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Study Skills: Why Tutoring Works

Allow me to start with a confession: I’m proud to say that I have been tutored. 

Being a student at Emory University comes with a lot of privileges and a lot of pressure. I meet many students who aren’t living up to their own expectations of what a “good student” is, or maybe their parents’ expectations of what that might look like. Many such students also resent going to teachers during office hours or seeking tutors to help explain more difficult topics. Why, you ask? They are ashamed. They are embarrassed.

Being a student at Emory University means that you have gone from being one of the smartest, most intelligent, hard working, individuals in your high school to being, well, average. It is a long way to fall.  

Emory students are not used to asking for help, in fact, they are not used to needing help. That’s what college is all about: self-realization. The moment you realize you need help is the moment you become, in my eyes, a “good student.” A good student works hard, yes, but more importantly, a good student realizes when they need help: they have study skills.

For me, it was calculus. I am a writer, a scientist, an athlete, and maybe even a statistician on a good day, but I am not a mathematician. The problems began in high school: I spent long hours working through algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, and statistics, but I avoided calculus like the plague.  

I was fairly certain that no path I was ever going to go down would require calculus. My dad said you couldn’t consider yourself “educated” unless you had taken calculus. I begged to differ, and differ I did. That is, until I went to college and decided to become pre-med, along with 70% of Emory’s freshman class (not a real percentage, but surely not far off if one were to take a poll of the incoming class).  

Most medical schools require a semester to a year of a math, which includes calculus (insert ominous background music here). So, like a good student, I waited until summer to I devote my undivided attention to taking calculus and relearning all the high school math I had so diligently forgotten.

I chose to take calculus at UC Berkeley since it was close to home. After the first day, I knew it was going to be a long summer. My mom realized it, too, and offered to find me a tutor. I held my tongue and nodded. The next day, my new tutor arrived. As if having a tutor wasn’t humbling enough, he was also three year younger than me and absolutely brilliant. I wish I could say the summer flew by and I aced all my calculus tests.  

This is where I have to insert the disclaimer that tutors are not magic, they can’t take your tests for you (as much as you wish they could) and they can’t swap brains with you (though I’m a Neuroscience major and I’m working on that part). What my tutor did do for me was help me understand concepts and work through problems that I would have given up on, had I been working on my own. My tutor improved my study skills. While, my tutor couldn’t fix all my math woes, he certainly assuaged them, and summer proceeded at a tolerable pace.  

My sophomore year brought organic chemistry. This time, I knew what to do: I had a tutor set up within the first week of classes!

Since I tutor all ages, I will be the first to say that you absolutely should not wait until college to seek tutors. Had I been smart enough to get help earlier on in my math career, I surely would not have struggled as much with calculus as I did. Or, at the least, I would not have had to devote an entire summer to it.  

The earlier that you, as a student, realize that seeking tutoring is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength, the sooner you can become a better student. When I did well in organic chemistry it was never because I was smarter, or even that I studied more, it was because I was (and am) a “good student”: I know enough to know when I need help. 

It is not embarrassing to have a tutor. What is embarrassing is doing poorly in a class because you let your pride get in the way of your education. The next time you find yourself struggling with a class or concept, make yourself proud: ask for help (you can brag about your super cool tutor later). 
Liana M
English/ Creative Writing Tutor From Emory
Emory University
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