As a college student, you probably hear a lot about the resources available to you.
Whether it’s in orientation or throughout the year, on flyers, online, in presentations, or even by word-of-mouth from your peers, you may already have a good idea of what’s at your disposal. Campus departments and other resources promote where they are located, how to make an appointment or get involved, and even offer you free stuff to catch your interest. (If you haven’t seen a free stress ball on campus, you’re not paying attention.)
Despite this, however, you don’t always engage, even when you could use the help. Tutoring is an example. You know where to find academic help, how it works, how to make an appointment, but. . .you just don’t. For whatever reason, you’re included in the 36% of students who never seek additional help for their classes. So, instead of handing you another brochure with a department location or a free stress ball, we want to ask, “What’s the real obstacle?”
When it comes to getting tutoring support, you may have many reasons for not getting this help for yourself. Let’s take a look at how three of these reasons in particular are holding you back.
“I don’t have time”
There’s always so much to do, right? Class, homework, studying, work, internships, being involved on campus, friends, exercise. . .oh, and sleeping? It’s a lot.
Working with a tutor can seem like another time commitment; when you’re busy, it’s hard to think about adding another “to-do” to your list. You tell yourself that if you really need help, you’ll go to office hours or ask someone in class. Except you know you never seem to make it to office hours and asking the person next to you to explain a major concept in the five minutes before class is a tall order, so you still feel kind of lost.
When you’re busy, it’s important to think about being efficient with your time. You don’t have time to work with a tutor, but do you have time to study for 4 hours and still feel unsure about the material? Or would you rather know how to study for 2 hours and feel confident? It is possible.
Tutors can show you how to study smarter, not harder. After all, it’s not just about time spent studying. It might be that the study strategies you are using aren’t as effective. Tutors are peers who can show you the way. They can also hold you accountable for actually learning the material vs. just performing well enough to get by. Not only can the former feel better for you as a student, but having the support of a peer tutor can help you achieve it more easily than trying to go it alone.
Lastly, if you still don’t think the “I’m too busy to work with a tutor” reason is holding you back, just look at the math. A typical semester class is three credit hours and meets two to three times a week for about 15 weeks. If you have to retake a class due to grades, that is 42 more hours in a class you’ve already taken, over another 15 weeks of your life, not to mention the additional time needed to complete homework and study for tests (again). What sounds like less of a hassle, that or the weekly or bi-weekly meeting with a tutor to succeed in the class now?
When you’re busy, time is money. If you’re still thinking about whether tutoring is worth it, consider that it can also keep you from shelling out more big bucks: Student Loan Hero reports the average cost per credit hour for a college course is $594. If you have to take a class twice, that’s almost $1200 to pass a class, not to mention the additional costs of a textbook or other supplies if the course has been updated or changed. Of course, the more classes you have to retake, the longer you pay to stay in college and the longer graduation is delayed. An article from The Washington Post shares research from NerdWallet that an extra year at a public college costs an average of $12,557 in tuition and fees and that an extra two years in school could mean missing out on tens of thousands of dollars in earnings and retirement savings.
“By the time I realize I need help, it’s too late”
Life comes at you fast. Before you know it, you’re a couple tests and a midterm into the semester when you start having this gnawing feeling that you’re on a sinking ship approaching the final. “You got this” has been your mantra, but it may have been denial. The reality is you haven’t actually been learning, you’ve been performing, and it’s taken you as far as it can. You feel stuck.
If this has been your default mode of operation in college, it’s holding you back. As the saying goes, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.” It’s time to change things up.
When you get your class schedule, you probably have a good idea of the classes that will be your biggest challenge. Maybe it’s the class you’re not looking forward to, the one you know you will struggle to pay attention in, or the one that makes you nervous. Perhaps it’s the class with the hardest professor in your program or the class that follows the prerequisite you barely passed. Whatever might make it your biggest challenge, be honest with yourself. Listen to your gut. And, this time, take action.
The smartest time to line up a tutor is before the semester starts or in that first week. What is there to talk about? Review the syllabus together, talk about your needs, make a plan for the semester, set up your meeting times, or look at that first homework assignment. If you wait until after the first or second test to ask for help, you may have waited too long. Why? The train has already left the station.
Four weeks is already a quarter of the way through the semester, and these first few weeks often cover the building blocks for the entire course. You need this to keep up with the rest of the class, which will continue to move forward. Don’t put yourself in a position to go back and try to learn the building blocks while trying to keep up with the advanced information. With a tutor in place from the start, you opt for offense, not defense.
“I’m okay with the status quo”
Okay, so maybe you’ve never actually said this. Your behavior, though, might say it for you. When it comes to academics, you’re fine with the status quo, to do what you’ve always done to get what you’ve always gotten. This may work in college for a time, but it’s not what employers are looking for.
Your ability to seek expertise and collaborate with others, be a creative problem-solver, and display professionalism/work ethic are all aspects of career readiness you develop and display in college. One of the NACE career readiness competencies is career management, which includes the ability to “identify areas necessary for professional growth.” While you are a student, college is your career to manage, and future employers might be curious about if you were able to identify areas you needed to grow and how you sought to remedy them. What will you have to speak of?
C’s may get degrees, but what are you learning? We are built for challenge. We are bored without it. Without challenge, we don’t get results and we don’t grow. Learning, intellectual growth, and mastery of new skills can empower and equip us to go live the lives we have been planning. The degree matters, yes, but so does your command of the knowledge you’ve invested four or more years of your life into.
If you find yourself settling for the status quo in your academic career, a peer tutor can challenge and motivate you to reach higher. They can hold you accountable and empower you to do well in that class. Need extra support? Like a life coach but for grades, or an academic personal trainer? You’re in luck. Your school probably has academic coaches. Snag an appointment soon before they get booked.
Remember, too, that just because you happen to have strong general confidence, it is not necessarily reflective of your academic confidence. According to Open Colleges, the latter more closely resembles a perceived ability to accomplish a set of tasks. Get the academic support you need, and you could finally have both kinds of confidence needed to feel ready to take on the world.
Ready to stop holding yourself back? Check out the profiles of tutors available to help at your school here.
Written by Priya Thomas
Priya Thomas is a wellness and leadership development director and consultant with 15 years of experience in higher education and student affairs. Her expertise includes wellness, mental health, student leadership and involvement, and fraternity and sorority life. She enjoys discovering local restaurants, travel, and learning new things. Connect with her on Twitter.