By Laura LaVacca
It’s midnight; you’re cramming, writing a paper, or studying for a math test that you’re supposed to complete at your 8AM class. You’re sweating, frustrated and don’t know what to do.
This situation is all too familiar to many college students, and it may be completely avoidable. With the help of the many resources on campuses plus the many educators who tutor students privately, it’s time for students to acknowledge they may need their help.
There are many reasons students should seek out a tutor, and the reasons may be different at different points in their educational career.
“When students don’t know exactly where they struggle, but know that they do, they should work with tutors to identify those struggles and to begin overcoming them,” Professor Jennifer Marx of Farmingdale State College, explains.
Marx highlights the need for students to self-reflect and recognize that they do need assistance. Perhaps students don’t know their problem areas or even understand why they may be struggling; that’s the job of the tutor. Tutors can really shed light on problem areas and help students strategize and focus on the area they need to be putting most effort in. They can point out specifics that students may not even be aware of and can use this information for future scenarios.
“I had a student that came to me saying that she was a really bad writer and kept receiving unsatisfactory grades. She wasn’t a bad writer at all — she just wasn’t aware of the necessity of a focused thesis. She had heard the word but never knew what it meant,” Professor Michael Bevilacqua of NCC explains. “Now, she always writes her thesis first and plans the rest of the paper around it.”
Then, there are those students who know exactly what they have difficulties with and may muddle through without any support. Perhaps they think it will get easier or that they are trying their best and nothing will work. This is another perfect time where students should seek out the help of a professional. Marx explains, “When students know they struggle with certain elements, they should work with tutors and identify those struggles to their tutors.”
If students know that they have a hard time with, perhaps, writing papers then there is no reason to work on them alone. When the assignment is given out, students should make an appointment. Writing labs all across the nation are filled with professors who can aid in the writing process—from brainstorming to editing.
Of course, this is just one possible scenario. Whether it’s science or philosophy or psychology, the point is students who know their weaknesses should be paying special attention to them and receiving guidance along the way. Professional tutors have many tips and teaching methods to help students improve. To be successful during one’s college career is to anticipate possible areas of concern and navigate possible challenges. As Benjamin Franklin reminds us, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Then, there are those times where sporadically students may be puzzled or confused by a certain topic or lesson. Tutors are not just there for students who need help week after week, but also there for support in the spur of the moment.
“If students feel overwhelmed by an assignment or test, they should work with a tutor to break it down, generate a plan for tackling it, and start to form ideas,” Marx offers.
Another reason is that cramming doesn’t pay off. Although tutors are more than willing to help, they are not on standby 24/7:
“Be proactive. Check with your campus about center hours. Check with your tutor about when he/she is available and if it’s okay to send a late email/text when you’re stuck.” Bevilacqua notes, “Make appointments days or even weeks in advance if you know that an assignment is due or a test that will potentially worry you is coming up.”
Tutors on college campuses can be found in the many resource centers from the writing labs to reading centers. Nassau Community College is one such campus that has specialized labs depending on which programs students are enrolled in. For example, the Basic Education Program has a specialized lab for students enrolled in the program and who need “reinforcement.” Similarly, the math department offers math and computer lab help. The same is true for campuses from Hofstra to NYIT. Students should contact the department directly to find out the services on campus. These are free, valuable resources.
If there isn’t a resource on campus that helps with the student’s problem areas, students should approach their professor for help or even seek an outside tutor. Many educators tutor privately and can be found through local libraries or even online tutoring sites that pair student with educators in their areas. This may be necessary for students who need multiple hours of support a week or even summer help.
College campuses are abundant with faculty and professors who are more than willing to help students succeed…they just have to ask for it.