Given today's increasingly stratified job market, higher education has become crucial not only for recent high school graduates, but also for those seeking to enhance their professional skills or change careers. There are many choices among the area's colleges, universities and trade and vocational schools, and choosing the right campus is the key to making the most of post-high school education. Here are some tips from education experts to help you select a school.
TRADE AND VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS
* Look for a school that is fully credentialed and offers a variety of tuition options.
* Make sure the school provides training in fields that are growing, such as health care, computer technology and electronics.
* Spend time on the campus, visiting classrooms and talking with teachers.
* Examine facilities to make sure students are being trained on modern equipment of the type being used in the field.
* Interview instructors to determine their credentials, what kind of professional experience they have, how long they have taught at the school and how they keep current in their field.
* Contact regional education officials to make sure the school has a solid reputation.
* Contact regional employers in your chosen field to see what they think of graduates from the school.
* Contact current students and past graduates to get their opinions of the school's training and placement success.
* Meet with campus career guidance counselors. Explain your personal ambitions and needs--including financial aid and class schedules--and ask how the school can meet them.
* Ask whether the school has internship programs that allow you to work in the field while you learn.
COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
* Interview students who attend the college, particularly those with whom you share an interest or background, such as someone who attended the same high school.
* Arrange to sit in on some classes in your prospective major.
* Find out how classes are managed: Are they taught by full professors or graduate students? Are most presented as lecture courses, or as small seminars? Is there a waiting list for entry-level courses and prerequisites?
* Try to determine how accessible the faculty is. Are office hours posted and adhered to?
* Thoroughly investigate financial aid availability, including on-campus employment opportunities.
* Arrange an overnight visit in a residence hall and talk with the dorm's resident advisor.
* Sample the cafeteria food.
* Find out about the social life. Visit the student union for a list of student clubs, fraternities and sororities, church services, upcoming social activities and other interests.
* Visit the campus library, evaluate its resources and talk to students there.
* Don't limit yourself to questioning only those people suggested by admissions officers.
* Keep asking yourself how you feel about the school.