Post Academic

The Post Academic Survival Guide to Grad School: Your summer SAT prep and study center job

Since Caroline has been covering been covering the topic of part-time work the last few days and also because you probably can’t freeload your way through summer, it’s probably timely to discuss SAT and other tutoring jobs that might be available for the taking.  Mind you, Caroline and I were lucky when we did our summer part-time study center gigs, because there are tons of opportunities for this sort of thing in Southern California, partly due to Asian ethnic communities that have transplanted the study center ethos from their home countries here.  (If you think Kaplan and Princeton Review are anti-intellectual factories, they ain’t got nothing on the study centers in Taiwan, where your college future hinges on a single standardized test!)

Here are some tips about finding study center work and how to make the most of it (i.e., how to cut corners so that you’ll be able to use the summer to study for your qualifying exams or work on your dissertation).

1. How to find a job: Word of mouth usually works well in these cases, so ask your friends (as Caroline has suggested) and check your department listservs for summer job possibilities.  Also, look for study centers that aren’t just the big chains you’ve heard of, although indie operations might be harder to find in non-urban areas.  This where getting your M.A. or Ph.D. makes you an appealing candidate, since it’s more than likely you’re at a good or the only research institution in your area.  Study centers like to boast that they have teachers from Ivy-like schools, top-notch public universities, or colleges their students would like to attend, because they assume you can magically make that happen for them too.  Also, don’t think that positions are limited to SAT or achievement tests or AP classes: some “learning centers” offer courses all the way down to middle-school standardized tests, which I tended to choose because I didn’t need the stress of making sure high-schoolers got the SAT score they wanted.

2. What to expect: Academic purity trolls need not apply here, since this is a crass money-making enterprise mostly for the study centers and for you too.  Whatever class you take, be forewarned that, in almost all cases, you are just a glorified test-cramming baby sitter, especially if you are actually teaching young kids who are really going to the equivalent of day care.  But sometimes, it’s not so bad–like your college students, you’ll find some kids who are really smart, motivated, and that you’re happy to invest your time/energy in.  And because it’s hard to care that much about a summer job, the smart alecks are a lot funnier at this stage than they will be a few years later messing up the dynamic of your comp section.

As for pay, I got $20-$25/hr for my starting rate, though it goes up the longer you teach and also with the level of class you’re assigned.  The hard-core SAT classes for the tip-top students will offer a higher rate.  I’ve heard private tutors in big metropolitan areas can get up to triple-digits an hour and some folks who basically work full-time can get paid more than a TA salary, but that might more of a commitment than most grad students are looking for.

More after the jump… (more…)