IvyWise Resources

More than an “A”: Strategies for Success in the Classroom and Beyond

Compiled by Katherine Cohen, Ph.D., CEO & Founder and the team of counselors at IvyWise

When thinking about college admissions, students often stress over their standardized test scores or extra-curricular activities. However, there’s an admission factor that’s more important than both of these elements—your high school academic record. In fact, there is nothing more important to a college admissions officer than your grades and performance in the classroom.

If you’re not doing well in your coursework, you might be inclined to give up or presume that a teacher simply doesn’t like you. However, there are many ways to improve your grades. At IvyWise, we encourage students to take the extra step and seek help when they need it. And we’re not alone. The New York Times recently highlighted a Stanford University study that recognized the benefits of academic coaching and tutoring. We’ve invited Tim, the head of IvyWise’s academic tutoring, to share his insights on how students can improve their grades and achieve success:

Q: How can students work with their teachers to reach their grade goals?

Students should maintain an open dialogue with their teachers, which will help build effective relationships from the start. If a student wants an “A” in a class, he should meet with the teacher and ask what characteristics successful students share. After the first grading period, if he’s not getting that “A,” he needs to ask the teacher what he could be doing better. Perhaps, he can meet with the teacher before or after class to go over unclear material, refer to additional reference materials on a subject, or even work on an independent assignment to help improve his grade.

Q: How can students improve their performance in the classroom?

Participation is often a set percentage of a course grade—this is where teachers have some flexibility with regard to grading. Students should be active class participants by asking insightful questions and contributing to the discussion.

Q: How can students develop better homework and study habits?

It’s important for students to develop good homework and study habits. Starting an assignment as early as your schedule allows always produces the best results. Students are encouraged to get into the habit of using an assignment book and reviewing class notes on a daily basis. It is essential for students to find workspaces in their homes that are not distracting; once a student gets used to a space, his/her brain will associate that space with focusing. For better or for worse, your brain will get used to whatever habits you build into your life. It’s important to remember that every brain learns differently; your challenge is to figure out how your own brain learns best. A good tutor can help you understand your own learning strengths and weaknesses.

Q: How can private academic subject tutoring help?

Some students need more help than others, and private tutoring provides them with the one-on-one attention and assistance they need. Academic subject tutoring helps improve students’ grades in weak subject areas and boosts their overall academic success. As students learn good study habits and improve their academic performance, they also achieve their goals, raise their confidence levels, and improve their organizational skills—skill sets they will take with them beyond high school and college into the working world.

Q: What makes a great tutor, and how do students find the right match?

Great tutors should be role model types who were phenomenal students when they were in school. It is essential that our tutors have a gift for teaching and be intuitive about the way people learn. Once we find a strong tutor, the focus shifts to matching students and tutors based on personality and learning style. After a match is made, the progress of the student should be closely monitored to ensure that we are successfully working towards the long-term goals established initially.

Q: How can students get the most out of their tutoring sessions?

A great tutor understands the importance of working with a student’s learning style. A student must look forward to each tutoring session. It has to feel fun. It’s the tutor’s job to make a session interesting and help foster a love of learning. At the same time, the tutor needs to be someone the student respects. Finding the right tutor/student match encourages the student to be an active participant in the tutoring session, which makes time spent together most productive. At IvyWise, our tutoring program is personalized to each student’s individual needs and learning style. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Q: When tutoring students, how do you look beyond their grades to see their true potential?

When we see a student’s GPA, we have to look at what is beneath that because there is a lot more going on with a student than her grades can tell us. For example, grades are often linked to self-esteem. Sometimes, students brand themselves as “B” students when they really can be “A” students. The right mentor could motivate her, change her outlook toward schoolwork, and totally transform her into a confident, successful student.

Q: How can busy students fit tutoring into their schedules?

Nearly all students have busy schedules, and what a good tutor can do is actually free up time by teaching the student how to work more efficiently and effectively. The recipe for improvement is often to work smarter, not harder or longer. The right tutor can often teach his/her student to do in one hour what had been taking two, three, or even more hours in the past. The specific tutoring schedule—the number of meetings per week, and the length of each session—all depends on the student’s specific needs, schedule, attention span, and a number of other factors. Like most aspects of high-quality tutoring, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Q: Do students need to meet with tutors in person?

No. IvyWise provides online academic subject tutoring to students all over the world. We are currently working with students as far away as Brazil! Using best-in-class software and hardware, we are able to provide highly effective online tutoring sessions across all subject matters. The tutor combines video chat and desktop sharing software to create a virtual “classroom.” Both the student and tutor work with easy-to-use USB graphics tablets, which allows the student to do work and receive real-time feedback from his/her tutor right on the screen. Tutors are also specially trained to bring the mentoring aspect of in-person tutoring into online lessons.

Q: What are the advantages of online tutoring?

Online tutoring offers students a more flexible approach. Students can be very busy and, with online tutoring, they can have sessions anywhere – all they need is a computer and Internet connection. Similarly, tutors have more flexibility to work around a student’s schedule.

There are many ways to reach your academic and personal goals. When you want a little extra support for your academic studies, you can reach out to a teacher or rely on the expert guidance of academic subject tutors.

IvyWise provides academic subject tutoring to students grades K-12 in a variety of academic disciplines, including AP courses, ranging from foreign languages to biology to US history. Whether you need a better grasp of the material or want coaching on successful test-taking strategies, IvyWise tutors can help. Our tutors address more than just the academic material; they teach students why it’s important to be a better student and, more notably, how to be a better student.


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