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Comparing Cooking Schools
By now you should have made a decision regarding the type of degree that you wish to earn, and if you want to enroll in a private or a public school. Since there are numerous culinary arts schools in the Birmingham area and across the Country, you must create a checklist of important qualifications so that you can begin limiting your choices. Some obvious qualifications, for instance location and cost are an excellent place to begin. But picking a school because it is the closest or the least expensive is not the best way to decide on your education. There are other criteria, for example reputation and accreditation that you must evaluate also. Therefore, following are some crucial areas that you must research for every school as you compare and contrast them and make your ultimate decision.
Accreditation. It's important that the cooking college you select has some form of accreditation from either a regional or a national authority. As previously mentioned, the accrediting authority should be a U.S. Department of Education certified authority, such as the American Culinary Federation (ACF). ACF accredited schools have successfully completed a detailed evaluation pertaining to their curriculum, teachers and facilities. Therefore not only does accreditation help establish that you will receive exceptional training, but it can also help in acquiring a student loan or financial assistance which are generally not available for non-accredited schools.
Age. Newer schools often have the benefit of having modern equipment and facilities. However, they may not have been in operation long enough to acquire an accreditation or to develop a reputation. On the other hand, older schools may still be using their original, dated equipment, but have established a sustained track record of success and earned one or more accreditations. Also, the longer a school has operated, the more graduates the school can reach out to for its job assistance program. Obviously there is some give and take based on the age of the culinary schools. And older, more reputable schools commonly update their equipment and facilities. The valuable lesson is that in the best case scenario, your chosen school will have an exceptional reputation, accreditation and a state-of-the-art facility with newer equipment.
Job Placement Rates. Initially, find out what the graduation rates are for the culinary schools you are evaluating. Low graduation rates are signs that a number of students were dissatisfied with either the colleges or the training and dropped out. They might also indicate that the instructors were not competent to teach the curriculum. Ask the schools to provide their job placement rates also. If a school has a higher job placement rate, it will help affirm that it has a great or exceptional reputation within the cooking field, in addition to a wide network of professional associations. Watch out for any school that will not supply this information.
Location. The culinary college that you enroll in should be within driving distance of your Birmingham residence, unless you have decided to relocate. You may consider attending classes online, but you would still have to travel for your externship training. Alternatively, maybe you have decided to enroll in a particular culinary arts institute located in a different state due to its prominence and courses offered. It would be a wise decision to check out the campus before enrolling, to make certain that you are comfortable with the location and your future living conditions. Look over the training facilities in person to make certain they are modern and that the equipment is state of the art. Consider also that a number of schools target their job placement programs within their local communities, so choose a location where you will be happy working.
Class Sizes. The best method to learn how to cook is with plenty of one-on-one training. If the cooking school you enroll in has bigger classes, you will probably get limited personal attention from the teachers. The optimal manner in which to assess the communication and interaction between instructors and students is to sit in on several of the classes. Ask a couple of the students what their experience has been. Find out if they are happy with the level of attention they get in class in addition to the entire course of training. Also, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their teaching philosophies are along with their experiences and credentials.
Flexible Class Schedules. There is no benefit to in enrolling in a culinary institute if you will be unable to attend the classes. So make sure that the school you choose provides class scheduling that will accommodate your active lifestyle. If you can only attend at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL due to your job schedule, check that the school you pick offers either weekend or night classes. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, verify that the culinary arts school has a part-time alternative. Also, find out what the make-up protocol is if you must miss a class because of work, family or other commitments.