Students used to hire a tutor if they were failing a class, or to “prep” for the SATs, but these days, tutoring isn’t just for keeping up with your classmates. It’s more about getting ahead of them – and beating out the competition for a coveted slot at a top-notch university. Students aren’t just getting tutored for their current classes, or during the week leading up to finals exams. They’re being tutored – year-round – starting in elementary school, and on specific subjects, like history, using source material instead of class textbooks. Or in interdisciplinary programs that cover, say, all the sciences, including biology, physiology, and chemistry.
It’s not cheap. It can cost anywhere from $30 an hour for Spanish or math tutors, to $800 an hour for a high-level interdisciplinary program. Most teachers and administrators say that outside tutoring isn’t necessary. A survey found that many middle schools and high schools offer free after-school tutoring programs, but parents are afraid to use the school’s services, because they don’t want their child to be labeled as “struggling.”
Experts suggest caution. Clinical psychologist Wendy Mogel says that excessive tutoring can damage a child’s motivation and self-esteem. In other words, pushing them to perform at a high level in everything – instead of allowing them to be really good at some things, and not-so-good at others - can lead to anxiety and burnout. It also teaches the child that nobody believes they’re smart enough to learn – or to solve problems - on their own, which means, they’re less likely to succeed in school – and in life - without help.