How do I start tutoring for reals?
July 20, 2008 5:33 PM   Subscribe

How do I, a soon-to-be high school senior, go about tutoring math as a part-time job?

I've been working a retail position (cashier at Target) for the past 18 months. Since I turned 16, or shortly after. Throughout my junior year I pulled 20-25 hours a week, topping 30 most of November/December, and working 37+ immediately prior to Christmas. I get a halfway-decent hourly rate, $7.70. Decent for a part-time high school job.

Now, however, I want to quit. Why? No reason, really. Most of my friends in school all graduated this year (I've been roughly a yeah ahead of my grade since freshman year. So I've taken nearly all my classes with the year ahead of me. I'm only taking 4 classes this year as a result.) and I feel the need to make some close(r) friends in my year. Thirty hour weeks cashiering is not how to do this.

My girlfriend currently tutors a 13-year old (soon to be 8th grader, I think) in math and english. She's Korean, and her (very) Asian mother set the job up for her, with the boy's (very) Asian mother. She gets $15 an hour for it, and I think she's been getting 6 hours a week during the summer, not sure how many she gets during the school year. She's also moving to Wisconsin September 1st. So, when we're done crying, I might steal her client.

Anyway, beyond this, what is a good way for a high-schooler to break into this? Ideally, I want to make $100 a week during the school year. Any rate from $10 to $15 per hour is fine with me.

I certainly know the subjects that I'd think about tutoring in (Math and English). I scored perfect 36's on both of those subjects on my ACT test. I'm ranked in the top 2% in my class. I have practice tutoring on the "amateur" level, or whatever. Meaning, I've spent countless hours helping people ranging from 5th graders trying to find the area of triangles to our class valedictorian's troubles with physics. I know how to explain things with clarity and I'm quite patient.

So how should I go about finding a couple of clients? Put an ad in the local paper? Our school district doesn't have any sort of tutor-student matchmaking game going on, so giving my name to middle school counselors will be pretty much worthless.

Ideally, I'd like to tutor students from 7th-10th grades. I feel quite comfortable tutoring maths from about seventh grade math to Geometry (generally 10th grade). I could tutor through high school trig, but I'd probably have to actively review/relearn some stuff as I go... so way too much work for me. English I figure I could competently tutor at very nearly any level.
posted by Precision to Education (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just because there's no formal matchmaking program doesn't mean counselors aren't the place to start. "Well, I see Sally's math grades have been slipping; it just so happens that one of our star soon-to-be-seniors is offering his services as tutor..." Similarly, you could contact middle school math/English teachers and say hey, remember me? I'm still getting straight As, and looking to tutor, so if you have any parents worried about their kids' grades, send 'em my way."

Also, think about places like PTO meetings where you could hand out flyers/cards - basically, anywhere there are some reasonably well-involved middle-school parents.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:41 PM on July 20, 2008

Create a flyer advertising your availability that has those tear-off strips with your phone number. Put them up on grocery store bulletin boards, gyms and workout clubs, anywhere that gets heavy mom and dad traffic.
posted by netbros at 5:53 PM on July 20, 2008

I would start with counselors, or even make a suggestion to start a tutoring binder so that tutors can put their contact information inside for students/parents to look at. Something I've done before is distributing flyers to parents picking up their kids from summer school classes, since the kids that are there for remedial classes likely failed a course and likely need the extra help.

Also check with you provincial/state government to see if they offer any entrepreneurial programs in which they give you seed money to start your own business. The Ontario government offers $3000 grants to high school and university students to start their own company. It's a great program and it allowed me to tutor as well as hire a few other tutors so there was a lot of good experience gained there.

Best of luck!
posted by perpetualstroll at 5:54 PM on July 20, 2008

Some schools have an issue with recommending any specific tutor (especially if costs money). Handing out cards in the parking lot or at PTA/PTO meetings is great as long as it doesn't violate school rules (it might)

I would start by asking your girlfriend to introduce you the parents of her student, recommend you for the job and you can let her know that you are looking for students. Contact anyone else you know (or your parents know) who has a middle school student

It would be perfect if you could buy a small ad in the school newsletter.

Our library has a spot for people to leave flyers advertising their services.

Put up a flyer at church or other family-oriented organizations.

Talk to math teachers who know you and let them know you are available. (long-shot but might work)
posted by metahawk at 6:05 PM on July 20, 2008

Check Craigslist. You can post your own ad to let people know that you're available to offer your services as a tutor, but also check for postings from families who are already seeking tutors in specific subjects. You'll definitely need to do a lot of filtering to get past all of the ads from professional tutoring agencies, but depending on where you live, there just might be a decent number of people whose needs fit with your qualifications and interests. Better yet, set up a custom RSS feed from your Craigslist search and let all of the results come directly to you.

Good luck!
posted by sabira at 6:13 PM on July 20, 2008

I used to do this in high school, on a somewhat smaller scale than you have in mind -- I tutored two or three kids to make some extra money for the prom. To be honest, I don't remember how I got the _first_ client -- but once you have the first client, and you do a good job, it's going to be easy to get more -- your student tells their friends, the parents tell _their_ friends, and so on. I think talking to the math teachers in your school, especially one who knows you and thinks highly of you, is a great idea and not a longshot at all -- they're the one who know who's struggling in math and are in position to suggest to those people that they get tutoring!

I charged $10/hr as a high school senior in the late 1980s, so the rates you're suggesting are quite fair -- parents are going to save a bundle from what they'd pay a professional.

(Finally, if your girlfriend is coming here to UW, you should follow her! It's a great place to study math.)

Oh, and: don't blow the money on prom. What a waste that was, in retrospect.
posted by escabeche at 6:33 PM on July 20, 2008

In addition to the great suggestions above: You are likely capable of tutoring students at a local community college if you've taken the equivalent courses. Also consider expanding the list of subjects you tutor, if you're comfortable with that.

I tutored in high school in addition to working at a convenience store, so I can relate to your situation. I think all my referrals came from teachers -- foreign languages are good for this, because usually teachers have to 'approve' that students move on to the next level, and people are pretty well aware that they don't get a fresh start each year. Otherwise it'll be hard to find lots of clients at the beginning of a year -- but be very alert for interest after major tests, parent-teacher conferences, etc. One thing you should be aware of is that the whole business won't be as predictable or professional as your current job -- students/parents will be likely to discontinue tutoring, cancel appointments, want to change appointments, etc. So you can't expect to block out 8 hours on Saturday and have students back to back, and if you *need* the $100 a week, be careful. I regret not charging more for housecalls; even though gas was just over a dollar a gallon back then, it sometimes doubled the time I spent on the session. It might be useful to contact the libraries of middle schools in your area to see if you could hang out with a student after school, etc. Or depending on bus routes, middle schoolers might be able to take a bus to your school.

Good luck!
posted by ecsh at 6:43 PM on July 20, 2008

Oh, and I charged $15/hr in 2001-03. It wasn't enough then -- please take into account the hassle/time required outside of each hour block.
posted by ecsh at 6:46 PM on July 20, 2008

I started tutoring elementary-age kids when I was your age. I segued into it from babysitting, and charged $10 an hour. Most of what I did was just help the kids keep focused on their homework, helped them study for tests, etcetera. Perhaps you could try advertising as "homework help," and that would make you attractive to parents whose kids aren't necessarily struggling in school, but could use a scheduled time for homework.
posted by jschu at 6:46 PM on July 20, 2008

Aside from tutoring privately, you might also consider teaching ACT/SAT prep classes for Kaplan or similar, if there's one in your area. Yeah, it's a little corporate, but it was good money and I had the choice of whether I wanted to teach particular classes or not, and I ended up meeting my husband in my first training class. (Okay, he's my ex now, but we're still friends...) Bonus over tutoring one-on-one: you get teaching experience and confidence in front of a class, and that is always a plus.
posted by Madamina at 6:57 PM on July 20, 2008

I never tutored seriously, but my teacher told me about a student struggling in her bio 1 class. I was in her AP bio class at the time. So just approach your teachers who also teach freshmen classes. You could also contact teachers in jr and elementary schools. Try and find teachers you had when you were in that school, then they can pass your name around.

Some people above have made good points about the unreliability of tutoring hours. Parents might just hire you right before a big test or something. If parents want to hire you for finals time, think about your own grades and how busy you will be at that time. You can obviously turn down sessions, but this may anger parents. You never know with work like this.
posted by metricfan at 7:28 PM on July 20, 2008

For sure contact your old teachers. They can spread the word around their departments- there are tons of concerned parents desperate for tutors out there. I'd post fliers at libraries, churches, schools if you get permission, anywhere parents in your community might see them. Rec centers, grocery stores, whatever is appropriate in your community.
posted by MadamM at 10:10 PM on July 20, 2008

Adding another data point to the "talk to your old teachers" advice. I tutored in math all throughout high school and the vast majority of my referrals came from my math teacher (small school, she taught everything from geometry to AP calc). The school even let me use classroom space right after school let out to tutor in.

As for rates, this was back in the early 90s and I think I charged $10 for pre-algebra, algebra I and geometry, $15 for algebra II and trig/precalc, and $20 for AP classes (English as well as math.)

Good luck!
posted by oblique red at 7:18 AM on July 21, 2008

« Older Hooked on junk   |   Could we have bed bugs? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.