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6 Things to Look for When Selecting a Tutor for Your Child

A student waving hello at her virtual tutor.
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Thinking of hiring a tutor for your child? Here’s what to look for when selecting a tutor, be it for a younger student or high schooler.

As more schools switch to an online or hybrid format, parents are scrambling for extra help. The main concern is helping their kids understand or grasp difficult concepts without face-to-face instruction. Many parents fear their kids will fall behind in the year to come.

If you can afford it, we recommend starting your tutor search early. The more assistance you can recruit during the pandemic-madness, the easier your child’s at-home learning experience will be.

Experience

It’s important that your tutor has in-depth knowledge, experience, and successful results helping students improve in the subject at hand. The sessions will be more productive if a tutor can approach the topic from all angles and explore deeper concepts with a creative approach. It’s not enough that he or she passed one class with an A.

Look for someone who specializes in that topic. For example, if your child’s struggling with AP calculus problems, look for a college student who’s majoring in math. Likewise, a native French speaker will be best-suited to help your child with her French studies.

Of course, it’s also okay to hire someone below college level in situations where the stakes aren’t so high. For example, a high school student is perfectly capable of drilling your fourth-grader on his multiplication tables.

Passionate About the Subject

It’s important that a tutor actually likes the material your child needs assistance with. Tutoring is a job and, like any other, you’ll encounter people who are bored with it.

There are plenty of people who totally love math, science, languages, history, and so on. So, spend some time searching for a tutor who’s really excited about the topic. That kind of passion will go a long way in sparking your child’s interest, as well.

An Ability to Connect

A young girl smiling at a joke her tutor made.
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A tutor might be a perfect match for one child, but not another. It takes a bit of trial and error to find the right fit.

A good tutor should take a few minutes to connect with your child at the start of each session. He or she might ask your child about her interests and struggles or discuss her goals. Finding someone who’s capable of creating a solid rapport with your child should be a priority.

If you find your child’s tutor struggles to build a connection, you can help them out. Mention a few things your child is into, and see if the tutor can spark a natural conversation. If not, it’s okay to move on to someone else.

Availability

Make sure to discuss your family’s needs up-front. If your potential tutor has limited availability and your child needs a ton of support, keep searching. You want to find someone who’ll have the time and energy to work with your family regularly.

If you find a good match, go ahead and schedule weekly sessions for the coming school year. You can always cancel if your child is on track. It’s better to set aside the time in advance, just in case.

Pricing

Tutoring fees vary depending on the age of your children, their level of education, and how advanced the subject matter is. On average, private tutors cost between $25-$80 an hour, which is quite a range!

If you’re looking for someone to help your third-grader with her math problems, you can easily find a high school student in the lower pay range.

However, if your teen is struggling with her honors statistics class, or your college student is pulling her hair out trying to understand bio, you’ll probably have to pay a higher premium.

If the cost simply isn’t feasible, but your child definitely needs the help, there’s another option you can try. Ask the parents of another student or two in your child’s class if they’d be interested in sharing a tutor and splitting the cost.

Virtual or In-Person

A young girl working in-person with her tutor on math homework, using books and a tablet as reference materials.
AstroStar/Shutterstock

There are plenty of online tutoring services that existed well before the pandemic. Of course, now that everyone is switching to an online format, you’ll have even more options.

First, try to find someone local by searching Facebook groups, college message boards, or even Craigslist. This might give you the option to switch to in-person sessions down the road, if necessary.

If your child is struggling with a virtual format, you might also want to consider a socially-distanced session. For example, perhaps they could work in your backyard while wearing masks and staying six feet apart.

If you can’t find anyone locally, here are some of our favorite services:

  • Tutor.com: Offered by The Princeton Review, this service has a range of tutors, including Ivy Leaguers, doctors, and professors. The tutors also regularly publish informative articles. Plans start at one hour per month for $39.99.
  • Care.com: You can search for tutors in your area, with rates starting at $16.25. All of them have a profile that includes reviews and their level of expertise.
  • Smarthinking: Pearson offers a wide range of tutors and 90 percent of them have a master’s degree or doctorate. They’re ready to help with math, science, nursing, writing, and more for $45 an hour.

Sometimes, you need someone highly specialized to address a very specific problem or topic. For example, my husband runs Chapel Hill Math Tutor. It helps build individual curricula for homeschoolers and gifted children who are craving more than what their current grade level offers.

If your child really just needs more challenging material in a particular area, seek out someone who specializes in that area, with an emphasis on advanced skill-building.


A tutor might be just what you and your child need to get through this school year. Spend some time interviewing candidates. You just want to make sure they’re experienced in the subject and are able to connect with your child.

Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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