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Penn Tutoring Center offers free and accessible tutoring services to students.

Credit: Marcus Katz

Some students see their on- or off-campus jobs as an escape from classes and homework, but one group of students makes money by helping others with their schoolwork.

Both the Tutoring Center, which provides scheduled private tutoring, walk-in hours and workshops in various locations, and the Writing Center on 38th and Walnut streets, are staffed by student tutors.

Wharton junior Caitlin Cronin tutors in the Writing Center in part to escape her quantitive-centric Wharton classes.

“I like to write,” Cronin said, “So I like being able to use my writing skills to help people who might not be as good at figuring out how to word things or structure an argument.”

Cronin got involved with the Writing Center as a freshman when she was chosen from her critical writing seminar to be interviewed for a spot as a tutor.

“Usually one student per seminar is chosen,” she said.

If the students pass the interview, they take a semester-long class in pedagogy of writing in order to start tutoring. It’s a lengthy process, but Cronin believes it’s been worth it.

“The Writing Center is like one big support group,” she said. “I met a lot of really cool people — fellow tutors and students as well.”

She also said her tutoring experience has helped her grow as a writer.

“Being a writing tutor has helped me be able to explain an argument better, or be able to figure out quickly how to get across what I want to say,” Cronin said.

Sharpening skills by tutoring isn’t something limited to Cronin’s experience.

Helen Pun, a “super senior” in her fifth year of a dual degree in Wharton and the School of Nursing, said that because there’s so much information in the early nursing classes, most students forget a lot of it. Pun can sometimes answer tricky questions in class that reference much earlier content because she revisits it so frequently with her tutees.

“Everyone thinks I’m a genius and really it’s because I’d just reviewed it,” she said.

Pun explained that part of the reason she likes tutoring is the same reason she likes both business and nursing — the interpersonal nature. In certain ways, she said, tutoring even feels therapeutic. But sometimes tutees surprise her with their candidness.

“Tutees tell me more things than I ever expected to know,” Pun said. “They tell me about the drugs they’re taking to help them study — I had no idea!”

Nursing junior Anh Tren has also connected with her tutees, and at times become friends.

“It’s not only a professional relationship, it can be casual too,” she said.

College senior Iulia Tapescu transferred to Penn from Wellesley College as a sophomore and is originally from Romania. She double majors in biological basis of behavior and biochemistry , and is submatriculating into Penn’s graduate Chemistry program.

Above all, she’s passionate about organic chemistry — but she knows most students don’t share her love for the subject, especially at first.

“I know most people are terrified of [organic chemistry]and super confused,” she said. “I really like converting people from haters to lovers.”

Tapescu’s mother is a teacher, which she said is part of the reason she got involved with tutoring in the first place. Even though her passions still lie squarely in medicine and the sciences, she doesn’t rule out teaching as having some presence in her future professional life.

“One cool aspect of medicine is that you also have teaching as you evolve in your career,” she said.

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