By Theo Schwinke
Vanessa Keopine needed help. She was struggling with courses in biochemistry and physics.
She had heard about Tiger Tutors, an on-campus service of the Learning Center that offers tutoring sessions for more than 40 classes. Still, she felt intimidated.
“I don’t like to sound stupid,” said the junior from St. Louis. “I had to measure how much pride I had versus how much I actually needed the help. I realized I needed to stop being scared about it and go and get the help I needed.”
Keopine mustered the courage to contact Tiger Tutors, where she met tutor Michelle Skroba, also a junior from St. Louis. “I got to feel comfortable with Michelle,” she said. “She made me feel better about myself.”
The two women met regularly, sometimes face to face, sometimes over Zoom, throughout the semester.
“Without Michelle I wouldn’t have passed, or at least not passed the way I wanted to,” Keopine said.
Skroba started tutoring in the fall 2021 semester, initially because she needed a job. “I thought, ‘Time is money,’” she said. “The time that I spent tutoring other students also helped me in my classes, and the earlier chemistry classes, I’ll still need them for the MCAT [the Medical College Admission Test], so it was also beneficial to review those.”
Another benefit for Skroba is the opportunity to meet people. “Just surrounding yourself with people with the same goals helps you improve where need to,” she said.
In a typical session, Skroba and Keopine would review recent lectures. Around exam time, Skroba would make practice exams for Keopine and checklists of what she needed to know.
“I had to go to office hours all the time so that I knew the information well enough to teach it,” Skroba said.
This additional academic support matters.
“Any college campus without supplemental academic support is an incomplete college campus,” said Yve Solbrekken, coordinator of math-based science tutoring within Tiger Tutors and the Study Plan Consultant Program in the Learning Center.
Professors are always the best source of information, Solbrekken said, and tutors always encourage students to utilize office hours. “But there is no one professor who is able to meet all of the needs of all of their students always,” she said.
Keopine encourages students to try Tiger Tutors. “Even if your first tutor doesn’t work out for you, there are others that may be better for you,” she said.
“Aside from the tutoring, you could potentially make a good friend,” Keopine said. “Michelle and I are very good friends. She’s my tutor, my friend … all these things.”
“It’s always more fun to review course material with someone you know,” Skroba said.