Words of advice from some of our former and current tutors.
Preparing for sessions
Find out what the student wants to cover beforehand. "My #1 piece of advice would be to ask students what they
want to cover ahead of time. This serves two purposes. Assuming you
are familiar with the material, you can review yourself and have a more
productive session. That said, there were a couple of times students
asked to cover something I simply did not know (due to curriculum change,
different professor, etc). Asking the student ahead of time what they
wanted to cover allowed me to refer the student to someone else (or at the very
least manage their expectation that I couldn't cover a particular sub topic)."
Bring your own references. "Have your notes and slides from when
you took the class handy. They can help jog your memory if something
looks unfamiliar to you, particularly when the professor is using
different terminology or examples than you remember from class."
Start from square one. "Many of your students will come from
non-business or non-quantitative backgrounds. Don't assume they
understand the of discount rates, standard deviations, or income
statements after the first class. Always review the basics (when it
doubt, say "stop me if this is familiar to you.")"
Prepare for different learning styles and needs. "Recognize that students often need process tips in addition to content ones (on prioritization, time management, etc). When asked, I always gladly shared what worked for me and also what worked for some of my friends, knowing that people have different learning styles."
Be clear about where to meet. "If your student is an EMBA and you are having your session in Watson, be very clear that it is Watson Library in Uris Hall to the left of the elevators. Otherwise they might end up in Watson Hall – which is an undergrad dorm."
During the session
Distill the subject down to the most salient concepts. "There is a lot of noise in lectures and class notes. Students like when you block out the noise and distill the concept down, sometimes even to just a formula."
Explain conceptually as much as possible. "In most quantitative
classes, the math exists to convey a set of concepts. But many
professors tend to be better at explaining the math than the concepts.
For students who haven't encountered these concepts before, the math
becomes much more manageable if you begin by explaining conceptually. Explaining mathematically: "Discount the FCF using the formula C / (1 + )^t." Explaining conceptually:
"A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow, because if you
had it today, you could invest it and earn a return. Conversely, a
dollar tomorrow is worth less today. The formula C / (1 + r)^t tells you
how much less, where r is the discount rate [we'll talk about that more
later] and t is the number of years you're going back."
Use vivid examples. "People remember stories better than
formulas, charts, or lists. Whenever possible, walk through a specific
example that explains the material instead of just discussing the
Use class slides as a guide. "In the vast majority
of cases, all the material you need is on the professor's slides. You
don't have to memorize every formula or bring your own lesson plan. You
just have to explain the material in a more accessible way, or help
students practice the material so that it makes more sense the second
You are not smarter than your students. "You're just more
experienced with the material. Especially if you've used these concepts
before CBS, try to remember what it was like for you to learn the
material the first time. Never make your students feel dumb for not
understanding." Make the student do the work as much as possible. They will not learn the material if you do it for them. If they are having trouble, ask them leading questions to help them work out the solution. Help them to answer their own questions.
After the session, and tutor best practices
Keep very good notes for yourself. "You don’t want to be fumbling around looking for formulas or references in slides/books."
Be diligent about your paperwork or online filing requirements. "Set aside every Sunday night per week or something to do it. If you get behind, it’s a nightmare."
There is synergy to tutoring complimentary subjects
(accounting/corporate finance/capital markets, micro/macro). "Don’t get
overstretched by trying to do too many classes or classes that don’t
have some conceptual overlap."
There are economies of scale in tutoring. "The first time you tutor a subject, you'll remember much less than you thought you did. The tenth time you tutor a subject, you'll sound like a genius - and more importantly, you'll have clear, well-structured explanations. It helps to tutor the same subject multiple times instead of spreading yourself too thin."
Give yourself a break. "Schedule at least 5 minutes between consecutive sessions. This gives transition time between students and gives you a breather."
Many thanks to Katherine Sorenson, MBA '11; Or Skolnik, MBA '12; Elizabeth Harkness, MBA '13; and Michael Ciolli, MBA '06 for their contributions.