High school has changed a lot since we worried about bringing our own report cards home. The pressure on our kids to succeed and get into their dream college is more intense than ever. Universities want to see rigor, and if your competition is taking all APs, a few won’t do for you, right? Right. But it’s so wrong. And it’s why tutoring can make a big difference.
The pressure starts in middle school, as early proficiency in accelerated math and language arts puts kids on a successive track that enables them to graduate with upwards of a dozen AP classes (there are 38 offered by the College Board). “College applications are so competitive nowadays. Students are expected to be both well-rounded—take a ton of APs across all the different subjects from calculus to history—and be spiked, which means having a particularly strong talent in one or two areas, like music, science, sports or anything else,” says Krystle DiCristofalo, co-owner of the Summit-based My Ivy Education. “That’s a lot of pressure to put on teenagers.”
Kids aren’t machines. There’s a limit to how much work they can handle while also indulging in extracurriculars and you know, life. Do they sleep? Not enough. Eat? Quickly. Get stressed? All too often. It really is a grind. Tutoring can help at any level whether they’re trying to pick their grades up or striving to get into an elite Ivy League school. With tutoring, students learn quicker and more completely with intense one-on-one attention, better for keeping up with a fastpaced, info-packed course load and freeing up time to pursue outside interests. “Students find ways to truly understand the material, allowing them to pursue what they love to do without being bogged down by studying,” she says.
BENEFITS BEYOND ACADEMICS
A good tutor can also help students prioritize. “Tutoring can be a great help not just in understanding and internalizing the material, but also in working on time management and executive functioning in order to get it all done,” says DiCristofalo, noting that the adolescent brain develops at different rates, so an academically brilliant teen may struggle with the onslaught of demanding tests, projects and homework assignments. Having an expert—who isn’t a parent—set realistic timelines and expectations doesn’t just keep students on track, but helps kids develop self-sufficiency and planning skills.
This is especially true when it comes to the “toughest” subject that many need help with. “The number one private tutoring that is conducted anecdotally by parents is for math,” says Michael Renick, principal of Wayne Hills High School. “The students who are below 4.0 GPA averages may be pushing themselves to achieve more by using tutors. Understandably, their parents want the best for them and seek out tutors to try to get them into the highest ranking schools as possible.”
KNOW THEIR LIMITS
This may sound stressful, but some tutors focus on reducing that. “Mental and physical health always matters,” says Christina Taber-Kewene, a Maplewood-based college adviser, tutor and admission expert. “Our high-achieving students are staying up all night, taking tons of classes, pushing hard and doing all that while being in sports, music and other high-needs activities. Tutoring can be a huge help. Sleep is paramount. Nutrition. But each family has to decide what it means to ‘handle’ that situation.” In some cases, the best way to help your child thrive is to ease up on the APs.
“Although top-tier colleges do expect AP-level coursework when it is available to the student, many colleges don’t, and in fact, they favor GPA. So, an average student is doing herself no favors in taking courses beyond his or her current ability level,” says Taber- Kewene. “I would rather see a student drop down a level in the weaker classes and push harder in her stronger areas than try to do AP classes across the board if it means she or he can maintain health, happiness and a strong GPA.”
FOCUS ON YOUR TEEN’S UNIQUE NEEDS
Health and happiness are the utmost important, as is remembering that every kid is different. “Children hit different plateaus throughout their lives academically, emotionally, physically and spiritually,” says Renick. “It is your job as a parent to help push your children past struggles and be the best person they can be. However, the reality is that your child may have other talents and skills that are not measured so distinctly by academic numbers and achievements. Their strong suits may be empathy, compassion, character, leadership or athletics. We need to nurture those areas and build that capacity in our children.”
No matter if your kid is struggling to finish his or her homework, ace that AP test or prep for the SAT, they can benefit from academic assistance. Here are some of New Jersey’s top tutoring options.
Clifton, Hasbrouck Heights, Teaneck
Parents have high praise for the small classes, passionate educators and progress-boosting systems designed to foster deep learning. Private tutoring is subject to teacher availability.
C2 helps teens of all learning levels find the college track that’s right for them, utilizing goal-setting, test prep and even scholarship advice. They also offer a unique AP experience, where students have access to 16 fully accredited, self-paced online courses combined with in-person tutoring. It’s ideal for students with physical restrictions and those who want to balance in-class study with a more flexible learning style.
Individualized tutoring allows for a personalized approach for those looking to keep up with (or get ahead in) coursework, as well as excel on exams. HLC typically recommends two or more sessions per week, and hours are flexible, perfect for families with packed schedules.
Founded by a seasoned STEM educator, JE offers small group AP prep classes that begin each April in advance of May exams. There’s also private tutoring in math, science and English, as well as ACT/SAT prep.
This school offers help in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish, ideal for any kid who wants to ace their Language and Culture APs.
Think personalized full-time schooling for gifted and asynchronous learners in grades 6-12, consulting in academics, extracurriculars and leadership for the college bound with a strong focus on collaborative group work and project-based learning. MIE currently offers AP tutoring in a wide variety of subjects, as well as online options.
Silly name, serious tutors. Highly experienced professionals offer tutoring in less common classes like macroeconomics and music theory. Tutors are available online, a great option for those who don’t need in-person access.
From homework help to exam preparation, Sylvan offers expert, customized support in AP courses, along with tutoring for tweens and teens. They have test prep for both the SAT and ACT, as well as STEM-themed programs for robotics and science lovers.
Locations throughout NJ
The Writers Circle doesn’t technically offer academic tutoring (they focus on creative works from fantasy and sci-fi to poetry and playwriting), but students find its workshops and summer intensives a tremendous help with academic work, tests and college essays.
Whatever the subject, there’s a Wyzant tutor ready to provide online support. Profiles list credentials and fees from less than $50 to more than $300 for an MIT or Harvard grad, so it’s easy to find the right fit in person or online.