Why having a tutor at uni is worth it: 3 students’ stories

Having a tutor to get you through your GCSEs or A-Levels is pretty common practice. So why don’t most of us get a tutor when it comes to studying for one of the biggest academic steps in our lives: our degrees? Here are stories from three of our tutors that show why booking yourself a tutor is worth it.

Lucy Liddicoat, tutor and History graduate from the University of Exeter

Did you have a tutor while you were studying?

Yes. It was arranged via a university scheme where they pair a first year student with a third year. I was paired with a tutor called Lizzy, and she was just a really sweet soul and went above and beyond. 

I only worked with Lizzy for the first term, but it was definitely really valuable. I had some modules that were generalised (focusing on method and writing) and other modules that were more content-based. So she mainly helped me with the generalised modules that she’d done herself, looking at things like essay technique, how to do university research, how to use the library, and how to reference properly, as I’d never been taught that before.

The tutoring was really helpful for reducing the stress factor of starting uni. I literally remember, in my first week I called my mum crying saying ‘I can’t do it, this is too hard, absolutely not!’. But Lizzy completely calmed me down, and it really reduced the anxiety around those first few assignments. 

Why should uni students get a tutor?

I tutored a first-year student for a year while I was in my third year at uni. And since graduating, I’ve taken on a few university students through MyTutor.

I think it can really help people to adjust to the step up from A-Level to university. The first-year student that I tutored said that I was actually clearer than her professors – because sometimes the language they use, and the way they explain things, takes some getting used to. She found it helpful that I could put certain things into plain English for her. I definitely saw her confidence  increase, so by the end of the year, she didn’t need me – and she’d gone from a high 2:2 to a solid 2:1.

I also think, especially if you study a subject like History where you’ve got barely any contact hours, having a tutor adds an hour of structure, versus doing a day of work at home. For example, in my third year, I only had 4 contact hours – so adding an hour of tuition on top was actually a really big percentage!

Aside from the pure academic side of things, uni can sometimes be isolating as well. So having some face-to-face time with someone who can help you can be really reassuring.

Mike Rothwell-Williams, tutor and Chemical Engineering graduate from the University of Manchester

How long have you been tutoring?

I have been teaching a broad range of science subjects for the last five years. Around a year ago or so I decided to include university topics into my subject list, mainly Chemical Engineering and Chemistry.

Why should uni students get a tutor?

I tend to tutor university students for short stretches of time, when they’re struggling with a particular topic, for example thermodynamics or solid fluid systems. Most of the time, students don’t need support for the full length of their degree, but they might have a specific hurdle that they’re looking for help with.

When you’re struggling with a subject, if you get tuition, you’re ultimately going to be able to understand it much better. It also gives you valuable one-on-one contact time. If you’re not getting tutoring, your only point of contact for strange questions is your lecturers, and sometimes it can be difficult to schedule time with them. 

There’s also the mentoring aspect, which is hugely valuable. For example, I’ve applied to a number of different jobs and graduate placements in the last two years, so I’ve got quite a lot of experience going through those processes – and can offer more specific, detailed advice than what you might get at a careers fair. Getting that first-hand advice from an older student is great, especially when it can sometimes be tricky to connect with people outside of your year group.

Anna Wijngaard, tutor and fourth year Medicine student at the University of Edinburgh

How long have you been tutoring?

I’m currently in my fourth year studying Medicine, and I have taught for 3-4 years now. It has mainly been Biology and Chemistry to GCSE, IB and degree students, and also 1st and 2nd year medics in small group tutorials and lectures through the societies at university. I have also tutored a biology university student through their second and third year.

Why should uni students get a tutor?

When I’ve tutored medicine, I’ve tended to cover the main topics that come up in exams a lot, for example explaining underlying diseases and how they work, and how they present. For other degree subjects, which have more of an essay-writing focus, my teaching is a lot more skills-based – for example, good essay research and writing practices.

From a personal point of view, there have been plenty of times in my degree where I’ve struggled to understand or memorise the content – and I’ve often wished someone would sit down with me for an hour and tell me how it’s done, so I don’t have to spend the 20 hours looking into it myself!

That’s the big benefit of having a tutor in my opinion, as well as the advice and life skills they can share. Because of the coronavirus situation, my uni has recently arranged for us to get group tuition from sixth year medics. And the tips they can give us, because they’ve gone through an extra few years, are so useful. There are so many things I wish people had told me in my first or second year, which you can’t get from a textbook! And that’s really what a one-to-one tutor can give you.

Ready to take the leap? Click below to start your search, with a broad range of degree subjects to choose from, and talented tutors from top universities across the UK.

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