Back to School Help: How to find a tutor

August 9, 2011 10:02:40 AM PDT
With back to school season well underway, in addition to getting children ready for the first day in class, many parents of high school juniors and seniors are thinking about getting their teen ready for college prep testing like the ACT and SAT.

Caitlin Hofnerr, the founder of Alter Ego Concierge, a domestic staffing agency in Chicago has some advice to help parents find the perfect tutor for their child's needs.

1.) How parents can begin the search for a tutor?

Parents can try various methods--word of mouth, a reputable agency, or the school. A tutoring agency is often a preferred choice because you will always have a back up tutor available, or can easily switch if the tutor's style isn't effective for your child's particular needs. Be cautious of school rules--many schools have a conflict of interest clause where a teacher cannot tutor one of their students.

2.) What questions should parents be asking when they do find that tutor.

  • Credentials, Degree, Major--and verify each of them!
  • Track record--what has their success rate been? Are there any statistics from previous experience that back up their success rate?
  • For college entrance exam prep, parents should look for a tutor who scored extremely high (93-95% and above) on their own exams. They should be experts in their particular subjects.
  • Previous experience with particular age range, disability, teaching style, etc.
  • How long until a parent/student can see results? How much of a time commitment is expected?
  • Reliability- will the tutor have the flexibility to be available for additional sessions if requested, etc.
  • Location- does the child need to go somewhere, or can the tutor come to the home? Does the tutor recommend a more effective location than the home?

3.) Is there financial help available? Are their free tutors anywhere?

Some schools offer free tutoring, and in some areas there are community centers or after school programs that are little or no cost to attend. Each depends on your area--inquire with a teacher or administrative staff at your child's school.

4.) What's the difference between ACT/SAT? What's changed over the years?

The general differences are in the structure of the two tests. The SAT has 10 sections (Critical Reading, Math, and English--including an essay) and is said to be favored by East Coast Schools. The ACT has 4 sections (English, Math, Reading, & Science, along with an optional essay) and is said to be favored by schools in the Midwest and South.

Up until 2005, there was no writing on the SAT. The biggest change over the years is really that most colleges will accept either ACT or SAT scores now--which means you can choose the test in which you feel that you will score best on.

    Other differences:
  • Penalty for guessing on SAT, but not ACT.
  • The ACT is entirely multiple choice (except the optional writing section)
  • ACT tests English grammar
  • There is no science or trigonometry on the SAT, but the writing section is mandatory on the SAT.

5.) Has the any portion of the test become more important over the years?

The most important thing for a student is to take every section seriously. They are all a factor in the overall score. It's more important to adequately prepare for sections that may not be a strength. Practice tests are a great way to determine what sections are strengths/weaknesses.

6.) What kind of score are colleges looking for these days? Are they different for different types of schools?

Scores are of course different depending on where a child wants to attend a school. Every student should have a list of their colleges broken down into 3 tiers--reach, match, and safety. It's a safe bet to apply to at least 6-7 schools, 2 of which should be your safety schools. Make sure you review all of their admission criteria--not just tests scores but GPA, essay, class rank, etc.

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