Do You Need a Tutor, Coach, or Therapist?

Many kids are struggling right now to adapt to the virtual learning environment.

On top of their academic challenges, they aren’t able to pursue sports or creative activities outside the home. Social isolation is also the source of immense sadness and stress, particularly during the teenage years.

Resolving these issues is more complex than adopting a new routine and creating some structure (although that can certainly help!). This new climate is having a significant emotional impact on students. As one head of school we know said, “”It’s like starting the first day at a new school all over again.””

If a student needs some outside help, where should they turn? Parents usually look to one of two options: tutoring or therapy. If the student is having difficulty in one or more classes, they may reach out to an organization like Signet for subject tutoring help. If the student’s concerns seem more emotional, they might consider sending them to a therapist or other mental health professional.

Both options are incredibly valuable. However, there is also a third option—academic coaching—that sits at the crossroads of tutoring and therapy.

Academic coaching is inherently focused on school and academic performance, but it’s more holistic than that. In addition to improving study habits and staying organized, our coaches help students learn to deal with the emotions (fear, insecurity, uncertainty) that come along with being a high schooler. A good analogy is to think about academic coaching as life coaching for teenagers.

An academic coach can be one of the trusted adults a student turns to when they need help solving their problems. A coach provides a different perspective than a teacher (whose primary focus may be the student’s performance in their class) or a parent (I don’t need to elaborate on all the drama that can arise between teens and their parents). Students may be more receptive to an academic coach because they are seen as a neutral, outside source of information and advice.

Our coaches earn more credibility in students’ eyes because the age gap between student and coach is, relatively speaking, not too big. A seasoned, experienced academic coach in their 20s is much more relatable to a 16-year old than their parent. That relatability builds trust, allowing students to open up to their coaches and make more progress than they otherwise might have.

So how do you know what kind of support you need: tutor, coach, or therapist? The short answer is that it depends on the student. These types of support do have a significant amount of crossover. That’s why Signet offers free educational consultations to families before they engage with us. We can usually hone in on a student’s specific issues to determine what type of help would benefit them the most.

If the answer is academic coaching or subject tutoring, you can work directly with one of our expert team members. We can also act as a bridge to therapy through our robust network of mental health professionals. If that’s the support your student may need, we won’t hesitate to refer them to one of our contacts.

If you’d like to learn more about academic coaching, please contact us at or 617-714-5262.

Picture of Sheila A.

Sheila A.

Sheila Akbar is President & COO of Signet Education. She holds a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Harvard University and two doctoral degrees from Indiana University. She joined the team in the summer of 2010, bringing with her a wealth of experience teaching SAT, ACT, GRE, literature, and composition in both one-on-one and classroom settings.

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