewing for the test. Otherwise, a tutor might be able to provide specialized instruction for an AP test plan.
Choosing a tutor is a process that should take into consideration your student’s learning style, your schedule and your budget.
The type of tutoring your student needs should be a key factor as well. For example, if your student is trying to get through a difficult unit in a class, a few sessions with a student tutor at the school might be enough. But if your student’s ability to get into a college or earn a top scholarship is riding on a certain ACT or SAT score, a private tutor might be the best bet.
Questions for a prospective tutor or tutoring service should cover:
- Relevant experience. Just because a tutor has experience in a particular subject doesn’t mean it’s at the right level. A student in AP chemistry and one in an introductory course have vastly different needs.
- Approach. You want to make sure the tutors or tutoring services you’re considering understand the particular problem your student is facing. Their answers can give you a good idea of whether they have a track record of success addressing the issue in their clients.
- Partnership skills. A tutor with a go-it-alone approach might not be ideal for a child on an IEP. Students with learning differences benefit from a team effort that includes school professionals and parents.
- Proof of success. You should be wary of tutors who make unrealistic promises of grade or test improvements. But make sure they have a track record of success, including references.
- Scheduling and availability. Many high school students lead busy lives, and it might be important to not let tutoring sessions limit their ability to work and enjoy extracurriculars and time with family and friends. Flexibility is important.