Working with an Overly Ambitious Student

While many students aim for academic excellence, not everyone has the same dreams in life. Since every student is different, they also dream differently and set goals for themselves differently from their peers. Some students are contented with their pace and want to learn accordingly and don’t put pressure on themselves in trying tot figure out their next step for the future. There are also others who pressure themselves to learn everything they can to prepare themselves to get to the best schools and won’t accept anything less than the best.

Many students may hire home tutors to help them in times when they are struggling with understanding their lessons, but then, tutors also get students who are already doing well and yet still want to engage in supplementary learning. On the surface, having an overly ambitious student may sound like a good thing. After all, they are mostly eager and want to learn. However, this isn’t always the case and also has its downsides.

At the beginning, it may seem like the epitome of what students should be, willing to learn and takes time to study. But these students don’t just allot time for studying, they dedicate all their time and breathing moment to studying and perfecting their skills, without the luxury of rest. For them, failure isn’t something they can willingly accept and use to grow, instead, it’s not even an option.

In a home tutor’s career, there will come a time that you may meet students like this. Which is why, we’ve gathered some tips to make working with them easier and help them learn to relax.

1. Review their goals and help simplify them

These students rarely don’t have a “clear” path they want to take. They have already decided what they want to achieve and where they want to be, as well as the path they want to take to get there. In some cases, this can be a good thing. However, students like this may also limit their options because of the idea they’ve already cemented in their head.

Take for example as student that is already working to get to their dream school and wouldn’t even consider other options if it isn’t their dream school. They think that getting the best grades is the way to go. Because they are too focused on their goal, they can miss out on developing the skills they might need for them to enter their dream school. As such, students like this should also be guided so they wouldn’t feel more pressured when preparing for entrance exams or creating a profile to be accepted to their desired school.

As tutor, you can aid them by helping them review their goals and simplifying the work by tasks they can easily and slowly do. For example, if the student is thinking of pursuing a career in Math, you can help them create criteria for schools that fit their needs and requirements. You can also help them if they are struggling to juggle their extracurricular activities, especially if those won’t directly affect their profile, grades, or class standing. Let them understand that having many options can be to their advantage.

2. Help create realistic expectations

This doesn’t mean that you have to set and ground the students down from their over-the-top expectations and goals. After all, a home tutor is supposed to support and guide the student. However, if the student sets a goal that might be too big for them to achieve and they only have a one-track mind, it can also cause them to become too obsessed with their goal that they can’t enjoy the people or activities around them.

By helping the student set more realistic and highly achievable expectations, you’re helping them be able to also become aware of the things they can still enjoy and take interest in, without it intervening with their goal. A student may sometimes be clouded by the idea of “perfect”, whether it’s a school or a course.

By creating a more realistic expectation for schools they want to study at or courses they want to apply in, the student will also be taught to accept failure easier and will have a sense of Plan B if the first doesn’t work out.

3. It’s how you get there

As stated before, a one-track mind may miss out on the things that are happening around them. A child that thinks they only have one shot at having the “perfect” future for them will not be able to enjoy the journey in getting there, and as a result will not be fully satisfied when they actually reach their goals.

The journey in getting to your goal also helps teach the child life skills such as dealing with failure and social skills. Overly ambitious students may miss out on their passions or meeting people they can share their interest with. They can’t fully develop their hobbies or interest in other things such as in sports, music or arts, as they may think it wouldn’t contribute to their academic goals.

While reaching academic excellence and working hard for it are good ideas, obsessing over it wouldn’t be healthy for the child also. Aside from not experiencing other activities, they might also not develop socially or emotionally.

Encourage students to form hobbies they are interested in that have nothing to do with school or studies. You can even take the child on a field trip to museums or parks to inspire them to find things they are interested in. By giving them the opportunity to explore their other interests, they will also realize that there are other factors other than their studies that can also give them satisfaction.

Aside from that, you can also help them understand that experiencing the real world gives them the chance to apply their academic skills and use them in real life scenarios.

4. Failure isn’t the end

There is no guarantee that the child will succeed every time, even if they excel in all of their subjects. There isn’t a foolproof method. For students aiming to get to their target school, there’s also no guarantee that they can get a slot. Many schools look at both academic and non-academic performance, as well as character, of the student before they can admit them. Each school has their own process and criteria, and the child may not get in for reasons other than their academics.

For students who are overly ambitious, failure to get what they want can be taken really hard. As dramatic as it sounds, some students will feel like it’s the end of the world just because they didn’t get in their dream school. They will not listen to any consolation and will think they wouldn’t succeed in the future because they failed at their first step.

As a tutor, you should reiterate the importance of a Plan B and help them realize beforehand that they shouldn’t focus only into getting to one or two schools of their choice. They are limiting themselves and they will already be closing themselves off to the prospect of a different path.

Let the students understand, too, that failure in one thing doesn’t mean the end of everything. There are many ways to kill a rat, as the idiom goes. They can take another path and still get to the same destination.

5. Get help from parents

At some point if the student continues to be really ambitious, it’s best to get the parents involved at this could be a problem if the expectations aren’t set realistically. However, keep in mind what the parents’ position is too, with regards to their child’s future. Some parents are also the ones pushing their child to reach further more than what they’re capable of.

Have a discussion with the parents and the child and let them understand the benefits of setting realistic and achievable goals for the child, and what could happen when the child focuses too much on their goals. Explain to them that aiming for a good school is okay, but a child can still succeed in the future without going to an Ivy League school.


Since a home tutor will meet different kinds of students throughout their career, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for them to also meet ambitious students. Dealing with them can be difficult, especially when they are already set on their goals. However, as tutors are there to help them, it’s important for them to be guided else they suffer from burnouts. By assisting them, tutors can also help them achieve their desired goals easier.

With the tips stated above, we hope that as a tutor, you can use them to help an overly ambitious student relax and lead them to the right track in attaining their goals. As such, you’ll not only be able to help the child, you’ll also learn from this experience and ultimately become better at your profession.

Want to be a home tutor? Check out FamilyTutor, the best home tuition agency in Singapore. With over 8,000 satisfied families from our services, we continue to offer over 200 subjects from Math, Science, to languages such as Chinese and English to our students from pre-school to beyond university level.



Carelle is a teacher who has been through the ups and downs of the teacher and learner life. She wishes for every learner to gain educational satisfaction that will help embody the people they want to be in the future.

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