I recently started looking into updating my education.  It seems that a high school diploma and job experience will only get you so far in life.  An Associate Degree plus experience might get you a little further.  But if you want any kind of technical or professional job you probably need at least a Bachelor’s Degree.  For some employers even that isn’t enough. They want you to have a Master’s Degree or even better a PhD.

The other day I visited a college fair.  You get to talk with representatives of different colleges about their college or university and how it might fit your needs.  As I went from table to table, I would introduce myself and ask them 2 questions.  First, are they regionally accredited?  Second, do they offer the degree I’m looking for?  If they answered NO to either of those questions, I said thanks and then moved on to the next one.  I found four colleges that seemed to offer what I was looking for.

The next day I was sharing my experience with a friend who asked me another question.  What about their reputation?  She works in human resources and notices things like that.  When I enquired about what she was talking about, she said some colleges or universities have reputations.  After pondering that, I have to agree with her.  A reputation, good or bad, can be associated with the name of a school.  Reputation is one more thing that must be considered when looking for a school. 

Upon further investigation of the four colleges I found at the college fair,  everything was not exactly what it seemed.  Some of the schools weren’t listed for Federal Student Aid.

Questions to ask a prospective college:

  1. Do they offer a degree in the major you’re looking for?
    • It doesn’t make sense to attend a school that doesn’t offer the major you’re looking for unless the college transfers into the graduate school you want to attend.
  2. Where were their professors educated?
    • Hopefully the educators have a diverse mix of education from well known universities.
  3. What kind of accreditation do they have?
    • Does it matter?  You betcha, if you plan to continue your education at another college.
    • Some employers and educational institutions assign more credibility to certain types of accreditation.
    • Check with prospective employer(s) about the kind of education they’re looking for in an employee.
  4. Will the graduate school you’re planning to attend accept a Bachelor’s Degree from their college or university?
    • Some colleges will accept the credit if it is from a college that is accredited by the same type of accrediting agency.
    • Usually, they will tell you that you can get a Masters Degree through their college.
  5. Does their school qualify for Federal Student Aid?
  6. If the college is not listed, you might want to investigate further.  Why didn’t the college qualify?
  7. How much will it cost per semester?
  8. What about books, lab and parking fees?
  9. Where is their campus located?
  10. What is their student/faculty ratio?

Research you need to do:

  1. Verify the college’s credibility
  2. Google their reputation
  3. Read reviews
  4. Check with your online networks for opinions
  5. See where employees of your target company went to school – you can find this information on LinkedIn or with Google. 
  6. Check if the school is listed for Federal Student Aid.  http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/FOTWWebApp/FSLookupServlet
  7. Check Accreditation