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Here’s What To Look For In A College Tutor — Teaching Style, Knowledge Base, What To Avoid, And More!

Finding a compatible college tutor for you can be a challenge. Here are the things you should look for in a college tutor.
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Here’s What To Look For In A College Tutor — Teaching Style, Knowledge Base, What To Avoid, And More!
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If you are your child is struggling with college-level courses, don’t panic. Not only is your college student grappling with more challenging coursework, but they are also simultaneously dealing with big life changes, including making new friends, adjusting to a new environment, and potentially even cooking their own meals. That said, if your college student is struggling with schoolwork, there are ways to help and point them in the right direction. One of the best go-to solutions? Hiring a college tutor. 

At a Glance:

  • What to Look for in a College Tutor – when conducting your college tutor search, you will want to pay attention to a tutor’s character traits, skills, experience, and any potential red flags. 
  • The Character Traits to Look for in a College Tutor – The ideal college tutor will be sincere, enthusiastic, motivational, patient, and able to build rapport with their tutees 
  • The Skills and Experience to Look for in a College Tutor – The ideal college tutor will have subject matter expertise, lots of experience, consistent and honest communication, versatility and flexibility, and be within your tutoring budget
  • Red Flags to Look Out For When Considering A College Tutor – If your tutor consistently postpones or cancels lessons, doesn’t respond to your emails, is under or overcharging you, and spends too much time on the phone, you might be working with the wrong tutor. 
  • What to Expect When Working With an Online College Tutor at Learner – Learner will do the hard work of matching each tutee with a compatible tutor. Each tutoring session takes place in a state-of-the-art classroom with audio, video, and chat features, an interactive whiteboard, and a recording function

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What To Look For In A College Tutor

According to The Princeton Review, most students need help with homework at least once a week. While some college classes have regular study groups and exceptional tutors, oftentimes, students are left to their own devices. Tackling difficult problem sets and preparing for exams can be especially difficult for students who don’t have friends in their classes. 

Entering a college classroom can be an intimidating experience. Unlike in high school, college courses often include students of all grade levels and skill levels. One of the greatest benefits of a private tutor is that they can provide one-on-one support and meet a student at exactly their level of understanding. Complex concepts and processes are explained at the individual student’s level, without the pressure of teacher expectations and peer competition. 

Another challenge that college students typically face? Juggling a new and busy schedule. Unlike in high school, college courses are typically dispersed sporadically throughout the day. All of a sudden, students are in charge of when to eat, sleep, socialize, and do their homework. Working with a tutor can be an excellent way for students to become independent learners. Tutoring can also often help students complete the same amount of work in half the time. 

There are many other benefits of working with a college tutor. Not only will a professional tutor help a student improve their grades, but they can also help increase good study habits, encourage higher-level thinking, and improve self-esteem. A tutor can help supplement in-class learning and improve critical thinking skills by sharing and connecting topics, ideas, and assignments between classes. 

But how do you find the best college tutor for you? When conducting your college tutor search, you will want to pay attention to a tutor’s character traits, skills, experience, and any potential red flags. 

The Character Traits To Look For In A College Tutor

The critical error many people make when searching for a college tutor is only paying attention to the hard skills. A tutor may have an Ivy League pedigree, achieve an SAT score in the 99th percentile, and have years of tutoring experience but still not be the right match for you. It’s just as important to pay attention to a tutor’s character traits and soft skills as their other skills and experience. 

Ability to Build Rapport

First things first: it’s important for you and your tutor to get along. While some students may respond better to a firm hand and clear boundaries, others will respond better to a tutor with a strong sense of humor. Others will want to work with a tutor who shares some of the same interests as them, whether that’s college basketball or classic rock music. If a student is able to follow a solid bond with their tutor, they are more likely to be excited by tutoring and tutoring sessions. A tutor’s ability to build rapport with a student can make the difference between a student enjoying tutoring sessions instead of dreading tutoring sessions. 


One of the greatest benefits of tutoring is it’s the perfect supplement to classroom learning. Students can feel comfortable asking what they might deem an embarrassing question and feel relaxed, knowing they can work at their own pace. However, for a student to feel at ease, a tutor must know how to create and maintain a safe learning environment. What is obvious for a tutor may not be obvious for a student. A tutor must refrain from showing annoyance in their speech and body language, even when they might be frustrated. 


Challenging school work and test prep can be deterring. A tutor needs to know how to keep a student motivated, even in moments when they might feel close to giving up. Students are motivated by different things. Some students respond to consequences for poor performance, while others are motivated when a tutor exhibits enthusiasm for a subject matter. A tutor needs to be able to use motivation to maintain a strong mentoring bond, keep a student on task, and enhance a child’s independent drive. 


College students appreciate it when a tutor is both genuine and real with them. If a tutor feels relaxed, open, confident, and at ease with their student, the student will feel this way in turn. 

Aside from helping a student prepare for a geometry quiz or write a history paper, a tutor should also make an effort to chat and bond with a student. 


An effective tutor needs to be able to see things through a student’s eyes and not just their own. Whether a student lacks confidence in the classroom or feels stressed by college-level courses, a tutor needs to know how to put themselves in a student’s shoes. 

Learner Reviews

Here are some Learner reviews highlighting our tutor’s strong character traits!

“Colleen provides a safe space for my daughter to lean into her own mathematical thinking, take risks and make mistakes, but then helps her learn from those mistakes. As an educator myself, I believe this is one of the best qualities you can find in a tutor/teacher and one that is not easily taught, but rather a natural gift.”

“Bejoy is really great at helping my teen. He knows how to connect and make learning simpler and more fun.”

“John is an exceptional teacher who will have the patience to make sure that his student understands the concepts before they get to solving the problems. My son enjoys his class and is becoming increasingly fond of math.”

Lifelong Skills Start with The Right Tutor

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The Skills And Experience To Look For In A College Tutor

While paying attention to the character traits of a college tutor is important, focusing on a tutor’s skills and years of experience is a good place to start. Below we will discuss some of the qualifications you should be looking for in a college tutor. 

Subject Matter Expertise

While you may be seeking a general tutor, most people are looking for a college tutor specializing in a specific subject, whether calculus or biology. Rather than working with just any old tutor, it’s important to find a tutor who specializes in your desired subject. This is the best way for your child to get the most out of their tutoring experience. 

Try to narrow your search as much as possible. For instance, if your child is taking a college algebra course, don’t just search for math tutors. Find a college math tutor who specializes in algebra I or II. 


Tutoring is just like any practice or skill. The more you do it, the better you get it. While an individual may be an expert at college-level math, they might not be very good at teaching complex concepts to struggling students. You need to be a good teacher if you will be tutoring students.

Before hiring a tutor, make sure to inquire about how long they have been tutoring and how often they tutor. While 5 years of tutoring experience may look impressive on a resume, the tutor in question may only teach one student every summer. This might not amount to as much experience as a tutor who has 1 year of work experience, but tutors as their full-time job. 

Versatility and Flexibility

When it comes to a college tutor’s teaching style, you don’t want to find yourself with a one-trick pony. One of the biggest advantages of one-on-one tutoring is that a lesson can be catered to and customized to a student’s learning style. Thus, a tutor must be able to teach a concept or lesson in multiple ways to get through to each one of their students, each one with their own learning style. 

Consistent and Honest Communication

Before making your final tutor selection, consider doing a quick call with your tutor and asking them some questions about their working style. Are they easy to reach? Do they typically respond to emails or text messages within 1-2 hours? Do you sense that they will speak to you candidly about your child’s progress? If you want to get the most out of your tutoring relationship, these are all key requirements that your college tutor should possess. 


It’s very important to consider your tutoring budget before hiring a college tutor. Even the most perfect tutor in the world will not be a good fit for you or your child if the tutor is not a financially viable option for you and your family. Sit down and think about how much you can afford to spend on a tutor every month. Then, think about how long you plan on working with a college tutor. If you are only going to work with a tutor for a few months, you may be able to splurge a little more than if you were planning on working with a tutor for a few years. 

Learner Reviews

“My son was struggling in algebra 1, after 1 session with his tutor, Bright, he started getting As and Bs in his tests and quizzes. He went from a D+ to an A- on his report card.”

“Austin Benton literally has allowed the stress of Honors Geometry to dissipate! As a family, we cannot thank him enough for the clear, detailed, and approachable methodology in teaching complex content to our high school sophomore.”

“Gerard is a great tutor, he is very easy to understand and helps break down problems step by step. He goes at a pace which is easy to learn from.”

Red Flags to Look Out for When Considering a College Tutor

Aside from lack of experience and credentials, there are several tutoring red flags you should look out for. Here are some signs that you might be working with the wrong tutor. 

Poor Response

A strong tutor is going to be invested in your or your child’s academic performance and improvement. If your tutor is taking too long to respond to emails or text messages, or not responding at all, this could be a sign of a bad tutor. If your tutor fails to change their behavior after you raise the issue, this might be a sign that it's time to part ways. You do not want to be working with a tutor who is lazy or overcommitted with teaching too many other students. 

Cancel or Postpone Lessons Frequently

Many tutors only work part-time. Whether the tutor is in school or managing other part-time work, some consistently show up late and take too much time off of tutoring. This can be frustrating, particularly if you are relying on a tutor leading up to a big test or an important homework deadline. While one or two postponed lessons can be excused, if your tutor begins to cancel on a regular basis, managing this relationship may become more trouble than it’s worth. 

They are Under or Over Charging

Finding a tutor at exactly the right price point can be challenging. But don’t be fooled by inexpensive tutoring rates that seem like a sweet deal. The tutor you are working with may not be who they claim to be. Similarly, be wary of tutoring services that raise their rates as soon as you hire them. Some tutors will raise their rates due to alleged “demand.” 

Grades are Not Improving

Tutors are not miracle workers. You might not see immediate academic progress after one or two private tutoring sessions, but over time, you should begin to see improvements in grades, test scores, study habits, and academic confidence. If you don’t see any concrete progress, or your tutor has not reported any progress, this is a definite warning sign. There’s a chance that your tutor is not actually teaching your child any new material or helping them with their homework, but merely watching them fill out worksheets. 

Too Much Time on the Phone

A good tutor should be placing all of their focus and attention on their tutee, not catching up on texts or emails, or trying to get ahead with other work. If you notice your tutor spending too much time on their phone or other technological devices, this is a sign of a bad tutor. Tutors should be using their sessions to tutor students, not to multitask.

Questions to Ask in a Potential College Tutor

It’s always good to speak with a tutor before moving ahead with the hiring process. Before your call, write down and list all the questions you want answers to. This list will give you a good place to start. 

  • What are your qualifications, certifications, and credentials?
  • How long have you been tutoring? 
  • How many students have you worked with?
  • What’s your expertise in the content area my child is studying?
  • Where will the sessions take place?
  • Can you tell me a bit about your teaching philosophy?
  • Do you have references I can speak to?
  • What’s your availability?
  • Are you comfortable with parents conducting background checks on you?
  • How much do you charge per session?
  • What kind of academic training do you have in the subject you are tutoring?
  • How do you measure a student’s progress?
  • How often will you communicate about my child’s progress?
  • What is your policy for cancellations and make-up sessions?
  • What happens if my child’s grades don’t improve?
  • As parents, what are some ways we can help supplement our child’s learning?

What to Expect When Working with an Online College Tutor at Learner

Founded by passionate educators, Learner is one of the best online tutoring companies on the market. Getting matched with a Learner tutor is straightforward and stress-free. All you need to do is complete a 3-minute online quiz. After learning some basic information about you, Learner will then match you with the most compatible tutor in its network.

Every Learner lesson takes place in a state-of-the-art online classroom. Tutors will use video and audio features and an interactive whiteboard to mimic an in-person learning experience, which removes the stress of a student commuting to and from a tutoring center. Students will receive regular progress reports. Every tutoring session is recorded, allowing students to review lessons leading up to important tests and exams. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does a college tutor do?

A college tutor is an expert in teaching college-level courses to college freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Most tutors will specialize in a certain subject, whether that’s history, calculus, biology, or computer science. 

What are college tutors called?

While some college tutors may be former teachers or have special certifications or designations, most college tutors are simply referred to as tutors. 

Can a college student be a tutor?

Yes, a college student can be a tutor. Many college students will tutor classes that they have already taken because they are very familiar with the coursework and class expectations. In fact, many college professors will hire former students who exhibited academic excellence to become a tutor for their course. 

How much does a tutor cost?

Most tutors work as freelancers and set their own hourly rates. On average, tutors tend to charge between $25 and $80 an hour. 

Is being a tutor good for college?

Being a tutor in high school looks very impressive on a college application. Not only does it showcase your academic prowess, but it also shows that you are interested in giving back to your school community and helping your peers succeed. 

What makes a good college tutor?

There are many qualifications you should look for when hiring a college tutor. While it’s important for a tutor to have superb qualifications, skills, and strong experience, a tutor’s character traits are also significant. A good college tutor will be patient, empathetic, sincere, motivational, and able to connect with their tutees. 

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About the author:

Mike developed his passion for education as a math instructor at Penn State University. He expanded his educational experience launching and running an Executive Education business - training over 100,000 students per year. As the CEO of Learner, Mike focuses on accelerating learning and unleashing the potential of students. 

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