University of Wisconsin–Madison

Dispelling 7 Myths about College Tutoring

Perhaps you’ve heard the excuses: “Tutoring is only for students who are struggling” or “I simply don’t have time to see a tutor” or “How can someone who isn’t sitting in my class actually be of help?”

And on the flip side, some students may believe that tutoring is a one-stop solution to their academic woes. As with most things in life, tutoring support is a balance. Tutoring is an invaluable tool for improving performance in class — but only if a student prepares in advance of a session, views it as a supplement (not a replacement) to studying, and makes efficient use of the tutoring time.

Learning support resources come in many forms around campus. Services range from the general (e.g., the Greater University Tutoring Services, or GUTS, and the UW Writing Center) to the specific (tutoring programs for courses such as English 100 and Biochemistry 501). Resources span academic fields — including business, mathematics, nursing, physics, and history — as well as the physical campus, with some tutoring centers offering satellite locations for convenience.

Below are seven common misconceptions we hear from students about tutoring, along with responses from campus tutors. While many myths exist about tutoring, here’s a fact: all students — no matter their major, schedule, or grades — can benefit from tutoring services.

Myth 1: Tutoring replaces independent study time.

“I would say the biggest myth held by students regarding tutoring is that it’s a replacement for studying. In order to be most effective, students should use tutoring as a tool to build upon (or be the foundation for) their independent study. There is no shortcut to putting the hours in on your own to do well — tutoring simply assists that endeavor.”

— Raut, Center for Academic Excellence tutor

Myth 2: Tutoring is only for students who are struggling in class.

“Tutoring is not only for people who are struggling in a course. Tutoring is for those who wish to improve their performance and understanding in a course. Whether your goal is to get from struggling to passing, or good to great, tutoring can help anyone wishing to get a better handle of the material. Only the rare student does not struggle with any concept in a course — almost all students can benefit in some way from tutoring.”

— Nathan, Wisconsin Collaboratory for Enhanced Learning (WisCEL) tutor 

Myth 3: I don’t need to prepare for my tutoring session.

“Even if student doesn’t feel confident in the material, they should try to reflect on which concepts are especially confusing. They should articulate the types of issues they’re having and how they’ve tried to learn the material before coming to the session. When you come prepared with questions and an idea of what you want to accomplish during the session, the tutoring experience becomes more efficient and productive for both the student and the tutor.”

— Payden, Peer Learning Association tutor

Myth 4: Tutoring = spoon-fed answers.

“The least successful tutoring sessions happen when a student is just seeking answers and is not concerned with why or how those answers are correct. Students should come in with the mindset that they’re working on their homework independently but can ask questions along the way. They’ll be more likely to give the problem a fair shot and will better understand which concepts they’ve mastered and where they’re struggling. More directed questions allow tutors to personalize the session, which helps students understand and learn the material.”

— Lenz, University Housing tutor 

Myth 5: I don’t have time for tutoring.

“College can be overwhelming and often time management is difficult. However, I would argue that tutoring is a student’s biggest timesaver and asset. The benefits are twofold: setting aside constructive time in your schedule helps ensure that each week you’re making time to do the homework as well as study and understand the material for the course.” 

— Lenz, University Housing tutor

Myth 6: Tutoring is the only type of learning resource.

“Librarians can save students valuable time, especially if they’ve waited until the last minute. Getting help from a librarian can save hours of searching online. We can help students choose a manageable topic, organize their research, and find lots of scholarly sources for papers. Seeking out help and tutoring opportunities is a characteristic of good students — so take advantage!”

— Julie, e-learning librarian

Myth 7: I can’t afford tutoring.

At advising.wisc.edu/tutoring, your student can browse more than twenty free tutoring resources offered by UW–Madison, as well as read FAQs and student testimonials and learn how advisors can support academic success. 

Questions about tutoring options for your student? Contact the Parent Program.