3 Tips to Decide if Your Teen Needs Tutoring

Academic assistance can help high school students keep up pace, or set themselves apart.

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Group tutoring sessions can help students build content knowledge and study skills.
Group tutoring sessions can help students build content knowledge and study skills.

Recent SAT and ACT exam results show most high school graduates aren't ready for college courses, and those that are prepared often feel added pressure not just to achieve, but to excel.

With classroom time as a limited resource, parents are turning to tutors to help keep their high school students either on track or ahead of the pack.

[Get three tips to help prep your teen for the SATs.]

"As college admissions has gotten more competitive, and the value of education has become more apparent to people … [there's been] a shift towards greater degrees of supplemental education," says Ramit Varma, CEO of the tutoring company Revolution Prep.

While tutoring has gone mainstream—discounts often pop up on deal sites such as Living Social and Groupon—enlisting the help of a tutor is a decision that should be tailored to your teen.

Early indicators, such as poor exam scores or missing homework assignments, can alert parents to a problem, but these tips can help parents determine whether tutoring is necessary and, if so, what type will be most beneficial.

1. Use your intuition: Parents know their teen better than anyone. If you sense that your student is stressed or distracted, talk to them about it. While they may not come right out and say, "I'm failing math," they will give you some clues, Varma says.

If you simply ask your student, "Tell me about your classes," the order in which they respond can tip you off to where they are struggling, he says.

"The things that they don't talk about or the things that they talk about last tend to be the ones where they are having the most difficulty," he adds.

2. Get to the root cause: Is your student struggling with basic concepts? Or are they distracted by college applications and extracurriculars?

Determining what is behind your teen's academic struggles can help parents choose the right type of tutoring, Varma says.

[Discover why students learn better with engaged parents.]

One-on-one tutoring sessions can be pricey, but if your student is struggling with the content, they may be worth the cost. If time management is the issue, a group session can help students build good study habits and learn to study more efficiently, he adds.

3. Look beyond the score: Grades only give parents a one-dimensional look at their student's academics, Varma says.

"It's clear when they're struggling ... it's not clear if they're just burning themselves out to get into that B range," he says.

To get the bigger picture, parents should keep the lines of communication open so they understand the effort it takes for their student to reach that grade. This can help parents determine whether tutoring can help ease the burden for their teen.

"You might be happy with a B. They might be happy with a B," Varma says. "But would they be happier if they could either get an A or get that B with half or a third the amount of effort?"

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