High School Students as Tutors

Archived Q&A and Reviews

14-y-o tutor's no-show, no-pay clients

Feb 2005

My daughter, age 14 started tutoring quite by accident. She started tutoring her 4th grade sister's friend and by word of mouth now has 3 students! She is getting frustrated because parents (students) do not show up and then do not pay her. I suggested she create a simple ''contract'' so parents understand that she is setting aside special time for their child and so that her time is not wasted and her own school work affected. Please suggest what is reasonable. Should she insist that parents pay her if they do not feel like bringing the child for her to tutor or other excuse? How about she ask to be paid upfront, that way if they do not show, she still gets paid. Would paying upfront for 4 or 6 sessions be reasonable? Your much valued advice would be greatly appreciated. Guidance giving Mom

Hi, One thing you should do is have a contract and bill the parents in advance for the month. If they pay in advance, they are much more likely to show up, and if they don't, you've already been paid. I am an educational therapist, and that's what I do for all my clients. Feel free to email me for advice on creating a contract. Good luck, jamie

Shocking as it is that your 14 y.o. tutor is getting ''stiffed'' by clients' parents, it's a good opportunity to learn and implement business skills. Probably, those parents do not appreciate the formality of the relationship. A conversation, though probably not a written contract, is necessary. And like any professional service (dr., dentist, etc.) payment should be made if cancellation is less than 24 hours in advance. Payment in advance should not be necessary. But collect payment at the time of service, and don't ''run a tab.'' Mark

This is a two or three headed problem...

First, the problem may be parents who don't pay, children who don't show up, or both. In each case, the basic issue is respect. Your daughter is entitled to respectful treatment by both her students and their parents. Not showing up or paying is disrespectful. Parents' failure to be respectful and/or to require it of their children conveys the message that your daughter's work is not valuable, and thus unimportant.

Next there's the policy issue. Adults who work with children on a scheduled basis (therapists, tutors, what have you) universally adopt a 24 to 48 hour cancellation policy. The parent is responsible for payment of fees if they choose to cancel after that. This is sometimes tempered by accomodation of emergencies -- if they don't turn into a regular excuse.

Finally, how to communicate the policy? Being clear with client parents is the bottom line. Requiring a written contract might put a client off (but who'd want to work with such a person?), but would show that she's serious. A verbal statement is less ''threatening'' but may not solve the problem, especially if your daughter is reticent to confront adults (though it appears that's in the cards eventually in this situation.) At a minimum, a clear verbal statement of her payment policy is both reasonable and necessary. Any written agreement should be simple but there may be other issues that come to mind as she develops it, e.g., behavioral expectations. Deciding how to handle this is a useful lesson for your daughter in conducting her affairs in the ''adult'' world.

A last word: any parent who would act this way toward a teenager they've hired is a jerk. If they can't or won't deal with her fairly and responsibly, she should fire them. I'm sure that doing so is scary because it brings up the fear of lost income and of a difficult conversation with an adult. But it is far better than being exploited. Learning to have the self-respect to reject exploitation is part of growing up. Tim

How much to pay a high school tutor?

Nov 2008

Re: Going rate for recent college grad
I think what you pay for tutoring depends a lot on the subject matter being tutored and the applicability of the degree to that subject matter. To give you an idea of the payscale, my daughter who is a math major at CAL in her last year of study charges $30 per hour to tutor math or sciences. She is definitely on the less expensive end of the math tutoring payscale but this allows her to find tutoring that she wants to do. She has tutored high school and college students in many levels of math, but mostly calculus and pre-calculus. Mary

Sept 2004

Hi, we recently hired a teen (jr. in high school) to tutor our son who is now in 8th grade. our son struggles in math and reading/writing...yeah the three r's. ( he got D's in math and geography - but probably would have been C's in a less competitive school). This strategy was recommended by the 8th grade counselor...

just wondering if the rate we are paying is avg - i suspect above, but hopefully not obscene - $15/hr for 2 hours per week.

this is his first tutoring job so i'm wary and now wish i'd negotiated a graduated pay that increases w/ time but didn't think of it at the time. i'd feel awful going back and offering him less then we'd previously agreed to...

also, what sort of supervision should i have w/ the tutor? is it ok to call them and check in? i was thinking about every 2 weeks...to both see how he is doing as well as give him feedback on what i know my son is doing.

any advice is greatly appreciated!
trying to do what i can

We had a similar arrangement for all three years of middle school for our son. We paid $10 an hour. But we had the tutoring take place in our home, so we could monitor what was going in. We would have paid more, but our tutor was happy with the pay. The most important thing for us was that our son had a wonderful relationship with the tutor, she really helped him and served as a study coach and trouble-shooter, his grades improved, and she was even available for consultation with his teachers. Now that he's just started high school, the tutor is at UCBerkeley and is still helping him. So you need to decide how good the relationship is and what it's worth to you. Our tutor was inexperienced at the beginning, but was a very kind, bright, and patient honors student with a good work ethic who was a wonderful role model to our son. There are lots of them out there, so if you're not satisfied, keep looking.