Apr 7, 2020
29
6
Status
  1. Pre-Medical
Hey all.

I'm considering becoming an MCAT tutor to earn some money. I scored in the 98th percentile when I took the MCAT in Sept.

Does anyone have suggestions on whether to tutor on my own or through a test prep company like Kaplan?

I'm leaning towards working on my own so I don't have to deal with the test prep companies, but I'm open to hearing about your experiences with either.

Let me know what you think is best/easiest.
How much should I charge per hour if I tutor on my own?
How should I build up a base of tutees?
Any tips on how to start?

Thanks in advance.
 
Sep 12, 2020
23
10
frameshiftmcat.com
Status
  1. Non-Student
That's a great question! I'd love to share my perspective (I've tutored for the MCAT since 2013, both independently and for multiple test prep companies, and I've also held a wide range of different MCAT-related roles at those companies).

The thing that's most important to understand is that there is a very large discrepancy between what test prep companies charge students for tutoring and what they pay tutors. This is true pretty much across the board at test prep companies (maybe with the exceptions of rare small companies), and it can be as dramatic as students paying close to $200 (or more) per hour and the tutor getting something in the $20-$30 range. When tutors find out about this, they're usually angry/offended/indignant. That being said, companies provide several very valuable perks to tutors:

  • they find you clients (often with the weight of a hefty marketing budget behind them) and provide a platform for your name, often in the form of a bio on their website
  • to varying degrees, they screen clients (this is not true at all companies, though)
  • they process payments (so you don't have to do things like carry cash around)
  • they ensure payment (I'm listing this as a separate bullet point from the above, because a very real problem that independent tutors deal with is clients who promise to pay "next time," or who you do a lot of prep work for and then they ghost you. To some degree this might not be a problem for you if you're not "too nice," but I've definitely made that mistake before and gotten burned). As you might expect, companies do not stand for students who stiff them on the bill, lol.
  • they may provide training or mentoring (again, this varies widely among companies)
  • they may sell materials and provide those materials to students who buy tutoring, which makes your life easier (the alternative is you recommending materials to students, which you'll do anyway and can be totally fine, but it's nice to know that every student you get already has the AAMC materials and maybe that company's FLs included; plus, it's nice to not have to pay for your own materials)
  • they may have other opportunities to make money, like writing content or hosting marketing webinars (this is true even of very large companies like Kaplan, but tends to be more true at smaller outfits that also provide MCAT materials)

With that info covered, here's how I would answer your questions!

How much to charge per hour if you tutor on your own - this varies wildly, but it's important to remember that you have a very specific, highly valuable, and frankly rare set of skills. 98th-percentile scorers aren't a dime a dozen. So don't sell yourself short! It's been my experience that good MCAT tutors very rarely charge under $60/hour (so if you're a student reading this and you encounter someone charging like $25, be wary!), so that can be a good start. Hourly rates of independent tutors can easily get up to the $200-$250 range, but that takes a lot of time to build up a great reputation and hone your approach.

I will say one thing about price, though - MCAT tutoring tends to make tutors particularly aware of the unfairness of the premed/med school admissions system with regard to socioeconomic status. It can start to feel really bleak and depressing to constantly work with students who can afford $60+ (and again, sometimes $200+) an hour, knowing that this really is a huge amount of money for most of the world and a lot of the country. One recommendation I have is to set your baseline rate higher, and then do pro bono or heavily discounted work for a handful of students that you encounter who otherwise would never be able to afford tutoring. It does something good in the world, and it can dramatically combat burnout on your part.


How to build up a base of tutees - honestly, my recommendation here is usually to work for a company first and then branch out on your own later. Companies generally have very strict no-poaching policies, so I'm definitely not advocating "stealing" students from a company and building your base that way. (To clarify further, it's good to be extremely careful about avoiding that entirely.) But it's hard to find students at first, and companies can do that for you. Over time, you'll tend to encounter students completely independently of the company (for example, you'll tend to talk about tutoring at gatherings with family and friends - once those are a thing again - and happen to run into people who need tutoring. I promise it'll happen). And once you leave that company, you'll have more experience and potentially some more name recognition, or at least you'll have [x amount of time] of tutoring to point to. (I do highly recommend researching companies first, though. Don't just work for Kaplan because they're familiar! Kaplan pays near the low end of the MCAT companies out there, and they also have lower score standards than many alternatives - which can be okay in certain contexts, but since you got a great score, it's likely that you'd be able to make a bit more money somewhere else.)


Other tips on how to start - honestly, getting even one or two students is incredibly illuminating. When I started tutoring, I kind of jumped in headfirst and ended up tutoring 50+ hours per week regularly, within a pretty short time. I still built the same knowledge and got some truly awesome work experience, but it was overwhelming. Starting small and then ramping it up once you have a solid methodology for how sessions typically go, how you help students build their study plans, etc. can be less stressful.


Otherwise, good luck! I have a real place in my heart for other MCAT tutors, lol. If you stick with it, you'll most likely find that you understand the MCAT infinitely better than you did when you took it, which is both cool and (to some degree, at least for me) a little scary. And it's one of the best feelings in the world to run into another tutor and find out that you came to the same conclusion about certain MCAT strategies completely independently. It makes the test feel a lot more understandable and the entire process feel more guided and non-arbitrary.

Let me know anytime if you have more questions, and good luck!!!!
 
  • Like
Reactions: 4 users
Apr 7, 2020
29
6
Status
  1. Pre-Medical
That's a great question! I'd love to share my perspective (I've tutored for the MCAT since 2013, both independently and for multiple test prep companies, and I've also held a wide range of different MCAT-related roles at those companies).

The thing that's most important to understand is that there is a very large discrepancy between what test prep companies charge students for tutoring and what they pay tutors. This is true pretty much across the board at test prep companies (maybe with the exceptions of rare small companies), and it can be as dramatic as students paying close to $200 (or more) per hour and the tutor getting something in the $20-$30 range. When tutors find out about this, they're usually angry/offended/indignant. That being said, companies provide several very valuable perks to tutors:

  • they find you clients (often with the weight of a hefty marketing budget behind them) and provide a platform for your name, often in the form of a bio on their website
  • to varying degrees, they screen clients (this is not true at all companies, though)
  • they process payments (so you don't have to do things like carry cash around)
  • they ensure payment (I'm listing this as a separate bullet point from the above, because a very real problem that independent tutors deal with is clients who promise to pay "next time," or who you do a lot of prep work for and then they ghost you. To some degree this might not be a problem for you if you're not "too nice," but I've definitely made that mistake before and gotten burned). As you might expect, companies do not stand for students who stiff them on the bill, lol.
  • they may provide training or mentoring (again, this varies widely among companies)
  • they may sell materials and provide those materials to students who buy tutoring, which makes your life easier (the alternative is you recommending materials to students, which you'll do anyway and can be totally fine, but it's nice to know that every student you get already has the AAMC materials and maybe that company's FLs included; plus, it's nice to not have to pay for your own materials)
  • they may have other opportunities to make money, like writing content or hosting marketing webinars (this is true even of very large companies like Kaplan, but tends to be more true at smaller outfits that also provide MCAT materials)

With that info covered, here's how I would answer your questions!

How much to charge per hour if you tutor on your own - this varies wildly, but it's important to remember that you have a very specific, highly valuable, and frankly rare set of skills. 98th-percentile scorers aren't a dime a dozen. So don't sell yourself short! It's been my experience that good MCAT tutors very rarely charge under $60/hour (so if you're a student reading this and you encounter someone charging like $25, be wary!), so that can be a good start. Hourly rates of independent tutors can easily get up to the $200-$250 range, but that takes a lot of time to build up a great reputation and hone your approach.

I will say one thing about price, though - MCAT tutoring tends to make tutors particularly aware of the unfairness of the premed/med school admissions system with regard to socioeconomic status. It can start to feel really bleak and depressing to constantly work with students who can afford $60+ (and again, sometimes $200+) an hour, knowing that this really is a huge amount of money for most of the world and a lot of the country. One recommendation I have is to set your baseline rate higher, and then do pro bono or heavily discounted work for a handful of students that you encounter who otherwise would never be able to afford tutoring. It does something good in the world, and it can dramatically combat burnout on your part.


How to build up a base of tutees - honestly, my recommendation here is usually to work for a company first and then branch out on your own later. Companies generally have very strict no-poaching policies, so I'm definitely not advocating "stealing" students from a company and building your base that way. (To clarify further, it's good to be extremely careful about avoiding that entirely.) But it's hard to find students at first, and companies can do that for you. Over time, you'll tend to encounter students completely independently of the company (for example, you'll tend to talk about tutoring at gatherings with family and friends - once those are a thing again - and happen to run into people who need tutoring. I promise it'll happen). And once you leave that company, you'll have more experience and potentially some more name recognition, or at least you'll have [x amount of time] of tutoring to point to. (I do highly recommend researching companies first, though. Don't just work for Kaplan because they're familiar! Kaplan pays near the low end of the MCAT companies out there, and they also have lower score standards than many alternatives - which can be okay in certain contexts, but since you got a great score, it's likely that you'd be able to make a bit more money somewhere else.)


Other tips on how to start - honestly, getting even one or two students is incredibly illuminating. When I started tutoring, I kind of jumped in headfirst and ended up tutoring 50+ hours per week regularly, within a pretty short time. I still built the same knowledge and got some truly awesome work experience, but it was overwhelming. Starting small and then ramping it up once you have a solid methodology for how sessions typically go, how you help students build their study plans, etc. can be less stressful.


Otherwise, good luck! I have a real place in my heart for other MCAT tutors, lol. If you stick with it, you'll most likely find that you understand the MCAT infinitely better than you did when you took it, which is both cool and (to some degree, at least for me) a little scary. And it's one of the best feelings in the world to run into another tutor and find out that you came to the same conclusion about certain MCAT strategies completely independently. It makes the test feel a lot more understandable and the entire process feel more guided and non-arbitrary.

Let me know anytime if you have more questions, and good luck!!!!

Thank you SO much! This is incredibly helpful, I really appreciate it.

I've tried posting in a few Facebook groups to find some potential clients, but I definitely am leaning towards starting with a test prep company.
Do you have any advice on how to find tutoring jobs/how to apply for tutoring jobs with test prep companies? I've honestly had some difficulty finding openings, but I'm not sure if I'm going about it the right way.

Thank you again, this info is going to be so helpful!
 
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