Getting a head start: The value in taking an early advantage of the tutorial system

November 4, 2015 by The Williams Record Editorial Board

We at the Record are pleased that the faculty believe in encouraging first-years and sophomores to take tutorials. We feel there are a number of reasons that promoting tutorials for students in the beginning of their College careers is both valuable and important.

As first-years and sophomores, students are not yet fully immersed in their majors and concentrations or under any time pressure to finish requirements the way upperclassmen are.  They still have space in their schedules to explore the course catalog. As such, first-years and sophomores should take full advantage of the freedom their future allows them and take tutorials while they still can, before their options are limited by their looming graduations.

Tutorial offerings are also limited in number, and it is common for students to get dropped from multiple tutorials during registration periods over the course of their four years at the College. Signing up for tutorials starting early on would increase a student’s chances of getting into at least one tutorial before that student graduates. Also, as with any other class, taking a tutorial offers another opportunity to try a new subject, and doing so sooner rather than later gives a student more time to delve deeper into the topic.

In addition, enrollment in tutorials promotes good class and work habits and develops skills in younger students that they can use for the rest of their time at the College. For example, because tutorials are only comprised of pairs or very small groups, class cannot function unless each student holds his or her own and participates in class. Class participation and readiness are skills every student at the College should have and would serve one well in future classes. Time management skills and close reading practice are also improved by tutorial courses.

Students further develop their writing abilities by taking tutorials, as tutorial students write much more than the average student in a non-tutorial class. They also have the opportunity for plentiful and attentive feedback by both their peers and professors.

First-years and sophomores can benefit more from tutorials through the relationships they cultivate with their professors. Because they have more time left at the College, underclassmen can continue to meet with the professors from their tutorials and have these members of the faculty serve as advisors. A student with a close relationship with a professor might be more inclined to choose that professor as a thesis advisor and could benefit more from the advice of a professor that knows him or her well.

In a similar vein, if students’ interests are piqued by a tutorial they have taken early on, the ideas they formed over the course of the semester have a better chance of turning into a thesis proposal or an interest they research and pursue in graduate school or later on. Having a specific interest to investigate early on in one’s college career allows one more time to use the College’s wealth of resources to look into the topic further.

An increase in younger and less experienced students at the College taking tutorials would also diminish the idea that tutorials are intimidating. Granted, by nature, tutorials are generally more intense and require more work, but that should not discourage students at the College from signing up. Students are here because the College has faith that they’re capable of handling the academic rigor of Williams courses.

Logistically, it would serve students well to take tutorial classes early on because it increases their chances of getting into a tutorial in the future. Some professors prioritize admitting students with prior tutorial experience into their own tutorial classes. This, however, can become a vicious cycle, where the only students who get into tutorials are those who have already taken a tutorial. We at the Record believe that professors should continue to consider whether students have been dropped from tutorials in the past, which would better facilitate equal opportunity among students.

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