Tour for Diversity in Medicine

Confessions of a Peer Tutor


I was the type of student to sit in a class — completely lost. While the professor lectured on Meiosis I and II, I would stare blankly at the powerpoints — absorbing very little, and remembering even less.  And if any of my friends (whom often had a better grasp of the material) would offer to teach me, I would give them a Dikembe Motumbo-style rejection.

It took a ton of academic bumps and bruises to learn that Tutoring is an AMAZING resource! One day, I just mustered up the courage to approach a classmate who worked as a peer tutor: “Don, you seem to have a pretty good understanding of this glycolysis stuff. Do you mind walking me through it?” And without a pause, Don said, “No doubt man, we’ll get you through this.”

As both a former tutee AND a current peer tutor, I’ve seen how the process removes anxiety around learning by establishing a comfortable environment in which a student can maximize their learning potential. Making the transition from “student-seeking-tutoring” to “tutor seeking students to teach” isn’t difficult — you don’t have to be a master of all the material either.

When I started tutoring as a college student, my goal was to take the toughest science concepts and mince them into easily-digested bites that anyone could chew. And because I could relate to students who didn’t quite understand all the details on the first…second…or even third attempt, it made me a better teacher and manager of the information they needed to know.

You’re probably thinking: “How does being a Peer-Tutor help me pursue a career in the health professions??”

Well — I thought you’d never ask! Here are a few reasons you should consider being a Peer-Tutor:

  1. A great way to fine-tune the information that you know.

    • – If you’re preparing for an admissions exam (ie MCAT, DAT) seeing the subject areas regularly and having to present the details in your own words helps to solidify testable material.
    • – The key word here is REINFORCEMENT. Those tricky organic chemistry concepts become putty in your palms when the task at hand is to help another student gain understanding.
    • – You rediscover test-taking strategies, and whittle down your personal approach to learning
  2. You help others to overcome their personal barriers.

    • – There’s a distinct “do-good” feeling you receive from tutoring. Think about it — walking with an individual as they struggle, not hand holding, but gently nudging them in the right direction; the moment they discover the answer or grasp a concept for themselves — a light goes off inside them. In a way, you relive those same moments, and it makes you grateful for the lessons you’ve learned along the way.
  3. Tutoring strengthens your communication skills.

    • – Tutoring builds recognition of learning styles (visual, auditory, spatial/kinesthetic), making you far more effective at delivering a message.
    • – When you tutor a variety of students (whom are on all ends of the learning spectrum) this builds a repository of teaching techniques. Sometimes you will employ analogies, other times, flow charts or diagrams, teach-backs, or question/answer sessions; each of these techniques will be critical in your success as a professional health student and beyond.
  4. Income comin’ in.

    • – Most peer-tutoring positions come with a modest wage — usually $10 – $15 per hour. Who doesn’t like a little extra cash?!
    • – This has to be one of the most passive yet rewarding ways to earn date-night money as a student. You get paid for sharing your experience and helping others navigate through waters you’ve already charted.
  5. A Resume notch worth its weight.

    • – To an admissions committee member, TUTOR is a bold statement; it suggests that not only do you have a command of material, but you’re also able to share that knowledge with others.
    • – In a medical/dental school interview, they will undoubtedly ask you tough questions. As a tutor, you’ll have TONS OF EXAMPLES to draw from in crafting your response; you can cite times where you helped a student overcome a difficult hurdle in learning, or how you balanced a hectic student schedule with the responsibility of tutoring.

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