Study Central: Preparing for tutoring sessions


Melissa Schmitz, OPINION EDITOR

As a chemistry tutor, I have many appointments each week for classes that are pretty tough and with a lot of information to handle. I enjoy being able to help these students, but I can only do so much. The same goes for any other tutor. Our job is to help you learn and excel in your classes, but we can only do that as part of a team effort that also includes your professor and you. If you’re planning on making an appointment for tutoring, ask yourself the following questions.


Am I going to class?

Believe it or not, sometimes just copying someone else’s notes is not enough for you to have a solid understanding of what’s going on in your class. Even if you’re reading the book as well, there is no replacement for going to class. There’s a good chance that your classmates take very basic notes [i.e., literally just copy down what’s on the board or slides and that’s it] and will not include seemingly unimportant little quips from your professor during lecture. What could you possibly be doing that’s a better use of your time than going to class? Probably nothing. If you’ve been ill, that’s of course a very different situation that should be discussed with your professor. Tutors can help you catch up if your professor isn’t available after missing a class, but tutors are not a replacement for lecture.


Am I keeping up with the book?

This may not seem that important since, after all, if you’re going to class, your teacher should theoretically be teaching you what’s in the book anyway, right? Not really. If you’re an underclassman this is something you need to realize now: Not all professors test on just the lecture material. In fact, many professors use lecture time to merely highlight the most important material while leaving you responsible to learn the rest from the book. This is less often the case in lower-level courses, but it’s a good habit to get into now. Even if you currently have a professor who is strictly lecture-only on tests, the book is still a very valuable tool [monetarily, especially] because oftentimes hearing about the material in just one format [i.e. your lecture] is not enough for you to learn from. Learning from this second format will give you another perspective of the material and give you the opportunity to practice it.


Am I doing my homework?

I bring this up because, again, while it seems obvious, there are reasons it might not be for some people. Perhaps you’re taking a class where the homework is something you actually have to turn in. If that’s the case, this probably isn’t a problem for you. [If it is, that’s an entirely different discussion.] However, some professors provide homework problems that are strictly for practice and are not required to be turned in. This is usually what gets people. If it’s not mandatory that means I don’t have to do it, right? That’s technically right, but professors wouldn’t be spending the time to hand pick questions from the book if he/she didn’t think it would be helpful for you to practice. So do them!


I’ve done all of that. Now what? If you’ve answered yes to the previous questions you are pretty much all set to come to your tutoring appointment. Many people come to us at that point but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to go about it. Every person is different and will have a different tutoring experience, so it’s always helpful to go a little bit further with your preparation. Help us help you.

  • Write down in your tutoring request the topics you need help with. Many students write very vague descriptions of what they hope to accomplish in the appointment such as, “Chapter 7”, “materials for the test this week”, or worst of all, “review”. Please do not do that. While it is true that us tutors have excelled in the classes we tutor we are human and will not remember every detail on the spot. It’s important we know what you need help with beforehand so we have time to prepare.


  • Bring in a few questions you want answered. You don’t have to have a long list of questions for the appointment to run smoothly. Even as little as one or two could be enough to get a conversation going and prompt more questions from you. It’s always helpful to have something, though.
  • Be sure you attempt any homework you need help with first.To be blunt, us tutors are not here to do your homework for you. If you slap a freshly printed stack of homework papers on the table all we can do for you is help you work through the problems. That may sound fine to you, but remember that tutoring appointments have a time limit. It would behoove you to get as much done as you can before the appointment so we can spend the most amount of time helping you understand the material, and efficiently.
  • Don’t forget. 

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