Choosing The Right School
When it comes to postsecondary education, the choices are endless: Public or private? Degree, diploma or certificate program? Full-time or part-time? Online courses or traditional classes? Accreditation status?
With all of the options out there, how do you know what’s right for you?
In this article, we’ll talk about what factors you should consider when searching for the right school for you.
Public or Private
Some schools are public, meaning the state government pays for most of the cost of operation. The state government also oversees these institutions through appointed boards and trustees.
Some others are private. Private schools are owned by an individual, partnership, or corporation and are funded through private contributions and tuition. Some of the main differences between the two are:
|Private Schools||Public Schools|
|Cost||Generally cost more money.||Generally cost less money because they are publicly funded by state government|
|Class Size||Often have smaller classes (and thus more individual attention)||Often have very large classes (and professors can be difficult to reach)|
|Usually offer a few focused programs||Tend to have more program choices|
|Program Length||Generally offer shorter, more condensed terms||Typically have traditional semesters or quarters.|
Degree, Diploma, or Certificate Program
Certificates, diplomas, and degree programs all differ most notably in the time it takes to earn each and thus the cost. Each can be the best choice for you depending on your specific career goals and your chosen field of study.
The table below explains the key differences.
|Certificate Program||Diploma Program||Degree Program|
|Duration||Usually a few months||Usually 6 months to 1 year||Usually 2 to 4 years|
|Curriculum||General idea of job skills||Specialty skill development with more courses within the program of study than certificate program||Starts with general studies with specialty studies and skills courses coming later|
|Benefits||Tend to be shorter and less expensive||Hands-on training and externship opportunities that can turn into jobs; Better qualifying method for state leisure and national certification||Usually opens up more potential doors to students than certificate or diploma as many careers require that applicant has earned at least a bachelor’s degree|
|Disadvantages||May limit job placement opportunities or ability to obtain state licensure or national certification||Cost a little more than certificate programs and take a little longer
|These programs are generally longer and more expensive than diploma or certificate programs|
Full–Time or Part–Time
Your availability to take courses is a key factor in determining the right school for you. Are you able to go to school full-time or will you need to be working while you get your education? Answering this question will help you narrow down the schools that are right for you.
Online Courses or Traditional Classes
Online courses, also known as distance education, is a popular trend right now, especially for students looking to advance their career with a part-time education program.
Distance education is just the general term for any instruction that does not take place in a traditional face-to-face, classroom setting. The important question to ask is if you have a personal preference. Some people can succeed at distance education while others learn better in a traditional classroom setting where they can interact and ask questions in person.
If you’re not sure about your own capabilities or preferences, there are some online assessments (including this one from the University of Hawaii) you can take to see help you decide what’s right for you.
One of the most important, and often overlooked, factors in choosing a school is the school’s accreditation status. Without accreditation, you will find yourself with a degree employers do not respect and will not honor.
Most define accreditation as a status which shows the public that a school has met and is maintaining a high level of standards set by an accrediting agency. Accreditation agencies look for different attributes depending on the type of school and most specialize it certain kinds of learning institutions.
A vocational medical school like Galaxy, for example, will face different accreditation standards than a culinary school because of the very different fields. However, all schools are subject to some overarching principles of accreditation like having a clearly defined mission that aims to better educate and serve the students and demonstrating that the school has the resources to achieve its mission while showing evidence of the mission being achieved.
Additionally, almost all institutions must commit to periodic and unannounced external reviews as well as a rigorous internal review programs to ensure that accreditation standards are continually being met.
At Galaxy Medical College, we’re proud of our accreditation by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). ABHES is the only agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as an institutional and specialized accreditor focusing on health care education. Additionally, ABHES has been nationally recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a private, non-profit, independent accrediting agency since 1969 and has been at the forefront of advancing the quality of health education programs throughout the country.
You can search the ABHES accredited institutions directory on their website here.
Watch Out For Diploma Mills
Diploma mills are institutions of higher education operating without supervision of a state or professional agency and granting diplomas which are either fraudulent or, because of the lack of proper standards, worthless.
These organizations are unaccredited, but they often claim accreditation by non-recognized or unapproved organizations set up for the purposes of aiding this fraudulent activity. While it may be tempting to get a diploma for little or no effort and in little to no time, they are not accepted by many companies and are actually outlawed in some states. Instead of having the training you need to begin your career, you’ll have a worthless piece of paper.
You can read more about diploma mills and what to watch for on the FTC’s website here.