Three Quick Steps to Find the Best Tutor Now

Posted by Laura Mayer | September 3, 2016


Unadorned notebooks, unblemished binders, freshly-sharpened pencils, and a clean academic slate: the new school year is about to start.  Your student may even be ready to stroll down the halls in fresh attire (perhaps of the latest fashion).  But is your student ready for the up-coming academic challenges?  Or are you taking a “wait-and-see” approach?  In other words, are you considering hiring a tutor now or will soon?

Either way, finding the right tutor can be daunting with so many choices: local and national companies, freelancers, in-home, at a center, online, etc.  You also need to be strategic in hiring the right person for the job, so your money and time don’t go to waste.

Here’s a “no-fuss” guide—in three quick steps.  (And for an even simpler route, check out this flowchart!)

Step #1: What is your purpose for hiring a tutor?  This will be the foundation for your tutoring choice.  The following purposes are generally ordered from the least to the most complex cases—but your student may need a combination of these supports.

  • Homework Help – Your student has a difficult time completing daily assignments and you just don’t have the time to help. Or perhaps she just needs to stay organized with assignments, stop procrastinating, and turn them in on time.  Study skills also fall into this category.
  • Skill-Building – Your student is getting less than 75% in one or multiple subjects and needs extra practice with these skills. Can your student pass the SOLs?
  • Advanced Subjects – Also a type of skill-building, but with more complex math and science courses, e.g. physics, chemistry, calculus.
  • Test Prep – Your student needs to prepare for and/or improve SAT, ACT, AP, etc. scores.
  • Remedial Support – Your student practices skills, but still does not seem to improve or is several grade-levels behind. At this point, he has been struggling for years and has developed a negative attitude toward school. He may be recommended for the school’s special education program or may already have an IEP or 504 plan.

Step #2: What tutoring credentials are essential for your purpose?  How can you be sure you’re getting a high-quality tutor?

  • High School or College Students – Ask about SAT/ACT/AP scores, current and overall GPA, degree focus, and experience working with students. With strong credentials, these tutors can definitely assist with Homework Help and Skill-Building.  They are probably not best suited for the more advanced purposes due to lack of expertise.
  • College Graduates – Ask about overall GPA, degree(s) earned, and experience working with students. With strong credentials, these tutors can also assist with Homework Help and Skill-Building.  However, choose a tutor with a degree in the tutoring subject for help with Test Prep and Advanced Subjects.
  • Certified Teacher – Ask about overall GPA, degree(s) earned, certification subjects/grades, and experience as an educator. These tutors can support any purpose but may have an area of expertise.  With training in both the subject of their certification AND in pedagogy (teaching methods), this is the “gold standard” of tutors.
The Quickest Tip
Looking for the best tutor? Get a certified teacher. With training in both the subject of certification AND in pedagogy (teaching methods), this is the “gold standard.”  Teachers are the ONLY experts in tutoring.

Another issue with credentials: how do you know the tutor is safe?  Ask for proof of a national and local background check.  Certified teachers are often pre-screened for safety, but state laws vary if it is a condition of certification or employment.  Therefore, if the teacher is currently working in the classroom, asking isn’t necessary.  But if a teacher is not currently employed, ask for one anyway (and ask why the teacher left her job).

The Quickest Tip
No matter who you hire, ask for proof of a local and national background check–especially if working in the tutor’s home or if a tutor comes to your home. Tutors who have worked for a large company or school have already been screened; so providing that proof isn’t a big deal.  Do not assume every tutor is safe.

Step #3: What is the cost?  Tutors deserve to be paid fairly while all students deserve access to a good-quality education.  The tutoring cost depends on many factors; so take these into consideration lest you be ripped off!

  • Credentials – The more education and the more experience the tutor has, expect to pay more.
    • College Students should charge the least at an average of about $25/hour in the DC Metro Area. High School Students charge even less.
    • College Graduates will charge more but range the most. In our region, if they are tutoring an Advanced Subject expect up to $100/hour.  However, expect an average of about $30/hour for those with just a Bachelor’s and/or a Master’s degree.
    • Certified Teachers (who also have Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees) will also range in price but deserve to charge higher; so expect an average of $65/hour in our area.
  • Field of Study – As a general rule, the more advanced or competitive the material, the more tutoring will cost. For instance, secondary (6-12) tutoring will cost more than elementary; calculus tutoring will cost more than algebra; SAT/ACT/AP prep will cost more than SOL prep, etc.
  • Other Factors – Tutors can charge more if they have a proven record of results; their expertise is in high demand; and/or they have extensive experience.
The Quickest Tip
Most tutors are college graduates. Some have a degree in the tutoring subject and experience working with kids. But if they charge way more than $30/hour in the DC Metro Area, you’re not getting a fair deal.

These three, simple steps should help you find the best tutor based on your student’s needs, the expertise required for the purpose, and a reasonable price based on credentials.

If you want a recap or don’t have time to read, check out “An Even Faster Way”:




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