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Researching Culinary Arts Colleges
At this point you should have decided on the type of degree that you plan to earn, and whether or not you want to enroll in a private or a public school. Since there a large number of culinary arts schools in the Madison area and across the USA, you must develop a checklist of important qualifications so that you can begin narrowing your choices. Some obvious qualifiers, such as cost and location are a good place to begin. But picking a school because it is the closest or the most affordable is not the best way to make a decision regarding your education. There are other variables, including reputation and accreditation that you must assess also. Therefore, below are some critical areas that you will need to investigate for each school as you compare and contrast them and make your final choice.
Accreditation. It's imperative that the cooking institute you select has some form of accreditation from either a regional or a national organization. As mentioned previously, the accrediting organization should be a U.S. Department of Education recognized agency, for example the American Culinary Federation (ACF). ACF accredited schools have successfully completed a thorough evaluation regarding their course of study, instructors and facilities. Therefore not only does accreditation help establish that you will receive excellent training, but it can also assist in obtaining a student loan or financial aid which are generally not available for non-accredited schools.
Age. Recently established schools generally have the benefit of possessing modern equipment and facilities. However, they may not have been operating long enough to earn an accreditation or to establish a reputation. Conversely, older schools may still be using their original, dated equipment, but have established a lengthy history of excellence and received one or more accreditations. Also, the longer a school has been in operation, the more alumni the school can solicit for its job assistance program. Naturally there is some give and take dependent on the age of the culinary schools. And older, more renowned schools typically update 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 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 schools you are examining. Low graduation rates are indications that a number of students were unhappy with either the schools or the programs and quit before graduating. They can also indicate that the instructors were not qualified to teach the course of study. Request that the schools provide their job placement rates also. If a college has a high job placement rate, it will help affirm that it has a great or exceptional reputation within the culinary arts community, in addition to a wide network of professional connections. Be skeptical of any school that will not provide this information.
Location. The culinary arts college that you enroll in should be within driving distance of your Madison home, unless you have decided to move. You may consider attending classes online, but you would still need to travel for your externship training. Conversely, maybe you have decided to go to a specific culinary arts institute located in a different state due to its reputation and programs offered. It would be a wise decision to check out the campus before enrolling, to make certain that you are comfortable with the area and your potential living conditions. Look over the training facilities personally to make sure they are up to date and that the equipment is contemporary. Remember also that some schools focus their job placement programs within their regional communities, so choose a location where you will satisfied working.
Class Sizes. The best approach to learn how to cook is with a lot of one-on-one training. If the cooking college you enroll in has bigger classes, you will most likely receive limited personal attention from the teachers. The ideal manner in which to assess the interaction between teachers and students is to attend a few of the classes. Ask some of the students what their experience has been. Find out if they are pleased with the amount of attention they get in class in addition to the overall training. Also, speak with a few of the teachers and learn what their teaching philosophies are along with their backgrounds and credentials.
Flexible Class Schedules. There is no sense in enrolling in a culinary arts school if you will not be able to attend the classes. So make sure that the school you decide on provides class scheduling that will accommodate your busy lifestyle. If you can only attend in the evening or on weekends near Madison AL due to your job schedule, make certain that the school you decide on offers either weekend or evening classes. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the cooking college has a part-time alternative. Also, ask what the make-up protocol is if you must miss a class as a result of work, family or other responsibilities.
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