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Researching Culinary Colleges
By now you should have made a decision regarding the type of degree that you plan to earn, and if you would like to enroll in a private or a public institute. Since there a large number of cooking institutions in the Bessemer area and within the USA, you will want to develop a checklist of important qualifiers so that you can start limiting your options. A few obvious qualifiers, such as cost and location are a good place to start. But picking a school because it is the nearest or the cheapest is not the ideal way to decide on your education. There are other criteria, for instance reputation and accreditation that you must review also. Therefore, following are some critical areas that you need to investigate for every school as you compare them and make your final choice.
Accreditation. It's essential that the cooking program you pick has some form of accreditation from either a regional or a national authority. As aforementioned, the accrediting authority should be a U.S. Department of Education certified organization, such as the American Culinary Federation (ACF). ACF accredited schools have passed a comprehensive evaluation regarding their curriculum, instructors and facilities. So not only does accreditation help establish that you will receive exceptional training, but it can also assist in securing a student loan or financial aid which are generally not available for non-accredited schools.
Age. Recently established schools frequently have the benefit of having modern equipment and facilities. However, they may not have been in operation long enough to garner an accreditation or to cultivate a reputation. Conversely, older schools may still be using their original, dated equipment, but have established a long history of excellence and earned one or more accreditations. Also, the longer a school has operated, the more alumni the school can solicit for its job placement program. Obviously there is some give and take based on the age of the culinary arts schools. And older, more highly regarded schools typically modernize their equipment and facilities. The important lesson is that in the best case scenario, your school of choice will have an exceptional reputation, accreditation and a modern facility with modern equipment.
Job Placement Rates. To begin with, find out what the graduation rates are for the culinary colleges you are looking at. Low graduation rates are indicators that many students were dissatisfied with either the colleges or the courses and dropped out. They may also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to teach the curriculum. Request that the schools furnish their job placement rates also. If a college has a high job placement rate, it will help affirm that it has a great or excellent reputation within the cooking community, as well as a wide network of professional relationships. Be skeptical of any school that will not supply this information.
Location. The culinary college that you choose must be within commuting distance of your Bessemer residence, unless you can move. You may consider attending college online, but you would still have to travel for your externship program. Alternatively, maybe you have opted to enroll in a particular culinary college located in a different state due to its reputation and programs offered. It would be a wise decision to check out the facility before enrolling, to make certain that you are comfortable with the area and your prospective living conditions. Inspect the training facilities personally to make sure they are modern and that the equipment is contemporary. Consider also that a number of schools target their job assistance programs within their local communities, so pick a location where you will enjoy working.
Class Sizes. The ideal method to learn how to cook is with lots of one-on-one instruction. If the culinary institute you enroll in has larger classes, you will probably receive little personal attention from the teachers. The ideal way to evaluate the interaction between teachers and students is to sit in on some of the classes. Ask a couple of the students what their experience has been. Ascertain if they are happy with the level of attention they get in class in addition to the overall training. Also, talk with several of the instructors and find out what their teaching philosophies are along with their histories and credentials.
Flexible Class Schedules. There is no point in enrolling in a culinary institute if you will be unable to attend the classes. So make sure that the school you pick offers class scheduling that can fit in with your active lifestyle. If you can only attend in the evening or on weekends near Bessemer AL because of your job schedule, check that the school you select offers either weekend or evening classes. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, check that the culinary arts school has a part-time option. Also, ask what the make-up policy is if you need to miss a class because of family, work or other responsibilities.
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