NOT FOR NOTHIN’: Tutoring provides great service

Amy Richards

Villanovans want to succeed in class. 

And sure, our university does a great job of making this possible. Professors are unbelievably accessible, willing to chat about struggles, always offering advice and ways to improve. 

However, with all that is demanded of them, professors do not have enough time to meet with every student who needs one-on-one help. 

Instead, students may seek out the help of fellow students or occasionally a teacher’s assistant, but the option to solicit an academic tutor is limited.

While certain students may access tutoring services free of charge, most students do not qualify for such assistance. Students who do qualify include varsity athletes, students with a verified learning disorder, students who are members of the Academic Advancement Program or A.C.T.I.V.E. Retention Program, etc. 

Still, even these students may be unable to find help in certain subject areas or in upper level courses within their major because of a lack of students willing to tutor. For those students who receive academic support for free, meeting with tutors is encouraged and often mandated. But for the rest of the Villanova population, seeking help can be a discouraging process.

In the past years, a few students have approached me needing help in developing their study skills in reading, writing and note-taking. They attended group sessions on studying and time management, but still felt lost in their coursework, especially in those classes outside of their concentration. While each of these students would have benefitted tremendously from some one-on-one time with a committed peer, they didn’t qualify for an academic tutor. 

One student sought help with expressing his thoughts in writing but felt underserved by the Writing Center, which focused primarily on his grammar. 

Other students might excel in their engineering courses but sink at the prospect of analyzing text in a paper for Literary Experience. Other students simply need some confidence making presentations in front of a class. 

We may have forgotten how it feels to be a freshman in class, surrounded by older students who are rehearsed in the art of collegiate debate. Arriving at everyone else’s level seems an impossible leap. 

For adult students on campus, the academic rigor of university life can be equally as daunting.

Instead of being able to access a tutor in these situations, many students accept that they won’t understand much from a science class or will never be able to write well, especially in those required courses, which can otherwise be so rewarding. Doing just enough to pass or get a satisfactory grade seems the only choice.

But when a student is ineligible for support from other students with whom they feel comfortable, they are given one fewer chance to succeed. 

Many departments have indeed made a huge effort to provide help, such as at the Math and Writing Centers, or with teacher’s assistants in the sciences. Similarly, organizations such as the Hispanic Society have begun to offer their services to peers. 

However, there persists a disconnect between professors, their students and these services. 

For students who do not qualify for assistance from paid academic tutors, professors should be able to point students in the direction of other students who might assist them. This requires that professors get to know those students well enough to connect students who need help with peers who exhibit solid understanding of the material.

Students simply are not signing up to tutor upper-level courses that require a great deal of energy for in-depth explanations and detailed learning plans. Do Villanova students need more of an incentive to tutor?

Our professors encourage us to share what we have learned and to continue the discussion outside of class, and tutoring is one of the best ways to do it. 

We develop a more solid understanding when we help other students see more clearly a theory, equation or thought. It is a different type of class discussion that can be even more rewarding because it is practical and shared with a peer. 

Dozens of Villanova students travel into Philadelphia to tutor young children in basic subjects every day. Theirs is a laudable pursuit, for most of these students are in great academic need. 

But we cannot leave behind those students who need help on campus when we have the skills and knowledge to help them excel. 

Spending three hours on a Monday helping a 5-year-old learn to add and subtract should be part of the Villanova learning experience, but so too should be helping our peers better understand integrals or Plato’s “Republic.” Perhaps we just need to be more available and open to helping each other, offering our time when someone else is struggling next to us in class. 

Maybe tutors simply need to be paid more for their services. 

Or maybe tutoring other Villanova students should merit the same kudos that does tutoring at Graterford Prison or the School of the Future. 

Villanova prides itself on leaving no man behind, even reaching out to the greater Philadelphia area to do so. 

It’s time we make sure no one is left behind here on campus, either.


Amy Richards is a senior honors, Spanish and global interdisciplinary studies major from King’s Park, NY. She can be reached at [email protected]