What to Look for in a Technical or Vocational School

If you've made up your mind to go to a technical or trade school, you've definitely made a "market wise" move. But make sure that you carry that wisdom a step further and research the school you are getting into.

With over 300 plus "reputed" trade schools in the USA, each claiming to be better than the next, how do you choose the one that is right for you?

Step 1: Adopt the law of selection by elimination! Not every school will have the course you want, or be in the location of your choice. A basic set of personal criteria will help you eliminate many schools and finalize a list of potentially good choices.

Step 2: Find out from the local Better Business Bureau, the State Attorney General's Office or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation or QuintCareers.comif the school is blacklisted or has a negative reputation.

Step 3: Wield the power of the internet and Google. Find out what past and current students are saying. Of course no college is perfect and there are bound to be some negatives. But determine which way the balance is tilted. Mail seniors from the college and hear what they have to say.

If at the end of this scrutiny, your overall impression is favorable, visit the school, check out the facilities and take time to talk to faculty and students.

Ask yourself some pertinent questions regarding the following:

Curriculum: See what kind of jobs the course can train you for. Even within a particular field, you can have options. Go for a college that offers versatility. While hands-on training is certainly crucial, it's better to choose a course that offers you a fair balance of theory and on the job training.

Placement Rate: Check out how many graduates from the program are actually working in the career of their choice. Ask to see a list of places that have hired the school's graduates in the past. This should give you an idea of what to expect career-wise.

Industry Reputation: A good trade school will always be recognized by the employers in that particular field. See which companies have hired graduates from the school. If credible organizations are picking up students, you know that the school has a pretty sound reputation.

Facilities: For postsecondary programs where hands-on training is emphasized, it is really important that the facilities are up to date. Find out if the facilities in the school are using the latest technology and equipment.

Services: A good school always goes the extra mile for its students, guiding them until they are well placed. Does the school have a career guidance office? Will it help students find employment upon graduation? Will they help out with internships and co-ops during the course?  Read Growing Trend of Choosing Trade Schools Over Four Year Universitiesfor additional information on the increasing popularity of vocational or technical colleges.

Tuition/Fees: Most technical schools are not as hard on your pocket as traditional universities. Even so, many schools accept only students who can afford to pay out of pocket. A good school, however, should allow you to choose a financing plan that is right for you. Find out if scholarships, grants or financial assistance is available.

Many schools these days are little more than diploma mills. So it's important that you are aware of what is on the cards before you decide on a school. At the end of the day, remember that for trade schools, less is more. A school that pays more attention to you as an individual is what you should opt for.

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