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Videos on how to study with the techniques W. S. Emara used through high school and refined at Columbia University.

How to Find a Good Tutor

by W. Sam Emara

Doing an online search for a tutor will return many options. In recent years there has been a wave of online services that connect students and parents to prospective tutors. With so many options, choosing the right tutor can be a challenge.

The first qualification that comes to mind is the tutor’s education. A strong understanding of the subject material to be taught is obviously necessary to be able to tutor that subject effectively. A highly educated tutor is definitely at the top of the list of criteria for choosing an effective tutor. Someone who has excelled in academia, a college graduate or grad school student is ideal. A quick way to determine a prospective tutor’s academic ability is to find out where they went to college. The quality of their alma mater speaks to their ability to perform academically. If you are hiring a tutor for a high school student, ultimately the goal is to have high quality college admissions options so that the student can pick the best match. Top tier universities graduate thousands of students each year, so it is usually not too difficult to find a capable local tutor from a school on your child’s acceptance letter wish list. A tutor with experience studying at the types of schools your child attends, or would like to attend, makes them better equipped to help your child succeed. The tutor’s experience with the college admissions process was largely shaped by the high school and college he or she attended. If a potential tutor went to a school in which you are interested, he can provide valuable insight into student life there. Another necessary qualification to consider is the tutor's experience.

The longer someone has been working as a tutor, the better he will be at approaching the challenges of tutoring. More experience also means a longer performance record, and more available references. Many websites that aggregate tutor profiles display the number of hours they have tutored through that company, and allow parents to rate the tutor’s overall effectiveness. Just as when contracting the help of any other skilled professional, it is important to ask for references from prospective tutors. Good questions to ask previous clients include: how long did you work with this tutor? How much did your child’s grades improve over that time? The majority of available tutors, tutor part-time. Finding a full-time tutor is almost always better because of the added experience and record of success that they bring to the table.

Once you get the hold of a few qualified tutor options, it is important to ask some specific questions. Smart questions to ask a prospective tutor include: how long have you been tutoring? Which schools do your students attend? Have you ever met with your students’ teachers? Knowing where the tutor’s current students go to school will help you to find out if the tutor has experience guiding students through the challenges faced at a similar school to the one your child attends. Parents should also find out if the tutor is able to reschedule a session without charging, especially if the student has a less-than-predictable extracurricular schedule. That first phone call is also a good way to gauge the tutor’s comfort level speaking with new people and their communication skills, which are both key to being a capable tutor. A highly effective tutor should have a flexible personality that allows him to handle the various attitudes a student may bring to a session. Good tutors also need to make students feel comfortable enough to ask the questions they did not ask in class, and not like they’re being graded. Ultimately, good quality tutoring changes a student’s study behavior and outlook on school in a sustainable way. That progress is driven by a dynamic tutor that can act as a catalyst of change.

What you don’t want is a lack of results. A caring tutor should take time after a session to give parents a quick progress report detailing the goals and gains of the time spent working with their child. It should be easy for an effective tutor to point to the specific goals that were accomplished during a well-structured tutoring session, as well as specific evidence of learning. It’s rare for grades to fail to improve while having organized sessions with a tutor whose teaching style matches the student’s learning style. If scores do not improve, you should be prepared to switch tutors. Just as no two students are completely alike, not every tutor is best suited to help your child. Although there are many nice people that understand a particular subject, tutoring isn't easy, and requires certain abilities that not every educated person has. There are also varying teaching methods, and it is critical that there is a match between your child’s learning style and tutor. Finding the right tutor can be a very rewarding, and stress-relieving experience for you and your child. Asking the right questions, and not settling on a tutor until you have the right match will help your child improve his or her grades sooner.


NYC Lab School
Chosen by his High School teachers to tutor peers.
W. S. Emara tutors New York City students from K–12 in-person, and online via skype video calls for those outside NYC.
New York University Medical Center Microbiology Research Laboratory
Design and perform experiments in infectious disease as a member of the lab group of Department of Medicine Chairman Martin J. Blaser, MD.
Recieved email:
Accepted into Columbia University
Continued to tutor students and conduct research as a premed biology major.
Publishes article on microbiology research
click to read
Emara Academic Solutions™
Returned to NYC to continue his tutoring practice.
Friedrich-Engels Gymnasium Senftenberg, Deutschland
Taught English to students from grades 9 to 12 in German High School.

Revitalized English department, streamlining the ambitions of the students and the requirements of standardized testing into a contemporary curriculum.
Internship in Building Community
Facilitated the livelihood of students enrolled in Columbia University’s High School Summer Program as a Resident Advisor.

Coordinated and supervised extracurricular activities for students throughout NYC.


Larisa F.
(tutored regularly from September ’05 to June ’08 in Math and Chemistry)
"I walk into a session not even knowing how to start a type of problem, and I leave able to solve any version of it."
Dan B.
(a Writing client in January’09)
"He’s just so good at it… he’s like a machine, you give him a writing prompt and out comes an A paper."
Ben T.
(tutored regularly from August ’06 to June ’07 in Math and then College Admissions Essay Writing)
"[W. S. Emara] was involved and interested in my success. While other tutors I’ve had were impersonal time-watchers, my Emara Academic Solutions sessions wouldn’t even start until after some time talking with the family."
Ina R.
(mother of two students tutored in English in ’07)
“Besides the immediate results of higher English grades, the more striking results were long-term. Both of my children became more engaged students that take pride in their work raising scores in more than just English class.”