Tips From an Orange County Academic Tutor: Tracking Progress for Optimism and Continued Success

Many students work hour after hour and day after day only to feel like they just can’t be good enough. Although this is a perfectly valid way to feel, students who track their improvement are much more likely to push themselves further academically with each passing term.


Think about this situation as if somebody is training for an athletic event but they’re never the winner, they may feel overwhelmed and simply give up. This is something that most people can relate to. However, if we realize that, although we weren’t first place, that we ran five minutes faster than our last race, or that our coach gave us more positive feedback than in the previous season, we’re more likely to stick with it. The same holds true with academic life (READ: “3 Tips for Consistency in Education”).

1. Get a baseline

Students who want to tract improvement should get a baseline for whatever subject they’re studying. A baseline is a simple way of knowing where a student started in the process of improvement. Examples include taking a practice SAT or ACT exam, providing a writing sample to a tutor, keeping a graded assignment from a teacher in a class that they’re struggling with, or anything that lets them know where they started.

2. Call an educational consultant

Private tutors and educational consultants have been helping students track their progress as part of their job for years. Because the tutor can remain objective, which is harder for students and their parents, they can often remind their students how far they’ve come, even if they haven’t reached their final goal. It’s really important for students to discuss what their specific goals are with their tutor at the beginning of their sessions. If a student says that their ultimate goal is to maintain straight A’s, the tutor may be able to set interim goals such as getting up to a B+, and then an A-.

3. Consult with the classroom teacher

Classroom teachers, of course, have grade sheets for every student for the last several years. If the student is feeling that they are not quite where they want to be at this point in the year, they’re advised to speak with their teacher and see how they were doing back in September. Students to find that they have significantly improved are more likely to continue on. Also, this alerts the teacher to the fact that they need a little extra encouragement (READ: “Five Tips for Success in English Class”).

4. Make a chart

Students who have very specific feedback are more likely to realize how important their improvement has been. It’s important to remember that improvement is not determined by great scores but also by small achievements. Students who consistently struggled with one particular issue, such as calculus, can make a chart that will help them specifically with calculus functions. If the student was only getting 6 out of 10 calculus problems right in September but they are now consistently getting 8 out of 10 correct, this is an improvement to be celebrated. It may not be enough to raise their grade in the class but it’s a personal achievement to be celebrated.

5. Ask a friend

Students who need to track improvement in a specific area can ask a friend for help. After all, friends are usually supportive and non-judgmental. If a student needs to track something highly specific, such as punctuation, they can ask a proofreading minded classmate to take a look at a writing sample from today and a writing sample from six months ago. Receiving encouragement and positive feedback is always good when it comes from a respected friend. Students to do not feel comfortable asking their friends for this favor, can ask a relative who is currently in college or a private tutor for feedback (READ: “the new SAT: it’s never too early to know the facts”).

So many students want to be “perfect” these days and it’s getting harder to be accepted to university. These issues can become very discouraging and prevent students from pursuing their dreams. Tracking small and specific improvements is a great way to stay positive and optimistic about a great educational future.

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