Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

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LSATWIZ
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Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby LSATWIZ » Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:25 am

Anybody who has tutored or worked in any service industry has come across many different personality types - the realist, the dreamer, etc.

A recurring problem I have found in LSAT tutoring is the unrealistic dreamer. While I have personally seen people improve by as many as 30 people, I have also seen many people who have started at a 130 or at roughly 25% correct across the test with a sub-par GPA say that their goal, and what they are expecting from us is to get them into Harvard, UVA, NYU, etc. They have such a confidence that these schools are a foregone conclusion, that one feels bad telling them that the reality is they will have to spend over a year studying to even have a chance due to a bad GPA and their profound disfluency with the material.

There is a certain amount of guilt because while you know you can help them improve 20 points, there is a 99% chance they'll never be satisfied. Still, telling them is risky too because they might lose their motivation to study altogether. Professionally, you might lose the business. We try to say things like "law schools look at a variety of factors so even if you get a 170, you likely may not get in. Let's just focus on your score." The truth is I have found most people I have met with a 3.8 or 3.9 GPA even if they start at a 130, have the raw intelligence to with enough time break a 160. However, people who have a 3.0 or below and speak English as a second language do not always see things realistically.

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northwood
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby northwood » Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:28 am

the best thing you could do is let them know of the gpa and lsat ranges for the schools in question. that way they will be either motivated to do well on the lsat, or motivated to find something else. Sure you may lose business, but in the end you are doing a greater service to those people. If they are really motivated and willing to study for as long as it takes, then they know where they need to be before taking the lsat.

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LSATWIZ
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby LSATWIZ » Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:41 am

northwood wrote:the best thing you could do is let them know of the gpa and lsat ranges for the schools in question. that way they will be either motivated to do well on the lsat, or motivated to find something else. Sure you may lose business, but in the end you are doing a greater service to those people. If they are really motivated and willing to study for as long as it takes, then they know where they need to be before taking the lsat.

Business is secondary to being ethical. I am a crazy religious nut who believes that as long as you are honest in business, God will protect you. I meant, the student will leave us because we're "assholes who make them feel bad" and go to Kaplan.

I have spoken about the GPA range. They always bring up upward trends, and when I mention that even their peak is below the school's median and their undergrad likely not ass well respected as sub-median students they are accepting, a debate spills out about how Community College XXXX is the best in the country, and such and such state school is remarkable. I am not naming specific institutions as to not lose all future business from these campuses.

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northwood
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby northwood » Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:45 am

i would put a list of the top 100 and the lsat medians and 75% in addition to gpa ranges.

i talked to my lsat teacher who gave me some sound advice- She also understood this issue, and didnt want to see all of the students get their hopes and dreams dashed, so she said, remember the lsat is a part of the admissions process- its a big part, so if you arent scoring in the ranges you need for law school, you should think of a plan b- and if you want to speak one on one, ill be happy to do so.

thought that was a nice way to do it. you dont embarass the student, and you dont lead them on.

BeenDidThat
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby BeenDidThat » Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:47 am

I've done LSAT tutoring before.

My ethics works like this: I inform people so that I know they understand what I'm saying. If they don't, then I won't accept their consent. But if they understand what I'm saying and still think they're that lucky 1%, who am I to tell them no. Plus, shit, I've got bills to pay.

You're not their mother. You're not their father. You're not even their cousin, their aunt, or their uncle. You're someone trying to sell services. If you tell them honestly what your services are for and they want to pay you, you're in business. They know full well you're trying to sell something. If they want to buy that something, more power to 'em.

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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby bhan87 » Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:49 am

LSATWIZ wrote:
northwood wrote:the best thing you could do is let them know of the gpa and lsat ranges for the schools in question. that way they will be either motivated to do well on the lsat, or motivated to find something else. Sure you may lose business, but in the end you are doing a greater service to those people. If they are really motivated and willing to study for as long as it takes, then they know where they need to be before taking the lsat.

Business is secondary to being ethical. I am a crazy religious nut who believes that as long as you are honest in business, God will protect you. I meant, the student will leave us because we're "assholes who make them feel bad" and go to Kaplan.

I have spoken about the GPA range. They always bring up upward trends, and when I mention that even their peak is below the school's median and their undergrad likely not ass well respected as sub-median students they are accepting, a debate spills out about how Community College XXXX is the best in the country, and such and such state school is remarkable. I am not naming specific institutions as to not lose all future business from these campuses.


The natural reaction when faced with losing your dream is to rationalize your situation in a way that almost tricks your mind into thinkings it's alright. Low GPA? Upward trend! Peak below median? Addendum on "unique"circumstances! Make it up with an LSAT score! Low LSAT -> TTT / TTTT? Transfer! No transfer? I don't want biglaw! No job and 200k debt? Well shit...

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mr_toad
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby mr_toad » Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:57 am

I admire the OPs concerns, and I think they are valid to an extent, but cut 'guilt' out of the equation. You are offering a service with no guarantees, and as long as they know it's mainly on them and that you are facilitating their improvement but that ultimately it's up to them, I wouldn't even worry about it. I try to do payment with my students in two ways so that they know I am invested in their improvement but not dependent on it (i.e., being paid for services AND success). I charge enough per hour that I am satisfied but I also request that they agree to pay me a certain amount of money per point improvement on the test. That way they know that I am motivated to not only have as many hours of tutoring as possible but also to benefit from their eventual improvement (not an insubstantial amount). In regards to the other issue of unrealistic expectations, other posters have covered this well, but ultimately people will only understand what they are willing to understand. People look at my GPA (3.7) and say 'wow, that's great, you're in at Harvard!'. I didn't even apply to the top 3 because I know that without some mitigating circumstances, it will almost never happen. But to convince someone that Santa Claus doesn't exist? Not your responsibility. Information is available. Make sure they have access to it (if you want, but it's not really your responsibility, it's theirs to do the due diligence) and move on.

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LSATWIZ
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby LSATWIZ » Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:07 pm

Right, I mean I don't like to think of myself as a salesman. I like to think of myself as someone who offers someone a skill, and everyone of us thinks of it that way. I really want to help people.

Also, my reputation is important to me. LSAT Tutoring will likely not be my career in 40 years, and a couple thousand dollars is not worth my name. I don't want the reputation of being a "bad tutor" or being bad at every job. I can gladly accept I am a bad basketball player, bad stand up comic but can't deal with being bad at something people pay for.

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LSATWIZ
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby LSATWIZ » Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:08 pm

mr_toad wrote:I admire the OPs concerns, and I think they are valid to an extent, but cut 'guilt' out of the equation. You are offering a service with no guarantees, and as long as they know it's mainly on them and that you are facilitating their improvement but that ultimately it's up to them, I wouldn't even worry about it. I try to do payment with my students in two ways so that they know I am invested in their improvement but not dependent on it (i.e., being paid for services AND success). I charge enough per hour that I am satisfied but I also request that they agree to pay me a certain amount of money per point improvement on the test. That way they know that I am motivated to not only have as many hours of tutoring as possible but also to benefit from their eventual improvement (not an insubstantial amount). In regards to the other issue of unrealistic expectations, other posters have covered this well, but ultimately people will only understand what they are willing to understand. People look at my GPA (3.7) and say 'wow, that's great, you're in at Harvard!'. I didn't even apply to the top 3 because I know that without some mitigating circumstances, it will almost never happen. But to convince someone that Santa Claus doesn't exist? Not your responsibility. Information is available. Make sure they have access to it (if you want, but it's not really your responsibility, it's theirs to do the due diligence) and move on.

Interesting but how do they know where they start?

Again this is confidence vs. realism. People often think they'll start with a 165+ easy. Plus a practice test at home is much less stressful than the real thing.
Last edited by LSATWIZ on Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

JetsMets
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby JetsMets » Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:10 pm

Just a note that the first post should say 30 points, not 30 people.

Other than that I think it is a good sign that you care about this issue at all - - shows me you are probably treating your students very properly.

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mr_toad
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby mr_toad » Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:12 pm

LSATWIZ wrote:
mr_toad wrote:I admire the OPs concerns, and I think they are valid to an extent, but cut 'guilt' out of the equation. You are offering a service with no guarantees, and as long as they know it's mainly on them and that you are facilitating their improvement but that ultimately it's up to them, I wouldn't even worry about it. I try to do payment with my students in two ways so that they know I am invested in their improvement but not dependent on it (i.e., being paid for services AND success). I charge enough per hour that I am satisfied but I also request that they agree to pay me a certain amount of money per point improvement on the test. That way they know that I am motivated to not only have as many hours of tutoring as possible but also to benefit from their eventual improvement (not an insubstantial amount). In regards to the other issue of unrealistic expectations, other posters have covered this well, but ultimately people will only understand what they are willing to understand. People look at my GPA (3.7) and say 'wow, that's great, you're in at Harvard!'. I didn't even apply to the top 3 because I know that without some mitigating circumstances, it will almost never happen. But to convince someone that Santa Claus doesn't exist? Not your responsibility. Information is available. Make sure they have access to it (if you want, but it's not really your responsibility, it's theirs to do the due diligence) and move on.

Interesting but how do they know where they start?

Again this is confidence vs. realism. People often think they'll start with a 165+ easy.


Start with what? The due diligence? I have a free one-hour advising session before I agree to take them on. I show them the info and (LOL) I require that they spend 1-2 hours on TLS poking around. I show them rankings, medians, etc., discuss URM vs. non-URM issues, give them my personal experience. IF at the end of the day someone with a 153 wants a 163 and only has six weeks and I tell them it's unlikely but if they can take it in June then very possible and they want to proceed to take it in February AND June, their decision. At the end of the day, you gotta do what you feel is right for you, ethically. I don't really need the money that badly (full-time salaried teaching job right now) so I do it only if it feels right (the interaction, expectations, etc.). So I think you're right to be concerned, but I think it's something you can probably figure out for yourself, especially given that you seem to have a strong ethical code (although I'm not sure that Christianity really offers much of an ethical guide for doing business other than some general precepts... but whatever works for you...).

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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby LSATWIZ » Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:13 pm

JetsMets wrote:Just a note that the first post should say 30 points, not 30 people.

Other than that I think it is a good sign that you care about this issue at all - - shows me you are probably treating your students very properly.

I mean this is not like lying to a girl you meet at a bar about being in love with her.

This is something somebody is planning for their future, and basically setting them up for a mental disorder if you play into unrealistic expectations that blow up in their face a few months after you stop meeting.

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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby LSATWIZ » Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:14 pm

mr_toad wrote:
LSATWIZ wrote:
mr_toad wrote:I admire the OPs concerns, and I think they are valid to an extent, but cut 'guilt' out of the equation. You are offering a service with no guarantees, and as long as they know it's mainly on them and that you are facilitating their improvement but that ultimately it's up to them, I wouldn't even worry about it. I try to do payment with my students in two ways so that they know I am invested in their improvement but not dependent on it (i.e., being paid for services AND success). I charge enough per hour that I am satisfied but I also request that they agree to pay me a certain amount of money per point improvement on the test. That way they know that I am motivated to not only have as many hours of tutoring as possible but also to benefit from their eventual improvement (not an insubstantial amount). In regards to the other issue of unrealistic expectations, other posters have covered this well, but ultimately people will only understand what they are willing to understand. People look at my GPA (3.7) and say 'wow, that's great, you're in at Harvard!'. I didn't even apply to the top 3 because I know that without some mitigating circumstances, it will almost never happen. But to convince someone that Santa Claus doesn't exist? Not your responsibility. Information is available. Make sure they have access to it (if you want, but it's not really your responsibility, it's theirs to do the due diligence) and move on.

Interesting but how do they know where they start?

Again this is confidence vs. realism. People often think they'll start with a 165+ easy.


Start with what? The due diligence? I have a free one-hour advising session before I agree to take them on. I show them the info and (LOL) I require that they spend 1-2 hours on TLS poking around. I show them rankings, medians, etc., discuss URM vs. non-URM issues, give them my personal experience. IF at the end of the day someone with a 153 wants a 163 and only has six weeks and I tell them it's unlikely but if they can take it in June then very possible and they want to proceed to take it in February AND June, their decision. At the end of the day, you gotta do what you feel is right for you, ethically. I don't really need the money that badly (full-time salaried teaching job right now) so I do it only if it feels right (the interaction, expectations, etc.). So I think you're right to be concerned, but I think it's something you can probably figure out for yourself, especially given that you seem to have a strong ethical code (although I'm not sure that Christianity really offers much of an ethical guide for doing business other than some general precepts... but whatever works for you...).

No, how do you track their score improvement for that financing option - 1?

And 2, how do you enforce it?

3, what percentage of total services is each point worth?

4, what if they just don't study? Do you drop them as a student?

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mr_toad
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby mr_toad » Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:21 pm

I won't quote as it'll be too long. But I only work with people I trust. Ultimately, however, I've charged enough per hour that even if they screw with me, I won't feel underpaid.
Regarding each point improvement and how much as a total percentage, I do it differently. I charge X dollars per hour of 'real' tutoring, 80% of X for hours proctoring practice tests (if at their request, I don't offer it automatically), and the same original X value for each point of improvement. So it's relatively small, but if someone DID improve 10 points, it'd be like getting paid for 10 additional hours of tutoring. And for them, 10 is such a life-changing thing, that the, let's say, 150-350 dollars (my range would fall in their somewhere) for 10 points of improvement is totally worth it. Or... they wouldn't agree to do it, in which case I would request a higher hourly. I don't do much tutoring, however, just one student at a time as I already work 40-55 hours per week, so I kind of individualize these things all the time.

Edit add: regarding dropping them if they don't study, no, but I'll inform them by e-mail if I think they're not holding up their end of the bargain so I have something to point to as a paper trail if they complain later on. My current one definitely did not do enough over semester break and I told him/her straight up that 4.5 weeks would not be enough, but they wanted to keep going anyways. Ultimately, it's their choice to buy (and, of course, yours to sell).

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EarlCat
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby EarlCat » Tue Feb 15, 2011 7:49 pm

Your job as a tutor is to show your students how to improve their LSAT score. As long as your roles are clear, I don't see the problem. Things might be different if you were offering admissions coaching.

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suspicious android
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby suspicious android » Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:37 am

EarlCat wrote:Your job as a tutor is to show your students how to improve their LSAT score. As long as your roles are clear, I don't see the problem. Things might be different if you were offering admissions coaching.


Seriously, you're tutoring adults, they are paying for your services (or their parents are). If they decide that they don't want to study between sessions, that's their business. I will usually mention how serious improvement is unlikely without at least an hour or two practice for every hour of class/tutoring, but if they don't do it, that's their choice.

I've had students who got absolutely nothing out of my tutoring hours. I feel a little bit bad for their parents (it's invariably parents paying the bills when students waste hours), but I don't feel bad about taking their money. I won't suggest that they sign up for more hours, but that's about the limit of my concern.

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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby romothesavior » Wed Feb 16, 2011 1:11 am

LSATWIZ wrote: I am a crazy religious nut

Hey at least you're honest.

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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby EarlCat » Wed Feb 16, 2011 1:18 am

suspicious android wrote:Seriously, you're tutoring adults, they are paying for your services (or their parents are). If they decide that they don't want to study between sessions, that's their business. I will usually mention how serious improvement is unlikely without at least an hour or two practice for every hour of class/tutoring, but if they don't do it, that's their choice.

I've had students who got absolutely nothing out of my tutoring hours. I feel a little bit bad for their parents (it's invariably parents paying the bills when students waste hours), but I don't feel bad about taking their money. I won't suggest that they sign up for more hours, but that's about the limit of my concern.


This reminds me of a time a GRE student's mother called my office with two complaints about my tutoring of her (adult) daughter:

1) After two months of tutoring, her score on practice tests had not gone up.
2) How DARE I get onto her for not doing her homework!

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Jeffort
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby Jeffort » Wed Feb 16, 2011 6:25 am

suspicious android wrote:
EarlCat wrote:Your job as a tutor is to show your students how to improve their LSAT score. As long as your roles are clear, I don't see the problem. Things might be different if you were offering admissions coaching.


Seriously, you're tutoring adults, they are paying for your services (or their parents are). If they decide that they don't want to study between sessions, that's their business. I will usually mention how serious improvement is unlikely without at least an hour or two practice for every hour of class/tutoring, but if they don't do it, that's their choice.

I've had students who got absolutely nothing out of my tutoring hours. I feel a little bit bad for their parents (it's invariably parents paying the bills when students waste hours), but I don't feel bad about taking their money. I won't suggest that they sign up for more hours, but that's about the limit of my concern.


It's not the job of the tutor to play nagging parent to get the student to put in the study and practice time unless the parents paid you extra to be LSAT tutor + drill sergeant + homework monitor/disciplinarian. Your role is to tutor the student well, give them assignments, emphasize the importance of doing the study/practice, and also to be straight up with the student.

If you notice that an ongoing student is slacking and not putting in the required effort/study time, as the tutor you have an obligation to point that out and tell them again that their improvement is dependent on the work they put into it. You cannot do the work for them or make them do it, that is up to the motivation of the student. Say that point blank and make it clear to all students you tutor, not just to ones that start slacking. That's pretty much the best you can do and as far as your responsibility goes.

RE: parents paying for the tutoring and slacker students. I had a tutoring student several months ago I had one session with. Prior to the session the dad screened me for about an hour on the phone after I talked to the student for almost an hour to assess his situation. The father was paying and it was agreed to do sessions twice a week for several weeks leading up to the test.

After one session (the student showed up with cash for the session, not a check from his parents. I never specified cash, told the dad a check was fine and that it was a pay as you go per session thing) the guy pretty much vanished except for two emails with excuses about flaking out on the additional planned meetings and saying he wanted to reschedule. He never responded to my replies or calls about re-scheduling. I figured the guy changed his mind or something and forgot about it.

Many weeks later the father called me and was IRATE! He was upset and wondering why his sons LSAT score had not gone up after paying me to tutor him 2 times a week for several weeks. Telling the father that his son had only met with me once and stood me up for all the additional sessions was a bundle of joy. The kid was scamming his dad. He told his parents I required payment in cash and that he was meeting with me twice a week. Apparently whenever he felt like it he would just tell them he was going out for tutoring and needed cash, they handed it to him, and then he went out to party or do whatever with the $$$ while they thought he was getting educated. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when the dude came home after me and the dad figured out what he was doing!

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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby Kabuo » Wed Feb 16, 2011 7:28 am

Nothing to contribute, sorry, but I lol'd at Jeffort's student.

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suspicious android
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby suspicious android » Wed Feb 16, 2011 2:30 pm

Enjoyable. This thread should become the place for tutors to discuss professional issues/complain about students. We should form a union!

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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby fosterp » Wed Feb 16, 2011 2:47 pm

Its a delicate situation. Most people don't like to be told that they "can't" do something - there is just too much of the American "can do anything if you try" culture ingrained in the population. On the other hand, nobody likes to watch blind sheep walk off a cliff either. I think the best route is to give general non-specific information that the student would be able to apply to themselves. Such things as "most students only improve x points on the lsat in y time" and "these are the numbers you need for a shot at x school, so you would need to improve this much."

Now, after telling them that much, one would reasonably expect someone with enough intelligence to be considering law school would be able to connect the dots and figure out the reality of the matter for themselves. Of course, you may always get the type of person that simply won't accept reality and think that they actually can achieve anything with enough hard work. Those people will never be convinced otherwise, and you did your part by offering them information, and their wasted time and money is their own fault. If you tell them they can't do it, they will do like the guy said above, call you an asshole and sign up with kaplan. And in the business sense its better you get paid than kaplan, either way the student will be wasting their money.

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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby Jack Smirks » Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:05 pm

Your job is only to teach them the skills necessary to do well on the LSAT, you're not an admissions counselor. If they have specific questions about admissions/chances send them here or to LSN. If they have specific questions about their potential point increases be honest about the work and time that is needed to see those increases. Most students will be realistic about their chances and those who are not can take their business elsewhere if they don't appreciate your honesty.

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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby SMA22 » Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:21 pm

fosterp wrote:Its a delicate situation. Most people don't like to be told that they "can't" do something - there is just too much of the American "can do anything if you try" culture ingrained in the population. On the other hand, nobody likes to watch blind sheep walk off a cliff either. I think the best route is to give general non-specific information that the student would be able to apply to themselves. Such things as "most students only improve x points on the lsat in y time" and "these are the numbers you need for a shot at x school, so you would need to improve this much."

Now, after telling them that much, one would reasonably expect someone with enough intelligence to be considering law school would be able to connect the dots and figure out the reality of the matter for themselves. Of course, you may always get the type of person that simply won't accept reality and think that they actually can achieve anything with enough hard work. Those people will never be convinced otherwise, and you did your part by offering them information, and their wasted time and money is their own fault. If you tell them they can't do it, they will do like the guy said above, call you an asshole and sign up with kaplan. And in the business sense its better you get paid than kaplan, either way the student will be wasting their money.


+1

I have a good friend who worked with the same tutor and consulting company I did. We both wanted to attend the same school. One of us studied every night for the LSAT and cried when our consultant hated our personal statement. The other kept making excuses on why she was too tired to study and fought with the consultant over her personal statement. One of us got into the scool of our choice, and one of us did not. She blamed the mean consultant and the tutor for her inability to improve, the same ones that got me where I needed to be. I totally see the frustration here. When the consultant called her immature, she stopped working with the company. BUT, if they had lied to her, and she'd have gotten into a crappy school, she'd have been angry.

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fastforward
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Re: Tutor's Ethical Responsibility

Postby fastforward » Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:46 pm

To me it's a matter of boundaries. I cannot control whether the client clings to unrealistic expectations.

We offer the typical free consultation to start. After some discussion about goal-setting, we go on Law School Predictor. They don't have to take my word for anything; it's there in green, yellow and red. We also spend some time looking at LSN to drive home the LSP point and to look at the financial rewards in the form of scholly $ for diligent LSAT prep. Then the client sets the goal and, if it's realistic, we lay out a plan together for how to achieve the goal. If the client is not willing to do what it takes, we advise them to adjust the goal. We fine-tune the plan as we work over time, but rarely do we adjust the goal after that initial session.

It's related to the reason we don't offer a guarantee. The tutor/client relationship is a joint venture and the tutor cannot control what the client is putting into it. We offer all the motivation we can in the form of advice and encouragement, but beyond that, it's up to the client.




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