When planning to hire a tutor, timing is crucial.
Experienced tutors know that the timeline will be different for ongoing academic tutoring, for a specific academic project or for test prep. So let’s take a look at the ideal timing for these three distinct areas.
If you’re planning to hire a tutor to deal with one or several areas based on your child’s performance during the previous academic year, you should find the tutor before the school year starts. This will let you set up a tutoring game plan for the year.
If you discover that your child needs assistance during his or her academic year, pre-planning obviously won’t be possible. In that situation, you’ll want to get a tutor engaged as quickly as possible.
For academic tutoring, it might be necessary to meet two or three times a week at the beginning, and then ease back to once or twice a week once the student seems to be getting a handle on the subject.
When a project comes along, such as a science competition or a history term paper, it’s a good idea to involve the tutor in the selection of the project or the topic.
Many students wind up getting themselves into a pickle when they pick a topic that seems appealing, only to find later that there’s very little source material for them to work with. Having guidance from the beginning of the selection process (and from the beginning of the search for prospective source material) may be key.
A good tutor will help improve your child’s research skills, as well as help the student realize when a topic is too narrow, too broad or too obscure to be good for a project.
As for standardized tests, depending on the student’s extracurricular commitments, the timing to start tutoring is earlier than many parents realize.
If you have a student who is on three sports teams and will be active in athletics throughout the academic year, the summer prior to 11th grade may be a good time to start prepping for the SAT or ACT. This would also be true if you’re looking at 8th-grade testing for entering high school, and the student needs to take the tests in the fall or early winter.
Starting the process in July or August, which allows four to six weeks of tutoring time that is not competing with homework, can be tremendously useful. If you’re planning on doing testing in the spring, getting started in the fall is fine; if you wait all the way until winter, the timing might get a little tight.
In essence, you are looking at a four to six month lead time for test prep. This does not take into account known issues with standardized testing, or students with learning disabilities. In those situations, you may want to allow for more lead time, even upwards of 12 months in very severe cases. For instance, if you have a student who is an “A” student at a high-quality high school, but his or her initial testing is far off—an initial score of 1200 to 1400 on the SAT or around 20 on the ACT—planning 8 to 12 months of prep would not be absurd.
This presumes that during the school year the frequency of appointments is once a week for an hour to an hour-and-a-half. One advantage to those summer weeks is that the frequency of the appointments could be two or three times a week, depending on what other commitments the student has already.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to devising your timeline for tutoring, plan well in advance whenever possible. Tutors will do their best work when given time to plan and structure the tutoring experience appropriately, and when given time to fully understand the student’s needs.
By Jonathan Arak of Noodle Pros