Why It’s Important to Visit A Culinary School Before You Apply?
Perhaps the most important step in the decision-making process – and the one most often overlooked – is visiting the school’s campus to get a first-hand glimpse of how things run. In many cases, going to culinary school means packing up your life, moving to a new city, and starting all over again.
In other cases, you’re simply taking time and money away from your current life in order to make room for new changes. In either scenario, you’re taking a very important step – and the only way to make sure the step is the right one is to go and see for yourself.
It’s best to narrow your list of potential schools down to two or three that really pique your interest. Any more than this, and you might be facing thousands of dollars in travel expenses in order to check all the schools out. Any fewer, and you might be more apt to “gloss over” the school’s drawbacks since you don’t have any alternatives on the horizon.
When you do set up a school visit, make sure they know you’re coming and that you intend to do a little investigating. But no matter what else you do, don’t spend all your time in the admissions office listening to what they have to tell you about the program and the school – go out there and see it for yourself. If they don’t allow you to sit in on a class or are otherwise hesitant to let you really experience the school from the inside, it’s best to be cautious, since they may be hiding something.
Step One: Ask Questions
Make a list of your questions before you go. Ask anything you cannot find information for on the website or the brochure, especially if it relates to cost, program length, program types, reputation, or accreditation. Most of the people you talk to should be open and willing to discuss all your concerns with you, and if they’re not, be sure to ask why and use that information when you make your final decision.
Step Two: Visit the Facilities
This doesn’t just mean walk through the campus and look in the windows. You’ll be spending much of your culinary training in the kitchen, so make sure all the lab facilities factor in on your tour. Look at the equipment: how up-to-date is it? Does the kitchen simulate those you’ve seen in real working kitchens? Is there ample room for students and instructors to work side-by-side?
Make sure you look at the rest of the facilities, as well, especially if the campus is large. This includes things like the library, the computer labs, student lounges, and, if you’re opting for it, housing.
Step Three: Sit in on a Class
Not all schools will let you do this, but the best ones will. Basically, you sit in the back of a classroom or kitchen facility and watch as the instructors and students go about their regular business. This is one of the best ways to really get a feel for the way the learning environment is set up and to see if the school’s “chemistry” is what you want out of your educational experience.
Remember, though, that all instructors are different, so if you’re not in love with one teaching style, sit in on a different class to make a comparison.
Step Four: Talk to Students and Faculty Members
When you talk to current students about the school, don’t just confine yourself to the Internet or to individuals the school puts you in contact with – talk to both. In most cases, those who post information online are usually complaining; in comparison, those the school pushes to the forefront are those who are doing the exact opposite. By looking at both sides of the story – and by finding students on campus and directing your questions to them – you’ll be able to form a more complete picture.
If you are allowed to set up appointments with the faculty members of the program you’re considering, do so. These are the people who will be teaching you the skills and experience you need to become a chef or cook, so you need to feel confident in who they are as teachers and who they are as professionals.
Prospective students can also benefit from visiting the restaurants that many faculty members own or operate during their non-teaching time. This is a great way to “scope out” the styles and tastes of those who may become your mentors.
Step Five: Contact Graduates and Restaurants
Of course, students and faculty members are deeply embedded in the educational system and may not always have a clear view of the future. By contacting graduates and the area restaurants who do the hiring in the community, you can see not only the type of education you can expect to receive, but the kind of reception you’ll get in the real working world, as well.
Making the Culinary School Decision
Even with all the challenges it presents, the decision to attend culinary school is a great one. You are facing great job opportunities, room for growth, and the opportunity to do something you really love for a living. Remember, though, that there is more to it than selecting the closest school and filling out an application form. If you really want to succeed in your new career – and with drive, determination, and hard work, you can – take the time to review your options and carefully select the perfect school for you.
With all the resources you need in one convenient online location, GatewayGourmet.com is a great place to begin your search. Your success matters to us, and we’re excited to get you started on the journey of a lifetime!