Can I be a freelance SAT tutor?
May 6, 2008 10:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm a college student with high test scores but no previous teaching experience. Is freelance SAT tutoring (or things of that nature) a lucrative idea or an exercise in frustration?

I'm a college student looking to make extra money this summer and I keep coming back time and time again to the idea of tutoring. My SAT and ACT scores are pretty high, and I went to a well-known prestigious high school in the area. (I did well on several AP exams too, but I'm pretty sure I already missed the boat on those.)

So does anyone have an idea of how easy would it be for me to find a few clients to tutor a few hours a week for the June or October SATs if I have no previous teaching experience? I already read this, and I just don't understand why someone would go through all the formal training of Kaplan/Princeton Review/etc just to get paid less than half of what you could get freelance.

So I guess my questions are -
1. Do new, freelance tutors actually get any work? Would you trust your kid to one?
2. What, besides the SAT, could I theoretically do hourly sessions for? My math and english scores are pretty high and I never really stood out in one academic subject in high school above the others. My college major - political science - probably wouldn't have much bearing on middle/high school students.

Any ideas/experiences/input would be very helpful.
posted by Muffpub to Education (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Muffpub, perhaps you might consider working for one of the tutoring franchises? There are several reputable ones. The benefit is that you can get 'official' training. I did through Huntington. Also you get hands-on experience. The downside is the pay, or poor pay vs freelance. But by summer's end you could cite a few months experience and official qualification from a trusted source. I know have individual parents who would recommend me if I wanted to go the freelance route. As well as qualifications 'on paper'. That (freelance) is just not something I prefer to do at this point.
posted by dawson at 11:17 AM on May 6, 2008

I just don't understand why someone would go through all the formal training of Kaplan/Princeton Review/etc just to get paid less than half of what you could get freelance.

1. Because they provide you with the material to teach with and the teachers' editions are good.
2. Because they deal with the parents for you (and trust me, SAT parents are extremely time consuming and can become very unpleasant. Basically this is every conversation: "Why isn't Madison's score going up?" "Because Madison doesn't do her homework." "Why don't you make her do her homework?" "Because I am not her mommy."). I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. I can tell you many stories if you are ever interested.
3. Because they get the parents' money from the parents' credit card and parents like that and you don't ever have to discuss money with them. For me at least, discussion of money was very uncomfortable.
4. Because they have legal teams behind them which make it much more comfortable for you to be alone in a room with a teenager.
5. Because if anything goes wrong, they have a lot of people to take care of it for you. And things do go wrong.
6. Because they (at least Kaplan does) make the kids and parents sign agreements as to what is expected from all sides.
7. Because the parents come flocking to the companies and you have no marketing of yourself required.

And I can assure you, at least with Kaplan, that the training is extremely good.

I'm not saying that you couldn't go and grab a book from Barnes and Noble and have some nice quiet time with some kids... but as far as really trying to earn money? Much much much much easier through a company.
posted by k8t at 11:18 AM on May 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

Do you know anything about how to teach material to kids who don't understand it? There is an art to finding new ways to explain things to kids who didn't get it the first time. One advantage of the professional programs is that they actual train you in how to teach SAT skills.

Also, do you have access to community of parents who know you? You might get someone who knows you or your family to hire you but not likely to get "off the street" traffic with no experience. I did buy a prep book and then hired a native French speaker to help my daughter prep for the French SAT II. I could tell that his lack of teaching experience made a difference - the only real reason to hire him was that it forced my daughter to do the exercises while she was with him. (If she had been more motivated, she could have done better by herself but that wasn't going to happen.) With all the competition for SAT tutors, I don't think you'd find many parents willing to settle for a babysitter type tutor.
posted by metahawk at 11:48 AM on May 6, 2008

I agree with k8t on all points, and as a former Princeton Review teacher and current exec (see, we can get along), I think you really get a lot from going with a major company.
The advantage of working for a company is that they take care of EVERYTHING for you and that you get regular work.

Ask yourself these questions, and then decide if you'd rather just have someone else do it all for you:

How will you get clients? Are you willing to flyer around the neighborhood? How much time and money are you going to want to put into promoting yourself?
Do you have a car? Where will you meet the kids? How will you get there? How will you arrange the schedules?
How will you negotiate rates with the parents? Will you charge the same rate for all students? Would you want students to commit to a certain number of sessions to make it worthwhile? What will you do if a parent is unsatisfied? What will you do when a student or parent behaves inappropriately?
When you get there, what will you do? What are you going to say to the kid? Are you going to give homework? What will you give as homework? Are you prepared to make tests and worksheets? How much work will you put into each student?
What will you do when they want to pay you to write a student's paper for them? What are you going to say to a student who is continually frustrated by one subject? Do you have many ways of teaching and explaining each item? How familiar are you with the tests that you want to teach? How comfortable are you with each question type?

In short, it's one thing to be able to do well on a test and quite another to be able to teach that test well.
That, combined with all the things I wrote above, is why testing companies need to train the hell out of their teachers. Some people are natural teachers, and they just need to learn the subject matter in detail. You could be one of them. But, you have no teaching experience, so you don't know that yet. Also, you will need to do a lot of research about the tests. Taking them is not enough.
posted by rmless at 12:42 PM on May 6, 2008

oh, I forgot one major question: what recourse do you have if the parents don't pay?
posted by rmless at 12:43 PM on May 6, 2008

+1 to k8t and rmless answers. The only other thing I would add --

8. Because they do all of the Marketing the the legitimacy established by their brand name is a big reason parents will pay them $$$$.

There are 1 or 2 successful freelance SAT tutors in my area. They're both older women who have long, established relationships with the guidance counselors at the local private schools. The fact that every local kid and her older sister have tutored with them gives them a similar legitimacy to the big names like Kaplan and TPR. (Their results, however, are not as good as ours, heh.) Without a name brand or a long history behind you, I expect that it will be difficult to find clients.
posted by junkbox at 1:48 PM on May 6, 2008

Not to rain on your parade, but do you realize that SAT coaching programmes and workshops have been shown ineffective by a plethora of rigorous psychological experiments?
posted by tybeet at 5:53 PM on May 6, 2008

« Older Another camera case question   |   Must be nice to work six hours a day and get paid... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.