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Evaluating Culinary Schools
By now you should have made a decision regarding the type of degree that you want to attain, and whether or not you would like to enroll in a public or private school. Since there are numerous culinary arts institutions in the Gadsden area and across the United States, you need to develop a checklist of essential qualifiers so that you can start limiting your options. A few obvious qualifications, for example location and cost are a good place to start. But deciding on a school because it is the closest or the most affordable is not the ideal way to decide on your education. There are other factors, for example reputation and accreditation that you need to evaluate also. So below are some key areas that you need to research for every school as you compare and contrast them and make your final choice.
Accreditation. It's imperative that the culinary arts school you pick has some form of accreditation from either a regional or a national authority. As previously stated, the accrediting authority should be a U.S. Department of Education certified authority, such as the American Culinary Federation (ACF). ACF accredited schools have passed a thorough evaluation relating to their course of study, teachers and facilities. So not only does accreditation help confirm that you will receive quality 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 often have the advantage of possessing modern facilities and equipment. However, they may not have been in operation long enough to garner an accreditation or to develop a reputation. Conversely, more established schools may still be using their original, dated equipment, but have established a lengthy track record of success and earned one or more accreditations. Also, the longer a school has operated, the more graduates the school can solicit for its job placement program. Certainly there is some give and take dependent on the age of the culinary arts schools. And older, more renowned schools usually modernize their facilities and equipment. The significant takeaway is that in the best case scenario, your school of choice will have an exceptional reputation, accreditation and a state-of-the-art facility with modern equipment.
Job Placement Rates. To begin with, find out what the graduation rates are for the culinary arts institutions you are looking at. Low graduation rates are red flags that a number of students were dissatisfied with either the colleges or the programs and quit before graduating. They can also signify that the instructors were not competent to teach the course of study. Request that the schools furnish their job placement rates also. If a college has a higher job placement rate, it will help affirm that it has a great or excellent reputation within the culinary arts field, as well as a large network of professional relationships. Be skeptical of any school that will not furnish this information.
Location. The culinary arts school that you attend should be within driving distance of your Gadsden home, unless you are able to move. You may consider attending classes online, but you would still need to travel for your externship training. Conversely, perhaps you have decided to attend a particular culinary institute located in another state due to its prominence and programs offered. It would be a good idea to visit the facility before enrolling, to make sure that you are satisfied with the area and your prospective living conditions. Tour the training facilities in person to make certain they are up to date and that the equipment is contemporary. Consider also that many schools concentrate their job assistance programs within their regional communities, so select a location where you will enjoy working.
Class Sizes. The ideal approach to learn how to cook is with plenty of personalized instruction. If the culinary school you enroll in has large classes, you will undoubtedly get little individual attention from the instructors. The ideal manner in which to evaluate the communication and interaction between teachers and students is to audit a few 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 as well as the entire course of training. Also, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their teaching approaches are along with their backgrounds and credentials.
Flexible Class Schedules. There is no point in enrolling in a culinary institute if you will not be able to attend the classes. Therefore confirm that the school you decide on has available class scheduling that can fit in with your active lifestyle. If you can only attend at night or on weekends near Gadsden AL because of your work schedule, confirm that the school you select offers either night or weekend classes. If you can only attend part-time, check that the cooking school has a part-time option. Also, ask what the make-up protocol is if you need to miss a class as a result of family, work or other commitments.
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