Tutoring can be a lucrative business. In the right place, an experienced SAT/ACT tutor can earn $200, $300, even $500+ an hour. And tutors, like all professionals, deserve to be paid increasing wages as they gain more experience. But as one’s rate rises past a certain point, one’s clientele becomes mostly the wealthy. And then a clear moral dilemma arises: “Aren’t I, a professional charging high rates, contributing to inequality by helping only the wealthy get into college?”
Not necessarily. An ethical professional recognizes the duty imposed by charging high fees–they must give back to the community with some of the capital they’re able to generate.
For an individual tutor, the clearest way to give back to the community is through pro bono tutoring. Whatever program one gives to full-paying, one-on-one clients, one should be prepared to offer to a certain number of pro bono clients each year, as well. That number obviously varies at different points in one’s career. As a young professional, you might really need the money to take care of yourself and your family. As your career advances, you may gain both more money (from charging higher rates) and/or time (from having to work fewer hours), and thus have more resources to devote to the community. But in either case, the responsibility of pro bono tutoring exists and must become a habit, a part of your schedule that you seek out and do not passively await.
For both individuals and companies, especially, discounted classes are another excellent way to widen access to your resources. Schools and community programs are often seeking providers of test preparation classes, but their budgets are fixed and stretched across a wide range of needs. You have the ability to help large numbers of students by sending your best instructors to teach these courses. And usually, frankly, you can still make a small profit. In these cases, the arrangements can work for everyone. As a company, you can provide meaningful hours to your top employees, support large numbers of students, serve the greater good, and still come out slightly ahead. Everyone wins.
Companies can also provide access to free mock testing and test reports. Students improve at standardized tests simply by taking them. And, good mock test reports can provide students with actionable information about potential areas of academic strength and weakness. Mock testing is good both at the beginning of a test preparation process, to obtain a baseline score, and during the preparation process, to gauge progress and gain additional test-taking experience. When families receive mock test results, be willing to review the results with them even if they are not likely potential clients. On the company end, some of the families drawn in by the mock tests will sign up for tutoring programs anyway. It’s another situation in which everyone can win.
Finally, free SAT/ACT teaching content, especially videos or free presentations, can make some of your best tips accessible to anyone with access to a phone or computer. Social media channels such as Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, and Reddit can give you exposure to literally hundreds of thousands of young viewers on an international scale, even in places where tutoring is scarce or simply not available. Specific online groups exist just for SAT/ACT questions and explanations. Don’t just create marketing videos, alluding to your best tips but hiding them behind a paywall. Give out some of your best explanations of the toughest problems. Give real value. You are enabling your viewers to self-study almost as effectively – maybe even as effectively – as your personal one-on-one students.
With financial success comes civic responsibility, and successful professionals recognize the moral obligation to widen access to top-quality test preparation. Many options exist to do so. Explore which options are right for you and your company, and you can make valuable contributions to your community, the field of education, and the common good.
An eighteen-year test preparation veteran and lifelong Massachusetts resident, Ben Sexton runs Sexton Test Prep and Tutoring with his wife, Sarah, out of their home in MetroWest Boston. With a team of sixteen tutors, STP helps more than 400 students each year meet their academic and test preparation goals through classroom and one-on-one programs. Ben has written complete curriculums for the ACT and each of the last three versions of the SAT, having worked through hundreds of official tests over nearly 15000 hours spent tutoring with students. He resides in Dover, MA, with Sarah, their two boys – Wyatt (4) and Drew (1) – and their dachshund Beso. Ben enjoys all Boston sports, entrepreneurship, collectibles, oysters, and working with the NTPA Advocacy committee.