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Evaluating Culinary Arts Programs
At this point 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 institution. Since there are numerous culinary arts schools in the Hoover area and within the USA, you must develop a checklist of essential qualifications so that you can begin limiting your options. A few obvious qualifications, including location and cost are a good place to begin. But choosing a school because it is the nearest or the most affordable is not the best way to make a decision regarding your education. There are other factors, such as reputation and accreditation that you should assess also. Therefore, below are some critical areas that you will need to research for every school as you compare and contrast them and make your ultimate choice.
Accreditation. It's important that the cooking program you decide on has some type of accreditation from either a regional or a national agency. As mentioned previously, the accrediting authority should be a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged agency, for instance the American Culinary Federation (ACF). ACF accredited schools have passed a detailed evaluation pertaining to their curriculum, teachers and facilities. So not only does accreditation help establish that you will receive excellent training, but it can also help in acquiring a student loan or financial aid which are frequently not accessible for non-accredited schools.
Age. Newer schools often have the advantage of having modern facilities and equipment. However, they may not have been in operation long enough to garner an accreditation or to cultivate a reputation. On the other hand, more established schools may still be using their original, outdated equipment, but have established a long track record of success and earned one or more accreditations. Also, the longer a school has been in business, the more graduates the school can solicit for its job assistance program. Certainly there is some give and take dependent on the age of the culinary arts schools. And older, more renowned schools commonly modernize their equipment and facilities. The important lesson is that in the best case scenario, your chosen school will have an outstanding reputation, accreditation and a state-of-the-art facility with modern equipment.
Job Placement Rates. First, ask what the graduation rates are for the culinary institutions you are assessing. Low graduation rates are red flags that many students were unhappy with either the colleges or the courses and quit before graduating. They can also indicate that the instructors were not competent to teach the course of study. Request that the schools provide their job placement rates as well. If a school has a high job placement rate, it will help validate that it has a great or excellent reputation within the culinary field, as well as a broad network of professional relationships. Be wary of any school that will not furnish this information.
Location. The culinary college that you attend should be within commuting distance of your Hoover residence, unless you are willing to move. You may look into attending classes online, but you would still have to travel for your externship program. Conversely, perhaps you have opted to attend a particular culinary arts school located in a different state because of its reputation and programs offered. It would be a wise decision to visit the campus before enrolling, to make sure that you are satisfied with the area and your prospective living conditions. Look over the training facilities in person to make certain they are up to date and that the equipment is state of the art. Keep in mind also that many schools target their job placement programs within their local communities, so pick a location where you will be happy working.
Class Sizes. The ideal approach to learn how to cook is with plenty of personalized training. If the culinary institute you enroll in has bigger classes, you will most likely get minimal individual attention from the teachers. The best way to evaluate the communication and interaction between instructors and students is to audit some of the classes. Ask some of the students what their experience has been. Find out if they are happy with the level of attention they receive in class in addition to the overall training. Also, talk with several of the teachers and learn what their teaching approaches are along with their experiences and qualifications.
Flexible Class Schedules. There is no benefit to in enrolling in a cooking college if you will be unable to attend the classes. Therefore make sure that the school you choose has available class scheduling that will work with your hectic lifestyle. If you can only attend in the evening or on weekends near Hoover AL because of your job schedule, verify that the school you pick offers either night or weekend classes. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the cooking college has a part-time option. Also, find out what the make-up protocol is if you have to miss a class due to family, work or other commitments.
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