Finding the Best School
Many variables go into choosing which school to attend. Even within the same family, the best choice may be different for each individual. For this reason, research and consider your options carefully. Determine what type of educational experience will best help you to achieve your goals, whether at a university, college, or vocational school.
University or College
A university or college education will give you a well-rounded educational base through general education requirements and specialized academic training. Colleges can award four-year degrees. Universities can award four-year degrees, as well as more advanced degrees.
- Associate: two-year diploma, can be part of the four-year bachelor’s degree
- Bachelor: four-year diploma
- Master: two to three years beyond a bachelor’s degree
- Doctorate: two to three years beyond a master’s degree
Vocational or Trade Schools
Trade and vocational schools are devoted to training students to be competent in a specific trade or profession. Most vocational training does not include liberal arts subjects. Vocational training provides students with the ability to gain skills quickly through hands-on training, which prepares them to take a skilled job when they complete their course. Salaries for many technical careers can surpass college-degree careers.
Associate Degrees, Diplomas, and Certificates
Vocational schools can award associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Most trades require you to be certified. Vocational schools prepare you for the certification tests.
Questions to Ask
Validity and Reputability
- Has a reputable accrediting agency certified the school?
- Has the state or country properly licensed the school according to the regulations?
- Are there any complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau or other country-specific organizations against the school?
- Ask the school for a list of past students whom you can contact.
- Ask past and current students if they have had problems with the school, curriculum, instructors, or facilities.
- Be wary of schools that promise a degree or certificate in a short amount of time or that overstate future job prospects or earning potential.
Vocational schools: Most vocational and trade schools are reputable, but some are not. Research a school thoroughly before enrolling. Once you choose a school, review the materials the school gives you, including the contract. Avoid signing up until you have read the documents carefully. Check the contract to see whether you can cancel within a few days of signing up and how to do so.
- Does the school offer the program you desire to study?
- How does the quality of this program compare to that of other schools?
- Where does the school rate compared to other schools in the nation?
- What are the admissions requirements and how do they compare to the requirements in similar schools?
- How many students successfully complete the program?
- How does the school choose its instructors? Are the instructors knowledgeable in your chosen field?
- Do the students who now attend or who have attended the school feel the program was beneficial?
- Do other schools allow students to transfer credits from this school? Does the school have a degree-transfer program? If you enroll in a degree-transfer program at a vocational school, some of your credits may transfer to a four-year college.
- On average, how long does it take to graduate from this program?
How much is tuition? Government-subsidized public institutions are less expensive than private schools. Private schools sponsored by nonprofit organizations tend to be less expensive than for-profit institutions.
- Does the school charge its fees similar to the way other schools do?
- What types of financial aid does the school offer? (scholarships, grants, government assistance and subsidized loans, and so on). Work closely with the school’s financial aid offices to discuss your particular circumstances. Check with the employment center or self-reliance center in your area to find out if they know about any financial aid opportunities.
- If you take out a loan, how will that amount compare to the salary you will make once you are done?
- What additional expenses will you have? (housing, transportation, food, books, and so on).
Cost is an important factor, but it should not be the only reason to choose a particular school.
- What type of school environment do you prefer? (academic and social atmosphere, student body diversity, average class size, rural or urban location, size of the campus, commuter or college-town atmosphere, and so on).
- Does the school have up-to-date equipment in its facilities?
- How far is it from your home?
- Is it in a safe location?
Opportunities upon Completion
- What do people who work in your chosen industry or potential employers think about the school? Do they hire graduates from this school and program?
- What is the average salary of those who complete the program?
- How many students from the program find a job in your chosen field?
- Does the school have a placement service?
- Does the school have alumni services?
Is This the Best Choice?
After you research your choices, pray about your decision and ask Heavenly Father to help you know if the decision you have made is what He would have you do. Follow your feelings.