It’s the end of May and for some this marks the season of graduation and the transition to your next professional development adventure. That may include going to a career college, four-year university or community college to gain the basic instruction needed to pursue your dream career. In this blog post, I would like to show my preferred method of helping individuals choose the best college for them.
One of my areas of specialty is providing business leaders and their team members with work-life balance tips, resources and guidance that can improve their happiness and productivity in the workplace. Getting additional education helps you move toward the personal and professional goals you’ve set for yourself, so choosing a college is an important part of feeling like your life is on track. And helping individuals feel their life is on track and somewhat in their control is the primary purpose of professional development industry.
Now getting back to our key topic, how do you choose the college that’s best for you? A loved one recently asked for assistance with choosing a dental assistant program. I came up with the idea of creating a YouTube video that might also serve as a resource to benefit others. This is the written version so you may print it out. There are also additional checklist items that are easier to use in print form.
Let’s start with an obvious fact, today there are a lot of choices for obtaining higher education – so selecting the best one for you, can be confusing.
- Step 1: Make a list of what matters most to you about a school. This is your selection criteria. See my excel spreadsheet referenced in the video for examples of how to keep track of school ranking criteria. Accreditation should definitely be on your list of important criteria. When a school program is accredited, this means an external body has reviewed the schools program & believes it meets certain quality standards. Some accrediting bodies have more rigorous quality standards than others so feel free to check out the website for the accrediting bodies to gauge how different accreditation bodies compare to one another.
- Step 2: Go to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) and search for your desired career. Check out three important pages: summary, how do you become one and contact. You may want to use an area on your spreadsheet to take notes on critical points. It will be handy to have all this information on one sheet.
- Step 3: Go to the website of the accrediting body listed on the OOH website’s “Contact for More Info” tab. Note whether or not they provide a list of choice schools. If so, consider including those schools on your “to be contacted” sheet. You may also want to Google search the name of your program and make list of other possible colleges in the geographic locations where you want your study based. If you do this, I would color code the colleges – maybe green” for those listed on a top-ranked accreditation site – those should be your first picks to investigate.
- Step 4: Make a cheat sheet of accrediting bodies listed – different schools may be accredited by different agencies. This cheat sheet will let you rank accrediting bodies where possible to ensure you select the college with the best accreditation. You can actually have this cheat sheet as part of your same document. Consider making the accrediting body listed at OOH contact tab your rank #1 – as the OOH is more of an impartial, government sponsored site.
- Step 5: Visit the website for each college of interest to answer as many of your spreadsheet questions as possible
- Step 6: Rank your favorite colleges on the spreadsheet; #1 being your most favorite and so on
- Step 7: Call and or visit your favorite colleges for more information & to talk with students for the inside scoop
- Step 8: Select your favorite college
Other things to consider: You may not need to attend college at all for the job you want. Dental assisting, for example, is a job where this is true – you can just be trained on the job in some states. Early in my career, I worked as nursing assistant at a convalescent home that attracted workers by advertising that they would pay for and train you to become a Certified Nursing Assistant – free. This program used a combination of on-the-job training & weekly instruction in a classroom environment. A similar program may be available to you – so check the classifieds for jobs in your area that offer on-the-job training or certification assistance.
Because, certification requirements may vary from state to state, it’s important to get the facts directly from the horse’s mouth. Visit the credentialing body’s website for official guidelines. If there is a national certification program, go to that program’s website – for example DANB is the body that grants national certification to dental assistants and DANB has it’s own informational site. The site will usually give details of state requirements.
If the state you want to work in prefers certification over degrees, then getting your certificate or diploma is not your final step before getting a job. You’ll have to also find out what the cerfication board for your field of interest requires and meet those requirement before the certification board will let you take their exam. Set a goal date for achieving these requirements. After fulfilling those requirements, you must take those certification exams and pass to be ready to apply for jobs. Don’t forget to put all those “steps” on your resume as credentials and certifications!
Good luck on your career quest and much success to you.
For more professional development and work life balance tips, check out our radio show at www.workingknowledgeradio.com.