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Tutor Story: Sonia Duraimurugan

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“Music. I play the violin and the piano, and I like to compose songs.”

Meet Sonia Duraimurugan, a senior at the University of South Florida. Sonia will graduate next May with a degree in Marketing from the Muma College of Business. After undergrad, she plans to get her MBA and work towards becoming a professor.

“Teaching is a passion of mine.”

Given this career path, it’s only right that Sonia has been tutoring her peers throughout her entire college career.

“I started tutoring my freshman year of college. Prior to Knack, I probably tutored over 150 students.”

If that’s not impressive enough, it’s also worth noting that Sonia does not charge the students she tutors.

“I put myself through college, so I understand that sometimes paying is a little rough for college students.”

Luckily, Knack’s partnership with Muma this semester has allowed Sonia to get paid without her students footing the bill.

“When I ran into Knack it was like, wow, this is incredible. The university and corporate sponsors can help kids like me who maybe can’t afford a private tutor to get that private tutor. So, I can start doing this for an income and not have the guilt trip of charging kids for it.”

This has allowed Sonia to become even more focused on helping her peers succeed.

“I can actually spend a little more time. I don’t have to worry about going to a job or doing my side gigs as much anymore.”

It’s safe to say that Sonia has enjoyed using Knack so far, but what about her students?

“I’ve brought a lot of students onto the Knack platform. It’s kind of cool for them because I bring them onto the platform for maybe business law, but then they stay on the platform and get another tutor for something that I have less experience with.”

Sonia’s ability to look beyond herself and see the value for her students illustrates why she is so successful as a tutor.

“I’m building a relationship and not just trying to teach them. It’s hard sometimes going through school on your own, so I try to show them that I’m not just trying to help their education but I’m also trying to help them be successful as a person. It makes them realize, wow, she’s not just doing this for the money, she’s not just doing this for the hours, she’s doing this because she genuinely cares about me.”

As for the tutoring itself, Sonia does her best to make sure her sessions are engaging, informative, and memorable.

“Making it fun is really important. For example, in International Marketing, there’s a guy named Prahalad who created a concept, and to help people remember it, I sing ‘Pra ha la la la la la la lad’ like the Christmas song and it works. Everyone got that question right, and it’s because we made it fun. If you make it boring, dry, and lifeless, the concepts don’t stick. You need to make it fun.”

New tutors can definitely learn a lot from Sonia’s ability to recruit and retain students. In fact, people love working with Sonia so much that she often gets referrals from her former students.

“I have had people who’ve already graduated say, ‘Hey, I sent your phone number to a friend who needs a little help with this, if you wouldn’t mind.’ So, then I’ll bring them onto the app.”

Unsurprisingly, Sonia is very involved on campus outside of her amazing work as a tutor. She was the president of the American Marketing Association last year, she won first place in their sales pitch competition, and she was even recognized as one of USF Muma’s 25 Under 25.

Surprisingly, Sonia didn’t even think she would get into USF in the first place, let alone become one of the top students at the university.

“In high school, I was going through a lot and I did very poorly. I had no motivation and no aspirations to be anything. I applied to USF with full acceptance that I would not get in.”

So, what happened?

“After getting admitted to USF, I decided I was willing to make a change. When I started my college journey, I was determined to make something out of it. I was not sure if I would do well or not, but I was willing to give it a shot and put everything I had into it.”

In speaking with Sonia, it’s easy to see that “everything” is not an exaggeration.

“While all my friends were going to parties, I was here with a textbook open late-night studying. I worked and I worked and I worked. I also got very involved at USF, I gained experience, and through that I was able to build confidence. I grew from being shaky speaking in front of ten people to being comfortable speaking in front of four hundred.”

This incredible journey has enabled Sonia to instill confidence in the students she helps by showing them what’s truly possible.

“I don’t believe that anyone is dumb. My college career proves that. I believe that there are people who are either not willing to put the work in, or don’t have the resources they need to do well. That’s why I like Knack — it provides those resources. It’s not that you aren’t smart, you just need that extra time. I went from not doing well to doing fantastic, and I can tell you that it’s all about the time and effort.”

With all of this hard work, Sonia uses her “fun little hobby” to take her mind off of everything.

“I’m a musician. I really love writing music; it’s my therapy whenever I get stressed.”

As it turns out, though, she faced some setbacks in her musical pursuits as well.

“My piano teacher in the sixth grade told me that my music was going to amount to nothing, and I ended up quitting piano.”

Inevitably, that wasn’t the end of the road for Sonia.

“I came back and taught myself. Now, I compose songs and I perform in coffee shops and at open mic nights.”

One thing is consistent in all of Sonia’s great accomplishments, and it can be summed up in a single sentence.

“I can do it if I put my mind to it.”

That you can, Sonia Duraimurugan, and we can’t wait to see what you put your mind to next!