Information compiled by the team - last updated November 2010

Do you find yourself struggling with a particular aspect of your graduate education?  That’s okay – it happens to everyone, and there is a simple way to fix the problem.

Now, being the top graduate student that you are, you no doubt possess a great deal of knowledge and expertise in your field of study, right? Keep in mind, however, that that doesn’t mean you can’t use some academic help from time-to-time. It doesn’t make you any lesser of a student. To the contrary, seeking help to better yourself makes you the ideal student, because it shows an even greater desire and willingness to learn, and to improve your skills. 

With that in mind, we want to offer a suggestion: consider being tutored.

Don’t shut down your mind.  Don’t click off this page. Hear us out – it could help you exponentially on your path to your next degree.


You may be a wiz in most subjects, but there could be that small something that keeps stumping you, and frustrating you.  Participating in tutoring allows for a more individualized, structured learning experience that is tailored to your specific needs. It may also make up for any lack of instructional support you feel in your courses, which can happen when students used to constant lectures first experience the teaching styles found in a typical graduate class.

Getting tutored in graduate school is more common than you may think, and it can help you improve your academic progress as well as offer you a chance to make a connection with other graduate students at your school. Your graduate education is too valuable for you to sit in classes feeling confused when assistance is out there. Graduate students need to take more responsibility for learning than they did as undergraduates, and this is one of the easiest and most effective ways to do that.

Why get tutored in graduate school? 

Tutoring is not just for students who are having trouble academically - it is an excellent way to receive advanced instruction. If you are considering getting tutored in graduate school, you should first ask your professor to identify the areas where you should focus your efforts. That way, you can approach a tutor knowing the specifics about what you need help with. You will find a number of ways to connect with a qualified tutor, but your first best bet will be simply to ask the professor for suggestions, and for names of his previous students who are available to give you help in a given course or on a specific subject within that course.

Tutors can help you with:

  • Note-taking
  • Test-taking and review
  • Problem solving
  • Stress management
  • Reading and writing skills
  • Time management skills
  • Editing

There is no shame in asking for help. Some graduate students get involved with tutors in order to improve their work, as well as their attitude, in a certain subject area. Tutoring allows students to get more intensive practice in the areas in which they feel lacking, or in which they simply want to know more. Getting tutored in graduate school provides students with personal and academic support, and can help boost self-esteem.

Many graduate school personal tutors are (or recently were) grad students themselves. Being tutored by a peer (and by one who has been there, where you are, and has survived the very challenges you face) will help establish a mutual respect between tutor and student. Peer tutoring fosters a non-threatening environment and builds an atmosphere of trust. One of the best parts about peer tutoring is that it doesn't have to cost a thing. Many students sign up as free tutors at university help centers. You may also be able to locate a fellow student who can help you in one study field, while you help him or her in another.

If the tutor does charge you for assistance, and that person's help leads you to deeper knowledge of your field, or of a particular course you are taking, then your money is well-spent. Eventually, maybe you can become a tutor yourself, helping more inexperienced graduate students. This will give you valuable experience and further credentials as a potential teacher, and at the same time it allows you to line your pockets with a little extra cash.

The chance to learn the material from a different point of view is another reason students get tutored in graduate school. When you get tutored, you can set your own pace and enjoy the objectivity of your tutor. It's important to set realistic goals with your tutor. You will find that the immediate feedback you receive from your graduate student personal tutor is invaluable. You can choose to be tutored one-on-one or opt for a tutor group. Either way, you can rest assured that what transpires during tutoring will remain confidential.

How to choose a tutor

Regardless of whether you choose to have a peer or professional tutor, you will want to investigate that person's background, training and experience. Don't hesitate to shop around and to ask questions. If a tutor comes from outside the university you attend, you may want to request references. Be sure that, no matter whom you choose, he or she has a comprehensive understanding of the subject with which you need assistance.

You can locate students who have been tutored before and ask them about their experiences and preferences. They may be able to give you information on the tutors you are considering. Ask tutors to describe their approach to teaching to determine if it matches your learning style and needs.

Find out the following about your tutor:

  • How often is he or she available, and when?
  • Where will the tutoring take place?
  • How long will the tutoring continue?
  • What is the tutor studying?
  • What is his or her experience?
  • Is he or she reliable?

Your tutor in graduate school does not have to have a degree in education. Place more emphasis on the tutor's experience with the material, and his or her references. How well you and your tutor get along personally is another important aspect of the decision-making process. You want to be working with someone you can relate to on some level.

Getting tutored in graduate school does not have to be a humbling experience. It can be academically stimulating, as well as provide an opportunity to establish a relationship with another student in your field. We all have problems sometimes with a certain aspect of a certain subject. It doesn't mean we don't belong in graduate school; it just means we need a little bit of help to be ever better at it. So if you find yourself struggling, swallow your pride and consider a tutor.


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