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Last updated April 7, 2023

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How to Write an Insightful College Essay About Tutoring

Key Takeaway

When it comes to college essays about tutoring, some approaches are better than others. In general, you want to make sure that what you write is deeply meaningful and ultimately about you, not the person you're tutoring. 

If you’ve had a job tutoring others, you know that tutoring can be an impactful act of teaching and learning. It can also at times be gratifying, hilarious, or downright difficult.

As a college essay topic, tutoring experience can be an effective way to highlight your academic expertise and communication skills. Essays about tutoring can also be some of the most endearing when they discuss the tutor-tutee dynamic. In short, a college essay about tutoring can be a great topic to round out your application narrative.

But often students rely too heavily on overdone themes.

In this post, I lay out the three most common issues with college essays about tutoring and discuss what you can do instead.

When writing about tutoring others, a “love of helping and teaching” is not enough.

One of the most common tropes in personal statements about tutoring is a “love of helping others” or a “love of teaching.” Even if you’ve genuinely developed a love of helping or teaching, these themes alone are simply too common and generic to produce an insightful college essay.

Instead, try focusing on the critical pedagogical and communication skills you have developed while tutoring. Analyze the lessons you’ve learned to understand how they connect to your own experience as a student. Ask yourself how your work as a tutor has shaped your goals for the future.

Let’s say that your favorite student struggled with math, so you found a brilliant way to engage her in a new concept that resulted in her acing her next exam. You could write about how great it felt to help her or how much you loved teaching her.

But that topic doesn’t give the admissions committee very much to go on. A better approach would be to discuss what your strategy was, why you used it, and how it exhibits something wonderful about you.

By concentrating on what specifically has made you feel like a good teacher or helper, you can write an essay that showcases your love of helping and teaching while also demonstrating to your admissions officers your ability to think deeply and act with forethought and kindness.

Center yourself rather than your tutee when discussing your tutoring experience.

It’s only natural that you may want to write about a specific person you tutored when talking about your tutoring experience. The tutee is, after all, an integral half of the tutoring session. Forming good working relationships is part of being a good tutor, and the best tutor-tutee relationships have lasting impacts on both people.

But the heart of your college essay should not be about not the amazing or frustrating or brilliant student you tutored. It should be about you. Accomplish this by instead drawing attention to how your tutee affected you.

Perhaps the student you’ve connected with the most is one who was so shy he’d barely look at you in your first appointment. Although you may be so proud of the progress he made, your essay should not be about him. He’ll have his own turn to apply to college.

Discuss what you’ve learned from him, how you’ve been inspired by him, or how he reminds you about something about yourself. Maybe he taught you patience or bravery. Or maybe it was your work with him that led you to want to be a teacher or counselor.

Whatever your story is, it should be about you.

Talk about how your tutoring work makes you a good member of an academic community.

One of the reasons the “love of helping” essays don’t come across well to admissions officers, aside from being overdone, is that they can also read as arrogant. Your academic merits may have earned you your tutoring job, but the rest of your application will also show that you can excel in the classroom.

Instead, use your essay to convey to the admissions committee what a good academic community member you are. Highlight a time when you collaborated on a problem, when you were surprised at something you learned from your tutee, or when you had to work harder to be a better tutor.

Most schools would probably prefer to invite a curious and collaborative student to join their community over an arrogant and competitive one, so check your essay for tone.

You should come across as authoritative in your tutoring field but genuine in your recognition of the progress you have made and the lessons you still have left to learn.

Remember the importance of peer learning as you write and revise your own college essay about tutoring.

Finally, you were effective as a tutor not only because of your skills but also because there is inherent value in peer learning. Don’t forget to benefit from peer learning yourself by seeking out others who can read your college essay.

Having someone ask clarifying questions, evaluate the effectiveness of your approach, and identify your central message will only improve your essay.

Tutoring is hard work that takes great effort, skill, and persistence. What will make your college essay about tutoring insightful rather than generic is your ability to show your admissions officers why tutoring mattered to you and why your tutoring experience makes you a good fit for their school. The best essays will also tactfully reveal who you are as a person through your interactions with your tutee.

Ready to take your college essay to the next level? Check out our How to Write a College Essay guide.

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