Every year, millions of high school students take either the ACT or SAT test when trying to get into college. Some teens take them both. If you’ve managed to ace either of these tests and you’d love to share your knowledge with high schoolers, becoming a tutor for the SAT might be a good idea. Not only will you be helping teenagers make a higher score on the test, but professional SAT tutors can also earn a pretty good living preparing students for test day. If this is something you’d like to learn more about, you’ve come to the right place, as the below guide will walk through how to become a certified SAT tutor.
What is the SAT?
Today, more than two million students take the SAT every year. The test is broken down into three different sections: reading, writing and language, and math. A perfect score is 1600, but anything over 1300 is considered extremely good. On average, students who work with a good SAT tutor can add around 37 points to their score, which is significant. If you’re going to be an effective tutor for this test, you should treat it as a legitimate business and keep excellent records of your expenses and income from the very beginning.
SAT stands for “scholastic aptitude test” or “scholastic assessment test,” and it’s something that most colleges require teenagers to take as part of the admissions process. Instead of testing the teens’ actual knowledge of the subject areas, it is designed to test their abilities, which most colleges consider more important. Many colleges require students to have a minimum score to be admitted, but some of them use the test scores as a way to determine the placement of the students and to determine if they need to take any remedial classes upon entry into the bachelor’s degree program.
The SAT is offered seven times throughout the year, and there is a fee for teens to register for the test, although it is not unreasonable. Most colleges require a minimum score of 400, but of course, the higher the score, the more likely the teen is to be accepted into their dream school. If they apply to a college that is very competitive or one that only takes a certain number of students every year, a very high SAT score is likely to give them a better chance at admission acceptance.
For these reasons, most teenagers want to get a very high score on their SAT, which makes finding the right tutor (with extensive experience and proven test-taking tips) even more important. Taking this test can be nerve-wracking for a lot of high schoolers desperate for extra help to boost their overall score, so if being a professional tutor is something you’re interested in, the good news is that it can be a very lucrative business for you. In fact, some teens have the opinion that without a master tutor, they simply won’t be able to get the score they desire. In other words, the best SAT tutors never run out of clients!
What Should You Do First?
Creating your private tutoring services and mastering the necessary study materials should start a minimum of six months before you intend to get your first client. Get the business license, if needed, and check with your local government to determine what else you need to do legally to get set up in the business. This may take a few months, so you’ll need to start early. You’ll also need to be fully ready to open your business about three to five months before the test is scheduled so that students can have enough prep time to take full advantage of your services.
While it’s not necessary, getting officially certified is always a good idea. Organizations such as The Association for Test Prep and Tutoring Professionals offer certification programs that allow you to become “official,” which can increase the number of clients you receive. In short, the “Certified Tutor” designation reassures potential clients that they can trust you to do the job right and that they’ll get what they paid for when they hire you and set their child up with the greatest opportunities for access to higher education (to ensure a low test score doesn’t limit those options).
The next steps you should take are to make a few decisions. For instance,
- Where are you going to do the tutoring? At your home or office or at the student’s home?
- Are you going to tutor students individually or in groups?
- Is there a form that you want them to fill out before you get started?
- What materials do you intend to use? What do you expect the students to bring with them?
Many of the prospective students will ask you these questions, so you should be as prepared as possible for the answers. An expert tutor is a professional who will automatically know the answers to these questions. Prepare yourself by having all of the materials and supplies you need and by deciding what location you’d like to conduct each session. The more details you have in place and the more prepared you are, the more ready you’ll feel to start taking in clients.
Some Legal Issues to Consider
When you first become a freelance SAT tutor, you have to make certain decisions. In addition to the right licenses and paperwork, you should also insure your business for basic liability. As a freelancer, you’re going to have to file taxes as an independent contractor, and it’s best if you pay estimated taxes three to four times per year so you’re not hit with all of these taxes in April. QuickBooks is a simple-to-use program that many small businesses use for bookkeeping purposes, but there are others you might like better.
Regarding insurance, it shouldn’t cost you a lot of money, especially if you’re working alone and have no employees, and any reputable insurance company can help you with this. You can register your business as a sole proprietorship or an LLC (limited liability company), and most experts recommend the latter because if someone ends up suing you (which is extremely rare in this business), you won’t lose any of your personal possessions.
It’s also best if you keep impeccable bookkeeping records right from the start, so make it a habit to record every single expense you incur and every bit of income you receive. Programs such as QuickBooks allow you to enter the numbers, and at any point, you can view the screen and see exactly where you are financially. You have to file taxes every year, so you might as well start now and keep track of everything you’re spending and taking in at all times.
How to Get Clients
Advertising and promoting your business is important, and you’ll want to start two to three months before you expect your first client. Since you’ll be teaching test-taking strategies, and students may have diverse learning preferences and styles, personalizing your tutoring sessions so each student’s individual needs are met is critical, as well as coming up with a clear-cut study plan and a way to track their improvement.
One such way to track students’ improvement, ensure your strategies are working, and come away with valuable marketing statistics that can help spread the word about your effective tutoring business is to conduct practice tests that are timed and scored so students are prepared for the real testing experience, and you’re able to gauge the score improvement most students achieve. It’s also a good idea to create an information sheet for each student so you can determine where to start, which should be preceded by a practice test to grasp their baseline starting score, strengths, and weaknesses.
Most students will require something different. This is because many of them will have a weakness in some subjects and a strength in others. While you’ll want to tutor them in all of the subjects that are contained on the three core sections of the SAT, you should always spend more time on the subject area they consider the most difficult. Keep in mind that the test questions are different with each exam, so your job isn’t to expose them to specific questions, but rather to the types of questions that might be found on the test and the best strategies and thought processes to solve them.
Advertising in college newspapers and on sites such as Craigslist is a good way to start getting clients. Go ahead and get business cards and place them in businesses located near college campuses and high schools. Remember that promoting your business should be a constant task, so regular advertising is a must. You can use a combination of high school or neighborhood community referrals via email, flyers, perhaps social media groups for local high school parents, and maybe even local newspaper ads, though those may be more expensive and less effective than the referrals and flyers.
Mailing flyers to high schools in the area is also a good idea. You can send them directly to the counselors at each school for the best results. In fact, anywhere you can find high schoolers is a good place to leave your flyers and/or business cards. Be on the lookout constantly for places to promote your tutoring business. You’ll be surprised by how many places you’ll find that will be happy to accommodate you, especially since you’re helping kids advance in their academic achievement, which is a noble cause. Lastly, keep your business cards with you at all times in case another opportunity presents itself.
How Much to Charge for Your Tutoring Services
You’ll want to charge a reasonable but responsible price for your SAT tutoring services. If you charge too much, you won’t get many customers. If you don’t charge enough, people will assume that you’re not very good at what you do. You’ll want to charge a price that’s competitive and a price that says, “I’m always going to give you your money’s worth.” The best thing to do is to call various freelance tutors or research them online and see what they charge to determine the local average for comparable service providers.
Private tutoring companies that hire various tutors sometimes charge up to around $180 per hour, but of course, this is far more than you’ll likely be able to charge. Always charge per hour, however, and make sure you disclose your fee upfront so that there are no problems in the future. Students (or their parents) need to know beforehand exactly how much they’ll be paying you, but you can also charge a monthly discounted fee if it looks like a student wants to be tutored at least weekly.
Since there is no “standard” charge for an SAT freelance tutor, you instead have to take into consideration where you live, how much the local market values these services and the audience’s ability to pay, how much experience you have, and what the other tutors in the area are charging for the same services. Once you do enough research, it should quickly become obvious what your per-hour pricing should be. Regardless of how much you end up charging, keep in mind that tutoring is a job with low overhead, so you should be able to make a good income from it, since your expenses should be relatively low (and thus, your profit, or take-home income, high).
Should You Have Certain Qualifications?
While there are no specific requirements to become an SAT tutor, you have to fulfill certain requirements if you want to become certified. These include:
- A bachelor’s degree
- Familiarity with standardized testing
- A good score on the SAT
If you decide not to freelance but instead work for a test prep company such as Kaplan or Princeton Review, these requirements will be a necessity. They may even have other requirements besides these, so if you intend to work for a company like these as a professional tutor, you’ll need to be familiar with those requirements. Fortunately, you can discover what they are quickly and easily if you go to the companies’ websites.
Of course, excellent communication skills, time-management skills, and computer skills also do you a world of good when you’re tutoring students. Learn to be engaging with your students so you can keep the sessions interesting. Let them ask questions, and make sure you know the answers to those questions. Stay organized, and make sure you have a specific plan for each tutoring session. All of these things help you become much more successful in your business.
What Subjects Should You Be Good At?
Being an SAT tutor doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in every single subject you learned in high school, but it’s smart to be familiar with the following areas:
- Grammar, including subject/verb agreement, verb tense agreement, paragraph flow and structure, and misplaced modifiers
- Critical reading, including skimming, note-taking skills, and common question types
- Math, including exponent rules, triangle measurements, factoring, “guess and check,” and area, perimeter, and volume
Critical thinking skills are also important because these skills are needed in all subject areas. You also need to be prepared to review practice exams and study guides with your students because these are practical ways to help your students prepare for the SAT. Familiarize yourself with the SAT prep books that are often used in tutoring sessions and, more specifically, by your clients. These books are perfect for preparing kids to do well on the SAT when the time comes.
If you’re wondering whether you should specialize in just the SAT or add the ACT as well, that is really your decision. Many states no longer require the ACT in their college admission programs, but almost every state requires teens to take the SAT. You are certainly free to specialize in both of these tests because many high schoolers choose to take them both even if it’s not required, so it won’t hurt to add “ACT tutor” to your service offerings. One thing’s certain: you’ll never run out of clients, regardless of what you choose. You could even add online tutoring, as well as broaden your areas of study to the advanced SAT subject tests and other generic study tutoring, thus multiplying the students of all ages who might be interested in your services.
Tutors Who Work for Franchises: Are There Advantages?
As mentioned earlier, you can either freelance your tutoring services or work for a professional tutoring company, but if you work for a company, be prepared to learn about franchises. You can either work for them or buy a franchise of your own. If the latter is chosen, you have to be prepared to pay franchise fees, which are usually a certain percentage of the money you make. Regardless of how you wish to become a tutor, it’s a good idea to study each option to make sure you make the right decision in the end.
The money you make might be higher if you freelance or have a franchise and build it up into a big company, but it’s up to you what to choose. You’ll have to take more into consideration than just the money you’ll make, including time freedom, the ability to work for yourself, and how much enjoyment you’ll get out of the experience. Once you take these things and more into consideration, you’ll be able to determine which working option is right for you.
Some Final Words
Becoming an SAT tutor is not difficult, but it does require some preparation ahead of time. If you’ve never been to college, it’s not likely a job you’ll like because you won’t be able to relate to future college students. To tutor anyone, you need an education level that’s higher than theirs. Each college board has to determine what their admission requirements are, but since most of them require students to take either the SAT or the ACT—or both—you’ll never run out of clients when you tutor in either of these areas.
If your career goals include helping prospective college students achieve their educational goals, you’ll never be dissatisfied with your job. Many independent tutors can make around $60,000 a year offering SAT (and/or ACT) tutoring services. It shouldn’t cost you a lot of money to get started with the business, so the more clients you manage to get, the more money you’ll make and keep. Furthermore, as a freelancer, you can work as much or as little as you like, and the per-hour rate is always a lot higher than most people realize, making this a great way to cultivate supplemental income or build a flexible schedule without compromising your earning power. Truth be told, if you utilize online resources and build up name recognition and a strong referral network, you’ll be able to get all of the information you need to eventually have a thriving tutoring business you’ll love that won’t run you ragged or cost an arm and a leg to maintain and grow.