Monday, April 9, 2012

The Importance of Researching Schools

One of the things clients hate to do as a part of the Second Career application process is to complete the school research process. For those that have not been through Second Career the process is fairly simple, contact three schools that are offering the course that you are interested in and ask them a series of questions designed to help you find out more about the school and course in question. Yet despite how simple the process is and we even provide the questions to ask, people still hate to do this; mainly because they feel that as they've picked the school they want to go to so why should they look elsewhere.
However whether you are going through the Second Career process, applying for OSAP or even paying for the course yourself there are several important reasons why anyone looking at training courses should compare different schools:

 Education vs. Schooling

In my personal opinion this is the most important reason for researching a school / course; many people though do not recognise a difference between these two words and so these words have become interchangeable when in fact they are not. Education refers to the learning of knowledge, experience and social outcomes; schooling on the hand refers to the processes used to facilitate this process. John Dewey in his book Experience and Education summed up the difference between education and schooling with the following quote

“Almost everyone has had the occasion to look back upon his school days and wonder what has become of the knowledge he was supposed to have amassed during his years of schooling, and why is it that the technical skills he acquired have to be learned over again in changed form in order to stand him in good stead.”

So in our research the main question we need to focus on is what value the course you are looking at has in terms of the workforce as one of the main reasons people go back to school is to increase their employment prospects. In researching this aspect I also encourage people to speak to employers about their thoughts regarding the training program as they are the ones that will be doing the hiring.   

Co-op Programs

This topic ties in closely with what we have just looked at as a co-op program will often give the student the on-the-job experience in the field they are looking in. This is a great opportunity to refine exactly what your career goals are, to develop networking contacts, gain real world experience and in some cases to secure employment upon graduation. Even if your co-op employer doesn’t offer you a job there is still value in your placement as it shows to employers that you are aware of what is expected within the workforce.

Value for Money

This is a strange question for individuals on Second Career because they generally are requesting the government to cover their schooling costs. However Second Career funding won’t cover everything and more importantly for those that are not going through the process and are funding their course via other methods this is something to be aware of. Naturally the biggest expense is the tuition cost which can vary greatly between community colleges, private career colleges and universities; often built in within these tuition costs are student fees which may be optional depending on the school/fee and is something you should ask about. Next on the cost list are books and some schools do give the option of buying new or used books as the cost for some of them can be quite expensive. Finally we have all of the other costs associated with going back to school but are often overlooked by people for example transportation costs, the need to buy a new computer or even mundane things like pens and notepads.

 Length of Course

I’ve out this point last as this is really dependent on your situation; if you have just graduated high school and are looking to maximize your education before starting work than a three of four year course may be the best option. Those receiving Employment Insurance / Social Assistance benefits may want to complete their education as quickly as possible in order to get back into the workforce. However it is sometimes worth remembering that quicker is not necessarily better; there are a number of short eight – twelve month courses out there but we need to go back to our first question and ask what value that course has in terms of the workforce. For some courses will only introduce you to a field not qualify you for it and some will only qualify you for enter level positions and to advance you would need to get further education.

Choosing which school to go to should not be as simple as picking a name out of a hat. If you already know what type of career path you have in mind then you should take the time to pick the education that will provide you with the best possible start on that path.