First, should you choose a company or an individual tutor?  

Individual tutors can be cheaper and can often deliver great quality, but it’s hard to know what you’re getting into until you’ve done several sessions. Choosing a company can sometimes be more expensive, but, if you choose the right company, you should be guaranteed great service, high quality, convenience, and a phenomenal experience.  

The most exceptional companies will become an invaluable partner to you throughout your education.  

If price is an issue, looking for an individual tutor may be the way to go. But, if you’re pressed for time, have a high stakes situation, or want a long-term educational partner, you may want to consider a tutoring company with proven results.  

IF YOU DECIDE TO SEARCH FOR A COMPANY, HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN SHOPPING AROUND:

Who are its educators?  

Look carefully at the backgrounds of their tutors. Are they qualified specialists, or generalists stretching to cover a topic? Do they have teaching experience? If you are looking for admissions services, do their consultants have actual admissions experience? Will the educators be a good interpersonal match for you? If you’re not sure, ask. Be critical of credentials, as well—degrees (even teaching degrees) do not always make a great educator. 

What you can do: When evaluating, look for experience, warmth, and commitment, in addition to academic experience. Before booking any sessions, ask to speak specifically to your potential tutor to gauge these qualities directly.

How does the company hire its educators? 

Is there a rigorous process in place? If you’re not sure, ask. If hiring is done simply on credentials and not focused on values or specific performance, you’re not going to be ensured a top-notch, consistent experience.

What you can do: Ask how the company selects its tutors. How do they ensure quality?

Who started the company and why?  Is he or she still involved?  Are you allowed to speak with him or her, or another top manager, if you ask?  

There are many companies that are trying to ride the “tutoring bubble,” and are simply in the business to make money. The presence of an active, accessible, founder sometimes indicates that the business is more than just a money-making endeavor. You want a company that’s built with a labor of love and a focus on quality.  

What you can do: Look for a founder on the website and look for the values on which the company is founded. Read his or her mission statement, if they have one. If you can’t decide between two companies, ask to speak to the founder or a manager.  

What is the service like?  

If you’re paying company rates, you’re likely paying more than you would for an individual, and that money should be going directly to client service. Does the company pick up when you call, or return your call quickly? Do they seek to understand your specific needs, or do they have a standard approach? Are you impressed with their professionalism? Do you feel welcomed? If not, it’s a warning sign that the extra cost is not translating to a great client experience.  

What you can do: If you’re not getting extremely high quality service from your first interaction with a company, keep shopping around.

Does the company pressure you to buy more? 

If you’re being “upsold” or pressured into buying more tutoring, it is a pretty clear sign that the company is focused more on profits than on providing high-quality education. At Signet, we believe that education, like medicine, is somewhat sacred, and that you should never be pressured into buying services that you don’t need. We also believe that the purpose of tutoring is to become a self-sufficient learner, so, overall, a great tutoring company should be oriented towards helping you become independent of their services.

What you can do: If you’re ever pressured into buying something you don’t feel like you need, walk away quickly.  

How does the company monitor quality?  

Many tutoring companies act as agencies, simply connecting clients to tutors. In this model, any extra fees you might be paying are not contributing to your experience. Thus, you want to make sure you choose a company that’s focused on being much more than an agency. Does the company monitor the quality of its education closely? Does it provide professional development and ongoing support to its educators? Is there a staff member devoted to ensuring the quality of education stays exceptional?  

What you can do: Ask about how the company ensures that the quality of its education consistently meets the highest standards, and include that in your decision.

How are you paired with a tutor?  

Many companies will take your request and blast it out to a list of 10–15 tutors and go with the first person that responds. If you’re paying for a company, you deserve to be carefully paired with the best fit educator for your needs.  

What you can do: Ask about the pairing process. Is it personalized? Is it taken seriously? Who is involved? If you’re not given a clear and compelling answer, be wary. 

For more information on choosing an individual tutor (through a company or independently), please see this post.