Scrabble letters spelling out the word "Help."

“Help Scrabble” by Jeff Djevdet is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Successful students aren’t afraid to ask for help. If you’re struggling with a certain course concept or you’re having trouble articulating your ideas for that big paper, you should reach out to your instructor. However, your instructor may not always have the time to give you the support you need. Fortunately, there are plenty of great academic resources available to you. Here are some of my favorites:

Writing Commons

Writing Commons is a free, open-access, peer-reviewed writing journal. It contains great articles on everything from using parentheses to conducting ethnographic research. It’s a wonderful tool for the college freshman taking her first college-level writing course and the Ph.D. student putting the finishing touches on her dissertation and everyone in between! is an online tutoring company owned by the Princeton Review. They offer on-demand one-on-one tutoring sessions in over 40 subjects. Their tutors undergo a rigorous screening process, so you know you’re in good hands when you log-on. The service isn’t free. However, the prices are fairly reasonable, especially if you use tutoring services frequently ($39.99 a month). Also, a lot of schools have contracts with and provide their students with a certain number of free tutoring hours. Check with your advisor before you sign up.

Smarthinking, like, is an online tutoring service that provides live on-demand services. The company also offers scheduled sessions and asynchronous writing reviews. With tutors in 25 subjects, you’re bound to find the help you need. The writing reviews are especially thorough. You submit your paper, and a qualified tutor returns the document with a detailed critique focused on three major areas of your paper (you get to choose which areas you want the tutor to explore). Turnaround is fast, too – usually between 24 and 48 hours! It’s not the most affordable option around. You can pay $35 for one hour-long session or $125 for four hours of tutoring. However, if your school has a contract with the company, then you may be able to receive free services. Again, check with an advisor or an academic support specialist to see if your school partners with Smarthinking.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is one of the best free academic resources out there. The website contains a plethora of tutorials (both written and video tutorials) and practice exercises on dozens of subjects, including Art history, Microeconomics, Physics, SAT prep, and Algebra. All the lecturers are knowledgeable educators who know how to create engaging content. The Math resources are particularly helpful. You can work on a Math Mission (a “personalized Math learning experience”), and use your learning dashboard to chart your progress. I used Khan Academy when I needed to brush up on Geometry for a tutoring gig, and I was thrilled with the results. If you’re worried about that upcoming statistics course, then Khan Academy is the site for you.


Have a science / medical question and need a citation from an actual practicing doctor? There are a few similar resources online (such as, but among the easiest (and cheapest since it’s free) places to get actual advice from a practicing physician is And because the site allows you to search previous questions and answers, it becomes an invaluable resource for online students who need to conduct research relating to medicine and healthcare.


My literature students love Shmoop. The site has hundreds of free learning guides on dozens of subjects. What’s most impressive is their extensive collection of literary analyses. These analyses contain summaries, quotations, and character overviews. If you are taking a lit course and you’re having a hard time decoding a book or a play, visit Shmoop. Many of the learning materials on Shmoop are free. Others require you to upgrade to “premium” status. You can go premium for around $25 per month or $150 per year.

Bottom line: Don’t suffer in silence. If you’re having a hard time, take advantage of one of these awesome resources.