Test Prep

Test Prep

Why Perfect Scores Don’t Make The Best Test Prep Tutors

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True or false: the best tutors are the near perfect performing ones.


Content knowledge is the qualifier, but it’s not the most important factor in finding the best tutor for your child.

If I asked you to name the best teacher you’ve ever had I guarantee the description includes personality characteristics and how that person made you feel.

It’s not any different with tutoring.

Let’s face it, your son or daughter can choose at least 5 things they’d rather do outside of school than meet with a tutor. That’s exactly why pairing the right tutor with you child can make the difference between success and failure on test day.

In fact it’s so important to me as the owner that I express to candidates if I don’t get along with you we can’t work together. Now that may sound completely subjective, but relatability is the reason our tutors on average are 10 years older than high school students.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is one of my favorite leadership quotes.

Translation: what good is working with a smart tutor if the student doesn’t like or respect them?

What matters is how well the tutor can teach the content and strategy of taking the test to the student independently.

In business, the term culture is brought up frequently. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to find tutors that can pretty much work with any type of student. Part of the interview process to join our team is teaching me some problems so I can experience being in the “student’s shoes.”

It’s easy to identify personalities that mesh well with teenagers. In sports, “player’s coach” is often used which is a perfect analogy for our tutors.

And even though I take pride in my student-tutor matchmaking ability, we take is a step further by offering a free 30 minute video meet and greet with parent, student and tutor.

It’s not impossible to score well preparing alone, but working with our team is having an “edge” on test day (that voice in your head talking you through the process).


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?


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.

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.