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Researching Culinary Arts Schools
By now you should have decided on the type of degree that you plan to earn, and whether or not you would like to enroll in a private or a public college. Since there are numerous cooking schools in the Dixiana area and across the Country, you must develop a checklist of important qualifiers so that you can begin narrowing down your choices. A few obvious qualifiers, for example cost and location are a good place to start. But selecting a school because it is the closest or the cheapest is not the ideal way to make a decision regarding your education. There are other variables, for example reputation and accreditation that you should review as well. So below are some critical areas that you must research for each school as you compare them and make your final decision.
Accreditation. It's imperative that the culinary arts institute you select has some type of accreditation from either a local or a national authority. As aforementioned, the accrediting authority should be a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged agency, for example the American Culinary Federation (ACF). ACF accredited schools have passed a comprehensive review pertaining to their curriculum, teachers and facilities. Therefore not only does accreditation help ensure that you will receive quality training, but it may also help in acquiring a student loan or financial assistance which are often not offered for non-accredited schools.
Age. Newer schools often have the advantage of having modern equipment and facilities. However, they may not have been open long enough to garner an accreditation or to develop a reputation. On the other hand, more established schools may still be using their original, dated equipment, but have established a lengthy track record of success and acquired one or more accreditations. Also, the longer a school has been in business, the more graduates the school can solicit for its job placement program. Obviously there is some give and take dependent on the age of the culinary schools. And older, more highly regarded schools usually update their facilities and equipment. The important takeaway is that in the best case scenario, your selected school will have an exceptional reputation, accreditation and a state-of-the-art facility with modern equipment.
Job Placement Rates. First off, find out what the graduation rates are for the culinary institutions you are evaluating. Lower graduation rates are signs that numerous students were dissatisfied with either the schools or the training and dropped out. They might also suggest that the instructors were not competent to teach the course of study. Ask the schools to furnish their job placement rates also. If a college has a high job placement rate, it will help verify that it has a great or excellent reputation within the culinary field, as well as a wide network of professional connections. Be skeptical of any school that will not provide this information.
Location. The culinary arts school that you attend must be within commuting distance of your Dixiana home, unless you can relocate. You may consider attending school online, but you would still need to travel for your externship program. Alternatively, perhaps you have decided to go to a particular culinary arts school located in a different state due to its prominence and programs offered. It would be a wise decision to visit the campus before enrolling, to make sure that you are comfortable with the area and your potential living conditions. Check the training facilities in person to make sure they are up to date and that the equipment is state of the art. Remember also that many schools target their job assistance programs within their regional communities, so select a location where you will be happy working.
Class Sizes. The most effective way to learn how to cook is with lots of personalized instruction. If the culinary arts college you enroll in has larger classes, you will probably receive limited individual attention from the instructors. The best manner in which to evaluate the interaction between faculty and students is to attend several of the classes. Ask some of the students what their experience has been. Ascertain if they are pleased with the amount of attention they get in class as well as the entire course of training. Also, talk with several of the instructors and find out what their teaching philosophies are along with their backgrounds and qualifications.
Flexible Class Schedules. There is no sense in enrolling in a culinary arts institute if you will be unable to attend the classes. So confirm that the school you choose has available class scheduling that can work with your busy lifestyle. If you can only attend in the evening or on Saturdays or Sundays near Dixiana AL because of your job schedule, verify that the school you select offers either weekend or evening classes. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, verify that the culinary institute has a part-time offering. Also, check to see what the make-up policy is if you need to miss a class due to family, work or other commitments.