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Tutor Is Not a Four-Letter Word

Through connecting with students in a personalized, 1-to-1 fashion, tutors create confidence and accountability in a way that parents and teachers often just can’t.

The word “tutor” can elicit a variety of reactions.

Lots of people think tutoring is just for failing students who require remedial support - you only get a tutor when you’re in over your head. For others, “tutor” conjures ideas of helicopter parents pushing their kids to extremes. And almost everyone considers tutoring to be a premium service - something only rich families can really afford.

Wyzant was founded in 2005, and we recently reached our 10 millionth hour of tutoring. This means we have a lot of data and insights on tutoring, and we’ve noticed: for many folks, there’s a stigma - “tutor” is a bit of a four-letter word.

We’re here to challenge that. First, let’s get our definition straight.

What is a tutor?

A tutor is, simply put, a private educator.

But they’re more than that, really; tutors are coaches, study buddies, and mentors. In connecting with students in a personalized, 1-to-1 fashion, tutors create confidence and accountability in a way that parents and teachers often just can’t.

In the case of Wyzant, tutors are independent, and work with one student at a time, in real-time. They’re in control of which students they help, their own schedules, and other facets of their businesses. Each one teaches “students” (a sometimes-misleading term, since thousands of people who hire tutors are not, in fact, in school) in hundreds of different subject areas, ranging from algebra to Japanese to web design and beyond.

Myths about tutoring

Let’s address a few common misconceptions.

MYTH: Tutoring is something to be embarrassed about

For some, having a tutor seems to indicate one is academically “weak”, or not “smart enough.” Here’s the real story, though: everybody has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. And no one learns in the exact same way (just ask any teacher). Needing help in order to learn something new is, well, perfectly normal.

While there may naturally be a bit of humility in asking for help, remember: a tutor’s whole job is to help you understand…not to remind you of your shortcomings. Tutoring is a judgment-free tool to help anyone succeed, regardless of their age, learning style, or level.

MYTH: Tutoring is not affordable

The average hourly rate on Wyzant is $45/hr. What’s more, there are currently more than 10k tutors that charge $35/hr or less. Compare that to the price of a degree ($20-50k/year), a coding bootcamp ($10-20k), or even some pay-to-access web courses, and it’s easy to see how personalized sessions with a tutor can actually be a cost-effective method of learning something new.

When looking for a tutor on Wyzant, you can even choose your own rate by simply filtering results for any subject you search. Additionally, most tutors are willing to change their rate depending on any number of factors, which is why our Customer Support team always urges students to reach out to tutors that may seem expensive. More often than not, both parties easily agree on a perfect price.

Read more about putting the cost of tutoring in perspective by clicking here.

MYTH: Online tutoring is not as effective as in-person

Here’s the truth: With the right tech, the right tutor, and clearly defined goals, everything you can do during an in-person session can be done online. From discussing material in real-time and collaborating on a shared whiteboard, to solving problems, editing drafts, or learning how to draw, online lessons are (pardon the pun) virtually identical to meeting in-person.

These days, too, online lessons are just the safer method.

MYTH: Tutoring is only for remedial students

Traditionally, it’s true: parents with struggling students have sought out tutoring to make up lost ground at school. But while this is often the case, a significant number of professionals (and just adults interested in learning new stuff) choose tutoring for skills development, enrichment, and important test prep. The value in direct access to an expert, regardless of what you’re learning, can’t be overstated, and shouldn’t be relegated to simply helping with homework. For many working adults, a tutor is actually the more straightforward, efficient way to beef up a resume.

MYTH: Tutoring is only helpful for academics

While it’s true that 8 hours of tutoring can result in a whole letter grade of improvement, it’s important to highlight the tutor-student connection, and how it affects self-confidence.

A self-confident student is a student who is more likely to participate, ask questions in class, and seek out clarification of concepts. Students that struggle academically, however, often find their self-esteem quickly fades when classwork becomes difficult to grasp. With that loss, they can experience a decreased ability to learn new content and apply classroom material effectively…which leads to low grades.

Through individualized attention within a peer pressure-free space, a less-confident student can begin to feel more comfortable asking questions, discussing what they need more help to understand, and tackling their material with more confidence. The work they do with a tutor focuses on areas specific to their learning, removing the worry that they’re not “getting it” as quickly as their classmates.

The result? We’ve heard time and time again from students that the relationship between them and their tutors was what steered them back on track.

Top four reasons people hire a tutor in 2020

Let’s be real: times have changed. The reasons people seek out and hire a tutor have changed with them.

1) School closures - Demand for online tutoring for elementary students has expanded over 500% on Wyzant since April 2020. The major contributing factor? The US’s sudden switch to online learning as a stand-in for the traditional classroom.

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Parents, of course, are stressed. They’re keenly aware of the importance of developing foundational skills during the elementary years, but the fact is: it’s harder to learn when school happens at home. In response, parents and families are turning to personalized tutoring both to provide trusted guidance to their at-home students, and to help themselves manage remote learning at-large alongside their other responsibilities.

One more thing: parents intuitively understand that their kids need kind, human support. They’re hiring tutors in record numbers not just for homework help, but to provide social interaction, trust, and sometimes, just a cheerleader who can motivate their at-home students.

2) Skills development - Nearly half of people who hire a tutor on Wyzant are not enrolled in any sort of degree- or diploma-granting program. They’re not students! Rather, they’re learning something for work. Or fun. Or just because they finally have time to devote to developing a new skill or revisit an old passion.

Increasingly, we see people turning to Wyzant because they want to learn how to code their own games, study chess, confront their fear of public speaking, try sewing, or max out their proficiencies in software programs (like Adobe Photoshop or Tableau). People also hire tutors to practice foreign languages they haven’t used since high school, brush up on their email writing skills, or even learn to paint with oils or play piano.

This tells us two things about tutoring: it’s a highly flexible, convenient way to learn nearly anything, and you don’t need to be a literal student to work with a tutor.

3) Moving up the curve - Think tutoring is reserved for “bad” students? Think again. Among academic learners, only a small percentage of the students who come to Wyzant are failing. Most, in fact, are making average, even superior grades, but aren’t satisfied with their performance or need help staying on track.

Among academic learners, only a small percentage of the students who comes to Wyzant are failing

Academic tutoring is effective for students who are struggling in school, yes, but it’s an equally powerful resource for students with great grades. Tutoring helps them manage their responsibilities, reduce stress, and prioritize.

Tutoring lessons are always personalized, which means they’re custom-built to cater to your specific needs. No time is wasted on the stuff you already understand, so your learning focus remains squarely on your unique needs, subject weaknesses, and style of learning. Best of all, tutors make the learning process fun and interesting, which helps you build that all-important confidence we mentioned above as you go. When’s the last time you said that about a classroom lecture?

4) Getting ahead - Everyone knows calculus and organic chemistry are tough subjects. And very few people show up to the LSAT, MCAT, GRE, or GMAT without significant preparation (not to mention the hundreds of high-stakes professional licensing exams like the NCLEX, CFA or Bar Exam).

Increasingly, we’re seeing learners take proactive measures to get prepared well in advance of difficult courses and tests. Much like in sports, practice and preparation are often the difference between success and failure. And just like a great coach, a tutor can help you design the right practice regimen so that come game day, you’re ready to go.

The bottom line about tutoring

Tutoring is a lot of things: a way to efficiently expand your skills and explore more opportunities, affordable on almost any budget, and an indispensable tool for anyone (at any age) who wants to take their success into their own hands.

What tutoring is not, however, is a four-letter word. At least, it shouldn’t be.

While private tutoring probably won’t ever replace the traditional classroom, it’s more common than you might think. The myths and misconceptions surrounding tutoring are easily debunked upon close examination. Once you experience the flexibility and efficacy of learning on your own terms, you’ll get why 1-on-1 tutoring is the best way to learn anything.