Author: Scott Asai

Online Tutoring

Online Tutoring: What Makes It Successful


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Skeptics of online tutoring beware: meeting virtually beats face-to-face.

Besides eliminating the commute, technology allows both the student and tutor to screen-share problems, annotate on the screen together and share documents real time via Google Drive.

Anything you can do in person can be done online.

As a parent if you’re concerned with “safety” issues, just request the recording. At Growing Forward Academy, we use Zoom which provides the option of recording sessions.

If you’re a helicopter parent (don’t worry, we won’t tell) this is better than trying to hide in the background or eavesdrop on an in-home session. Instead of your child being upset that you’re being nosey, you can actually view the recorded online session in private!

What I learned working for an online test prep company was this: strong interpersonal skills translate well online. Simply put, if you’re good at maintaining conversations in person, you’ll be good at it virtually (the same is true for the opposite). That’s why we emphasize personality so much during the interview process.

Communication mediums are different for teenagers. Most prefer to text, message or send video versus talk. Empathy is lost in translation, but one of the strongest arguments for online tutoring is that the recipient (student) prefers it.

Parents, change is hard, but you have to think about what’s most effective. What we’ve done to alleviate the skepticism is offer a free 30 minute video meet and greet for the student, parent and tutor before committing to purchasing hours.

To us success depends on the chemistry between the student and tutor, which is why we take the extra step. In most cases the only reason why tutoring fails is when the student and tutor don’t click. Ensuring the “fit” before committing to invest is the best practice moving forward.

So what are you waiting for? Give us a try!

Online Tutoring, Test Prep

Why You Should Be Casting the Customer As The Star


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Companies are quick to point out why they’re the star and you should do business with them.

But aren’t you tired of that annoying person in the room shouting at the top of their lungs?

That’s what businesses do. They talk about what makes them better, why you should choose them and what differentiates them from the competition.

As an entrepreneur, I’m guilty of that too.

But as a customer, what if the focus was on you?

Steve Bryant eloquently makes the point in this article.

Since your product or service is geared towards customers, then shouldn’t your marketing focus on them too?

For example, if you start pushing your product/service on someone before you establish any rapport why would someone buy from you? (I wouldn’t)

You and I buy what saves us time, money and makes us better. If you feel a product/service resonates with you there’s a good chance you’ll become a customer.

Too many instances companies cast themselves as the star, when they should be giving that title to their customers.

Currently I own an online tutoring company geared towards SAT/ACT Prep.

I don’t do the tutoring because I’m not trained in it (nor do I have a desire to do it), but I have a group of talented and experienced tutors working with me.

On the other side I communicate with parents of high school students about their needs, goals and challenges. It’s my job to support both the tutors and parents as the middleman.

Without tutors and parents I don’t have a business. Therefore both the tutors and parents are the stars of the company. My role is to defer credit to them while managing the structure that makes the machine run.

It’s easy to play the co-star if you understand the big picture.

At Growing Forward Academy, we aim to pair the right tutor with your student. Our process includes an extra step to ensure chemistry breeds confidence.

In a service business you have to be comfortable enough to defer power.

I’m happy to play the supporting role…it makes the stars shine even brighter that way.

Online Tutoring, Test Prep

Does Tutoring Promote Dependency?


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In most cases it does…but it shouldn’t.

There’s two sides of tutoring: education and finances.

Like any business, without income you have a hobby.

Private in-home tutors can charge a lot, but it’s hard to acquire customers.

Tutoring companies hire tons of tutors, but pay them poorly.

You may be asking yourself, “what does money have to do with dependency?

Everything.

Sales drive a business so without them you’re dead. Most tutors (educators at heart) are motivated intrinsically to help students. Unfortunately a lot of large tutoring companies take advantage of them by paying a low percentage. The dilemma for tutors is: stay on my own and make more, but struggle with getting new clients OR join a company where the flow of customers is high, yet get paid a fraction of a cost. (see personal trainers at the gym)

Managing tutors at a test prep company put me in the shoes of a tutor. That’s why I shared what I did in my last post. The company needs to make a decision: do we do what’s best for the student or company?

The former means less income and the latter means more.

The former means less hours and the latter means more.

The former focuses on independence and latter focuses on dependence.

Up-selling is important, but manipulating parents with fear shouldn’t be the primary sales tactic. Do what’s best for the student, period. That can be interpreted as counterintuitive business advice, but it comes back to your focus: independence or dependence.

As a former youth director when it comes to working with teens it’s much easier to “do things” for them, because it’s faster and more efficient. But you have to ask yourself: what is the goal?

As a parent of a teenager if you want to teach your son/daughter independence through giving them responsibility you have to coach them.

Essentially that means show them, then let them do it. Early on it can mean failing or taking longer, but in the end you’ve given them a skill (tool) to succeed later in life.

We’ve taken that same coaching philosophy at Growing Forward Academy. Our tutors suggest a certain amount of hours to work with a student, but ultimately it’s the parent’s decision what they want to pay. We’re forthcoming about less than recommended hours may result in lower outcomes, but it’s very important to us that the families we’re serving know we have the best interest in mind for their kids.

It may not be the smartest business decision to make as a company, but since we value relationships over everything else: we choose people over profit any day.

Online Tutoring

Why I Started An Online Tutoring Company


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I am not a tutor. I have no prior experience. I worked at a test prep company, but don’t have any desire to teach students academically.

I share this because my reasons for starting an online tutoring company are different from most. My background is in leadership development and coaching. If you’re familiar with Simon Sinek, my “why” and “how” are clear, it’s the “what” that changes.

In this case a lot of my decision comes down to demand. Test prep and tutoring is a crowded space, but there are plenty of customers who need help. Tutoring isn’t a concept you have to explain, it comes down to why someone should choose you.

Building relationships and developing people has always been at the core of who I am. Every experience, both professionally and personally, has centered around people. That is going to equip me to run a successful company because a service is about people.

As a middle man I serve two groups: tutors and parents/students. As long as I keep both sides happy we’re in business. My philosophy is simple: take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers (Human Sigma).

I enjoy recruiting talent and supporting team members. In fact I remotely managed 30 full time employees at a previous job well (check out my recommendations on LinkedIn). On the other hand I have experience working with youth and families. In this case the student is your client, while the parent is your customer. The key to success is managing the relationships.

Starting any business isn’t easy, but knowing your strengths and maximizing them gives you a huge advantage. This is an opportunity to make an impact in student’s futures. Our approach to tutoring is different (read here).

I intend to invest in our people which will invest in our students. If we do that, finances will take care of themselves. Launching something new is always risky, but if you never try how will you know what can be accomplished?

I’m ready to go. Will you join us?

Test Prep

Which Test Prep Company Should I Choose?


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I used to think online dating was a fad…but it’s not.

When I first think of tutoring I imagine face-to-face in my home, but that’s changed too.

With today’s technology the argument for online tutoring is just better. Tutors don’t have to commute (cuts down on price), real-time screen sharing is more effective than looking at two laptops simultaneously in person (tutor-student), plus it’s more convenient for both parties (all your location needs is wi-fi).

When it comes down to choosing which tutoring company to work with, ask what the USP (unique selling proposition) is. What makes you stand out from the competition?

If the answer is: we have/hire the best tutors, that’s as generic as you can get. I mean who’s going to say otherwise?

I can’t speak for the rest, but at Growing Forward Academy we’re about the match.

Go back to the online dating analogy. I’ve hired and/or worked with all the tutors on our team. Each tutor has a profile and when a parent contacts us about their kid, we build a student profile on the phone. We offer a free 30 minute meet and greet with a suggested tutor before you commit to paying.

Is it more time consuming for us? Yes, but in my experience what goes wrong in tutoring has more to do with chemistry than competence.

Adding this extra step at the beginning helps the student and parent try out the fit before buying. In the end, this ensures a better success rate because a student who actually likes his/her tutor will be more motivated, engaged and ultimately perform optimally.

Our focus here is quality, not quantity. Bigger tutoring companies have tons of tutors working for them, but there’s no science to matching tutor to student besides scheduling availability. Private in-home tutors provide no choice. You either like them or you don’t. Driving distance can also be a demise.

Test prep (SAT/ACT) has more to do with demystifying the test than the actual content. What a great tutor will do is equip your son/daughter with the tools to identify what problems can be decoded and give them the confidence to be clear and decisive while taking the test (lessen anxiety).

Let me go a step further into research. Tutors are a dime a dozen. What also makes a tutor great is the environment they are working in. At Growing Forward Academy we are committed to taking care of our tutors. Our motto is simple: we take care of our tutors and they take care of our students.

Tutors are rarely in it for the money. Their motivation is to help students. Our aim is to remove all the distractions so our tutors can do their best work. Culture matters.

College

If I Hired a Tutor, How Much Would That Increase Their Chances of Getting Into Their Dream School?


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Disclaimer: there are no guarantees in life (besides the whole death and taxes thing).

If a tutoring company guarantees a certain amount of score increase, run. Not only can you not warrant a score jump, there’s other factors involved such as: learning style, personality, work ethic, previous comprehension, motivation, etc.

These days getting into your dream school isn’t a mystery anymore. College Simply provides the SAT and ACT score you need to achieve to be highly considered for admission of your desired school.

Beyond there you just have to figure out which test to focus on: SAT or ACT?

You may be asking: how do I go about that? Have your child take the practice test for both here — SAT & ACT.

Then if there is a clear distinction your answer is clear, but if not there are some differences that work better to your preferences.

Let me take a step back and challenge you with a different approach: what is your child interested in doing as a career? Identify that first, then start looking for colleges that have his/her major.

The concept of a dream school needs to be defined. Will attending that school give you an advantage to landing your dream job or is the location, sports team or closest friends attending driving your decision?

The answer to that question is a huge discrepancy.

As the owner of an online tutoring company I’ll be the first to say college isn’t for everyone. College isn’t always the direct path to your professional career.

But if you’ve decided college is the next step, what matters most in hiring a test prep tutor is the following: 1) knowledge/experience 2) compatibility with your child’s personality 3) availability.

Don’t overlook #1, but what normally separates a slight improvement from a significant one is tutor-student chemistry. In fact, when I worked at a tutoring company one of my gripes is that they didn’t spend enough time or energy on the matching process.

Choosing the right tutor will increase the chances of your child getting into their dream school because they will be more motivated and engaged to learn the strategies needed to score higher on the SAT or ACT.

The average parent wants to see stats about how much of a score increase will happen, but that data is infused with subjectivity. Tutoring is most effective when it is customized to the learning style of the student.

In fact the right tutor will not only help your child increase their test scores, but their grades, study habits and confidence.

As a parent, any investment needs to have a tangible ROI and in this case having your child being paired with the right tutor is priceless.

College

Are My Kid’s Grades/Scores Competitive Enough To Get Into College?


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Short answer: yes. College acceptance rates are as low as 4.65% (Stanford), but as high as 100% (schools listed here).

But the question you’re probably asking as a parent is centered around desired schools. Any university’s requirements can easily be found online, so having the answers isn’t the problem.

The college admissions process is as follows: 50% GPA, 25% SAT/ACT score & 25% extracurricular activities (leadership, volunteering, clubs, etc). The breakdown in percentages are approximate, but this gives you better sense of the overall equation.

Today the trend is to hire a tutor. What used to be considered a luxury less than 10 years ago is now a necessity. Is it a result of the faltering education system or your child’s learning style?

Both. This post is not about my educational views, but the reality is teachers are put in a no-win situation because within a classroom each student learns differently. Your son/daughter’s struggle academically may have nothing to do with the teacher’s efforts, but the sheer lack of time in a day to accomplish what is being asked of them.

On top of grades, getting into college has become overall more competitive because GPA’s and scores have been rising. The SAT/ACT is more about understanding how the creators made the test than it is about how smart your kid is. Disclaimer: the test is made to trick, not help you achieve a high score.

That’s where trained test prep tutors come in handy. If your child is struggling in math class, no tutor can magically improve their score on the math section of the SAT/ACT in a matter of months (you should hire a math tutor). But, if your kid is doing well in math, but his test prep scores don’t translate, it’s sheerly a strategy issue.

Let’s take a completely different path: what does your son/daughter want to do for a career? Chances are the answer will change several times throughout their life, but as a parent why not assist them in figuring that out before deciding what schools to apply for?

What’s the point of applying to a school if the career they choose isn’t offered as a major? To throw another wrench in there, what if college isn’t the correct next step to their desired occupation?

These are questions your college counselor should be asking, but they usually don’t. Teenagers aren’t the most receptive to their parent’s advice in high school, so sometimes you need additional help of mentors, tutors and role models to point them in the right direction.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone in this! (A lot of parents are worried too)