Do Your Homework Before You Enroll
By Stephen Borkowski
March 09, 2009
Do your homework before you enroll by heavily researching your college choices.
You don’t expect to have homework until after you enroll in school. But if you’re looking to learn a new trade and boost your standard of living you’ve got an important assignment to tackle before you step foot in class.
There are many vocational and technical schools that train new chefs, automotive technicians, medical assistants, hair stylists, interior designers, electronics technicians, paralegals and truck drivers every year. They can teach you the skills you need to embark on a new career. They may even connect you with potential employers after graduation.
This education will require a significant investment of money and time. You don’t want to enroll in a program only to find the education of little value. Or to graduate and find the promised salary in your field was grossly overstated. So before you enroll, you’ve got some homework to do.
Follow these tips to make sure the school you’re interested in attending will help your career.
- Research your career goal. Identify the type of position you want and look into it. Call employers and ask them what sort of education or certification they require for workers in that position. Speak with people who currently hold this type of job and find out about their educational background.
- Compare programs. Locate multiple programs and compare every aspect of them. At graduation are you awarded a certificate, a license, a degree? How long is the program and what’s the cost? Are internships or apprenticeships offered?
- Alternatives. Find out if the whole education must be completed at this institution or if you can transfer in credits from a lower cost alternative such as a community college.
- Other Costs. Will the training require you to purchase your own supplies and materials? What will the cost of your tools, equipment, supplies and books be?
- Facilities and instructors. Make sure you setup a time to tour the campus before enrolling. Meet some of the instructors and find out about their qualifications.
- Success rate and alumni. Ask what percentage of students who enroll go on to graduate and find jobs. What’s the dropout rate? Request to be put in touch with some alumni to get their perspective on the training they received.
- Financial Aid. Is financial assistance available from the school? Can federal financial aid dollars be applied?
- Licensed and accredited. Find out if the school is licensed, this is usually done by a state agency. Also look for accreditation, which is usually done through a private agency or association.
- Background check. You’ll want to know if the institution has had any consumer complaints against it. Check with the and your state’s Attorney General’s office. Verify that the school has a good reputation when you speak with potential employers or those already working in the field.
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