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Words of advice from some of our former and current tutors below.
Preparing for sessions
Find out what the student wants to cover beforehand. "My #1 piece of advice would be to ask students what they want to cover ahead of time. This serves two purposes. Assuming you are familiar with the material, you can review yourself and have a more productive session. That said, there were a couple of times students asked to cover something I simply did not know (due to curriculum change, different professor, etc). Asking the student ahead of time what they wanted to cover allowed me to refer the student to someone else (or at the very least manage their expectation that I couldn't cover a particular sub topic)."
Bring your own references. "Have your notes and slides from when you took the class handy. They can help jog your memory if something looks unfamiliar to you, particularly when the professor is using different terminology or examples than you remember from class."
Start from square one. "Many of your students will come from non-business or non-quantitative backgrounds. Don't assume they understand the of discount rates, standard deviations, or income statements after the first class. Always review the basics (when it doubt, say "stop me if this is familiar to you.")"
Prepare for different learning styles and needs. "Recognize that students often need process tips in addition to content ones (on prioritization, time management, etc). When asked, I always gladly shared what worked for me and also what worked for some of my friends, knowing that people have different learning styles."
Be clear about where to meet. "If your student is an EMBA and you are having your session in Watson, be very clear that it is Watson Library in Uris Hall to the left of the elevators. Otherwise they might end up in Watson Hall – which is an undergrad dorm."
During the session
Distill the subject down to the most salient concepts. "There is a lot of noise in lectures and class notes. Students like when you block out the noise and distill the concept down, sometimes even to just a formula."
Explain conceptually as much as possible. "In most quantitative classes, the math exists to convey a set of concepts. But many professors tend to be better at explaining the math than the concepts. For students who haven't encountered these concepts before, the math becomes much more manageable if you begin by explaining conceptually. Explaining mathematically: "Discount the FCF using the formula C / (1 + )^t." Explaining conceptually: "A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow, because if you had it today, you could invest it and earn a return. Conversely, a dollar tomorrow is worth less today. The formula C / (1 + r)^t tells you how much less, where r is the discount rate [we'll talk about that more later] and t is the number of years you're going back."
Use vivid examples. "People remember stories better than formulas, charts, or lists. Whenever possible, walk through a specific example that explains the material instead of just discussing the process."
Use class slides as a guide. "In the vast majority of cases, all the material you need is on the professor's slides. You don't have to memorize every formula or bring your own lesson plan. You just have to explain the material in a more accessible way, or help students practice the material so that it makes more sense the second time around."
You are not smarter than your students. "You're just more experienced with the material. Especially if you've used these concepts before CBS, try to remember what it was like for you to learn the material the first time. Never make your students feel dumb for not understanding."
Make the student do the work as much as possible. They will not learn the material if you do it for them. If they are having trouble, ask them leading questions to help them work out the solution. Help them to answer their own questions.
After the session, and tutor best practices
Keep very good notes for yourself. "You don’t want to be fumbling around looking for formulas or references in slides/books."
Be diligent about your paperwork or online filing requirements. "Set aside every Sunday night per week or something to do it. If you get behind, it’s a nightmare."
There is synergy to tutoring complimentary subjects (accounting/corporate finance/capital markets, micro/macro). "Don’t get overstretched by trying to do too many classes or classes that don’t have some conceptual overlap."
There are economies of scale in tutoring. "The first time you tutor a subject, you'll remember much less than you thought you did. The tenth time you tutor a subject, you'll sound like a genius - and more importantly, you'll have clear, well-structured explanations. It helps to tutor the same subject multiple times instead of spreading yourself too thin."
Give yourself a break. "Schedule at least 5 minutes between consecutive sessions. This gives transition time between students and gives you a breather."
Many thanks to Katherine Sorenson, MBA '11; Or Skolnik, MBA '12; Elizabeth Harkness, MBA '13; and Michael Ciolli, MBA '06 for their contributions.
At Columbia Business School, we believe that diversity strengthens any community or business model and brings it greater success.
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Top Ten Questions Asked
Here are the most frequently asked questions by current students.
Information on courses and all bidding-related information (including statistics) can be found on BOSS (Business Online Selection System). To see important dates for the Business School, navigate to the MBA Academic Calendar tab in BOSS.
More information regarding independent studies can be found on the Indepedent Study webpage , and you can pick up the required form, as well as additional information, in Uris 105. Students may register for up to 3 credits of independent study per term (the study can be either 1.5 or 3 credits). Independent studies are designed to be independent of the classroom experience and may not be used as a means of adding a seat to a full course.
More information can be found on the Cross-Registration webpage. MBA students may count up to six credits of graduate-level coursework at other schools within the University toward the MBA degree. Graduate-level courses are denoted by a number of 4000 or higher. Undergraduate courses may be taken as long as they are in addition to the 60 credits of graduate-level course work required for the MBA degree. Although the credits from an undergraduate course will not count toward the MBA degree, the grade earned in an undergraduate course will be included in calculating student GPA.
Membership on the dean's list is awarded at the end of the first term to students who achieve a 9.0 weighted GPA. In subsequent terms, membership is awarded to all students who achieve a 9.25 weighted term GPA.
First, meet with a club advisor in OSA, who will connect you with the Student Government’s VP of clubs and careers. You’ll be required to fill out an application form, collect signatures from potential club members, plan out your first year’s budget, and make a presentation to the Student Government’s club committee.
Many local vendors accept a voucher in lieu of cash payment. You can pick up the voucher from Financial Planning in Uris 216. Vouchers are essentially blank checks that you give to the delivery person upon arrival and can include a tip. Vendors send the voucher is sent back to Financial Planning as an invoice and the funds are debited from your club account.
Only students pursuing an MBA degree can join Business School clubs. Business School students seeking MS and PhD degrees are not eligible.
All loan funds - federal or private - are sent to the University's Student Financial Services (SFS) office electronically via EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer). Once the SFS office is in receipt of the funds, they place the amount(s) onto your tuition bill as a "credit" to your account. You do not need to pick up any physical checks. Any loan amounts above tuition and fees will be refunded to you. Direct deposit helps to expedite the refund process.
Refunds are issued within 7–10 days of funds arriving at the University. Assuming your loans are in place for the earliest federally allowable date, your refunds should reach you within a week following the first day of classes. For the fastest refund processing, please sign up for direct deposit on ssol.columbia.edu.
Students who face higher costs due to extenuating circumstances may request a budget increase by submitting a formal appeal along with appropriate documentation. If approved, the budget increase allows students to borrow additional loan funds, subject to lender or Department of Education approval. Appeals are not an entitlement and can be turned down by the Appeals Committee. Learn more about appeals and download the appeal form.