Tutoring in Graduate School - Everybody Wins

Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated December 2010

As a graduate student, you have gained a great deal of knowledge over the course of your previous studies, and you can use your skills to help enhance those of other students through tutoring. Not only does this help future academics, but it puts extra money in your pocket, too, and that should be music to any graduate student’s ears.  Plus, tutoring will help you strengthen your own skills as you head toward your final higher education push.

Many schools have peer tutoring programs through which you can tutor your classmates, but you can also look into tutoring high school students or become an undergraduate tutor. While some schools prefer to have their tutors certified, there are plenty of students who need help that do not go through those channels.  You can offer your services as a tutor without being certified, but you will likely earn less money that way.

What makes a good tutor?

Tutors encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning while being flexible enough to meet their needs. Tutoring students requires the ability to recognize the areas in which the student needs help, not to mention a healthy dose of patience and planning. Since each student has different needs, it is your job as a graduate student tutor to identify those needs and tailor the instruction accordingly.

When you become a graduate student tutor, you must establish a schedule and challenge your student to adhere to it. It is important that the tutor/student relationship be one based on respect and mutual confidence. Your student should be clear on what is expected. Students require feedback and encouragement from their tutors.

Breaking up tutoring sessions into manageable segments makes things easier for the tutor as well as the student. Beginning on time and ending on a positive note is helpful to both tutor and student. You will find no true right or wrong way to tutor, but creativity and imagination are essential. However, it is not right to do the work for the student, no matter how much easier it may seem at the time.

Successful graduate tutors impart their knowledge without being intimidating to their students. They maintain confidentiality and work hard to help those they tutor to become independent students. They communicate with students on the students' level, and clearly state instructions, questions and answers. Successful tutors do not allow students to simply "get by," and thus develop proper standards that match the student's needs and abilities.

As a graduate student tutor, you do not have to have all the answers. If you and your student come across questions you cannot answer, say that you will research the answer for the next session. Don't be afraid to ask for help if and when you need it - this is your chance to interact with professors outside of the classroom and in a different capacity. You will benefit from interaction with a professor outside of the student/teacher relationship.

Benefits of tutoring

Whether you are an undergraduate tutor or are tutoring high school students, you will reap serious benefits from your experience. You will enhance your logical thinking and creativity, as well as your organization, time management, communication and interpersonal skills. Tutoring is a learning experience for the tutor as well as the student. Tutors gain and use techniques that improve their own reading, writing, listening and speaking skills.

Besides having the satisfaction of helping others, graduate student tutors gain a deeper understanding of the topic they are teaching. Tutoring reinforces the concepts and ideas you have already learned. Taking on the responsibility of augmenting another person's learning helps you further develop maturity, as well as psychological insight. Catering to the needs of others can lead to better insight into your own needs.

Tutoring can benefit your career as well. It is another addition to your resume and your interview discussions when job-seeking. The authority a tutor cultivates can often carry over to a career later on. Just as one of your goals for your student is increased confidence, you will become more confident as a result of being a tutor.

Graduate students are busy - often with work, family and school. The additional money from tutoring can be of significant help, and it is a job that can be convenient. Tutors work with their students to set up a schedule, so they only work during hours that fit into their lives. For time-conscious grad students, tutoring can be the perfect job.

To get started tutoring you can visit the student help center at your school to see if you can get added to the list of tutors. You can also look into getting a certification, which will lead to better pay. However, you can always post your services on a communal bulletin board at or near your school in order to attract potential students. Once you get started, you are likely to enjoy the mutually beneficial relationships you will forge as a graduate student tutor.


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