When to Hire a Tutor

How do I know when I should hire a tutor for my student?

There are a lot of reasons to consider a tutor for your student—from falling grades to test prep or academic enrichment—but before making the commitment, it’s important to define your student’s needs and goals.

Photo by  Rachel  on  Unsplash

Photo by Rachel on Unsplash

Tutoring can boost confidence, build knowledge, and provide useful strategies for studying and test-taking, but it is not a substitute for the classroom.

Tutoring is an investment of both time and money. With the exception of things like test prep or high school and college admissions tutoring, it can be a long time before you see consistent student improvement.


Here are some common reasons parents hire tutors and some key considerations for each:

Standardized test prep.  Test-prep tutoring is very common and is usually short-term, lasting only 2 – 3 months. Most standardized tests are more about strategy than subject-area knowledge, so tutoring (combined with student practice) can be very effective to increase test scores.

Students should take at least one, but ideally two or more practice tests before committing to a tutor. A diagnostic test will help you get the most from a test-prep tutor.

When to get at tutor: If practice test scores are a lot lower than you are hoping, or your student has test anxiety, a tutor can help to familiarize them with the test and provide strategic guidance.

When not to get a tutor: If you have a motivated student who is performing slightly below where they want to be, try out a Kaplan or Princeton Review test prep book. The easiest way to improve scores on standardized tests is practice! 

Falling grades and academic performance. It’s very common for students excel in some subjects and struggle with others. Science and math are frequent challenges and writing skills may be impacting performance in multiple subjects.

If your student has started a new grade, a new school, or even just a new unit in one of their classes, their grades might suffer. Always talk to your student about their grades to make sure the problem is academic and not personal.

When to get a tutor: If a student has shown consistently poor performance in a subject area, a subject-specific tutor can be helpful to provide clarity and further explanation on topics learned in school. If they are struggling across areas, study skills tutors may be the best option.

When not to get a tutor: If a grade suddenly drops, it may be due to a change in what the class is studying. A single bad test is not an indication that your son or daughter  needs academic support. Talk to them about why they are struggling. If your child is feeling anxious about starting a new school or other life change, there will be an adjustment period. A tutor probably won’t be able to help much with non-academic concerns.

Academic enrichment. For high-achieving students, an academic or skill coach may be the best option. Examples of this include: learning a language not taught at school, acting coaching, private chess lessons, or advanced subject tutors to design projects.

When to get a tutor: If a subject area is difficult to learn independently, like a musical instrument, a tutor would be a great bet. This is also a good option for students who need more structure to stay motivated.

When not to get a tutor: If your child tends to jump from hobby to hobby, you may to let them explore things independently so you don’t invest time and money in something they’ll lose interest in. Or, for very independent students, YouTube tutorials, books on the subject, and internet research may be enough.