What is a tutor?
The purpose of tutoring is to help students help themselves and to assist or guide them to the point at which they become independent, successful learners.
Your tutor will offer one-to-one support and advice throughout your time at university and will support you in your studies or with other issues you may have.
This can take many forms during your educational experience and of course, the majority of the burden will be on you, the student, to take what you learn and apply it in the appropriate way to make your time there a success. Think, then, of your personal tutor as the figurative signpost, who will guide you at the most vital, important times of your stay, but who can also be available when you most need them.
Some of the tasks your tutor will help you with are:
- to help you transition as you settle, especially in terms of time spent studying
- to see you regularly throughout the academic year to help you reflect on your progress and support you in thinking about your development, both in your studies and in extra-curricular activities
- to advise and support you regarding your studies, and help you with any academic or personal difficulties that may affect your progress
- to provide you with references in seeking future employment or for further study
Your personal tutor will be allocated to you shortly after you arrive and they are typically a member of academic staff in your subject area, or at least a closely related one. During your initial meeting with them, they will likely detail their role and how they will help you.
If they don’t mention any of the areas above, perhaps make a note and ask them; not every tutor will approach this the same way and so they may have different expectations for what being a tutor will involve.
A word of advice
One important thing to remember during your time at your new school is this: your work is your responsibility.
It is a common mistake for new students to expect university or college to be like high school, that if you miss a piece of homework or are late, that you may get in trouble and punished. That doesn’t happen so much at this level of education.
Your tutor and your lecturers are not your teachers. They won’t shout at you for being late or criticise you for missing classes. In fact, the ‘teaching’ part of their role is often secondary to research or writing or even their own studies.
In terms of your new tutor then, you are the one who will have to contact them, organise meetings, ask for advice and be honest with them, so as to get the most out of your time with them. If you do not do these things, no one will criticise you, the time will just pass and your opportunity for tutored help will also.
It’s really all part of the growing up process that accompanies university students and a good life lesson: you are responsible for yourself and your work.
What then are the benefits?
Informed, intellectual discussion with academic staff and fellow students lies at the heart of the university learning experience. It is important and valuable to take an overview of your academic development at regular points throughout your study. This system also provides continuity for you, as you will get to know one member of academic staff who will be your key regular point of contact.
Most students, no matter their age, find that they need some academic assistance and guidance at some point during their studies. To get the most of the tutoring scheme, as a student, you are expected to:
- Attend scheduled tutoring sessions
- Prepare for tutoring sessions as guided by your tutor
- Take responsibility for your learning by reflecting on your progress and responding to advice and guidance from your tutor
- Take the initiative in contacting your tutor in relation to problems
Your tutor will typically write your reference, so it is also useful to discuss your career intentions, ambitions and work experience with him/her throughout your studies. Many employability skills are developed through extra-curricular activity while at university and it is also helpful to discuss this with your tutor. The better informed you keep your tutor of your development, the better able they will be to provide you with an effective reference.
How often should I meet with my tutor?
Obviously this relationship relies upon regular contact and the building of mutual trust between the two of you. You should see them a minimum of once a semester at a time agreed with him/her. But you should also take the initiative to contact your tutor when you have something you would like to talk over.
If, for whatever reason you are not given an allocated tutor, then contact the university to see if they can assign you one. If not, then perhaps make use of an outside tutor, multitudes of whom are available online or in person, though often for a small fee.