Choosing a school is one of the most important decisions that a potential student can make in their career path. Not only should a school be chosen based on curriculum; but interests, strengths, and other important factors should be highly considered when choosing which technical school is best.
One of the most important decisions for a technical (engineering) school is to determine what interests you the most. Determine if the schools you are considering offer programs based on what you enjoy doing and learning about. Does the focus of the program match your favorite interests? Does the potential school offer dual-degree programs with other majors to incorporate multiple ideals that you desire? Ultimately the success of your career depends greatly upon how much you enjoy your time working!
Curriculum & Accreditation
Once you determine your curriculum needs, then you can consider the school’s accreditation and quality of facilities. Accreditation is a quality standard that is used to ensure that you get the education that you pay for. Research if the college you are considering meets the minimum education standards set by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Also consider the quality of their professors and ranking. Are the clinical facilities up to date? Are their professors known for their publishing, and how do they rank in comparison to top schools?
On The Job Training
Many schools are able to offer career and industry based programs, that can help to provide you with “on-the-job” experience. This type of experiential learning can help you to narrow down your career search most effectively. Internships and co-op programs are great to quickly build experience in a certain field and also gain valuable networking opportunities. Does your school offer these programs? Are they mandatory for graduation? What programs are offered that will give you an edge in the job market? Research the career services department and talk to them about their resources for job hunting, as well as networking, in order to best suit your job needs post-graduation.
Once you have narrowed down your options based on quality and curriculum, then you should consider the personal factors such as location, size and affordability.
Location can be a big deterrent for some students. Do not take this factor lightly; visit campus and assess the pros and cons if considering to move out of state. Determine where you feel most comfortable. Some prefer an urban environment rather than a rural/suburban campus, and vice versa! Location can make a huge difference in the experience that you have throughout your time there. Make sure to ask current students about their experiences and stay for an overnight visit if possible.
Overall Size Of School
Similarly to deciding on location, is to take into consideration the size of campus, student population and student-to-instructor ratio. Take into account your personal learning styles. Is the classroom size conducive to one-on-one instruction that you seek, or mainly best for large lectures? How diverse is the student population? Are instructors available to students for extra help? What learning and research resources are available on campus should also be considered when choosing if the learning environment is best suited for your needs.
Academic Culture & Lifestyle
Some technical schools and universities can have a much different “feel” than others. This type of feeling is difficult to research online! It’s important that you go for a visit while classes are in session. Walk through some of the buildings, ask other students for questions, get lunch at the local diner, and check out the night life. While these factors might not be top priority for getting an education, they do all play into the overall experience you’ll have in school. Make sure to have a grip on the trends in student lifestyles, and know what you’re looking for when comparing different schools.
Lastly, consider the budget for tuition that you have. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked factors! How does money factor into your decision? Do not underestimate the weight that accompanies a large amount of student debt after graduation. Do you qualify for Federal or State aid, or in-state tuition? Consider alternative options to factor into a tight budget, such as state schools or applying for scholarship and aid. Consult the college’s scholarship offices and financial aid department to understand all of your options when it comes to loans, grants, and scholarship opportunities that can help fund your education.