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Is It College or "College?"

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

Words do have specific meaning, but there are too many who will play with the meaning and lead you to believe in a falsehood. I've always bristled when I see a mental health person listing themself as an "institute" or "associates" when I know they are no more an institute than a parking lot is a storage facility. When one person works in an office, it is never "associates." Would you agree?

Today, I unexpectedly came across a young woman who I learned is planning to be a veterinarian. The subject is of some interest to me as would any mention of advanced education. I've been around the block on that one and I try to help out if I can. Usually, the helping out is in the form of open-ended questions.

Where was she going to go to school? She told me something like "Veterinarian College" and I asked where that was located. I got a response that didn't seem to quite do it. After four years at this place, she planned to enter a major veterinary medicine program at a superior college.

I know about this university because someone I knew applied for entrance; they didn't get in despite having received an "A" in organic chemistry. One of the hidden prerequisites was that you had to either come via the "legacy" (a family member graduated from the school), a farming family or have worked on a farm. The guy I knew had one of these, so he got an interview, but not an acceptance letter. The "interview," he told me, consisted of an alum telling him all about his war experiences. He went to the Caribbean and has been a vet practicing happily ever after his clinicals in the UK and Canada.

Prior to his entering practice, he had to sit for the licensing exam and the state board in his home state wouldn't let him sit. They didn't like the school he had attended or the clinicals he had where he got excellent evaluations. It took a bit of muscle from a powerful political figure to get them to change their minds.

Perhaps, I misunderstood her answer because, as we spoke a bit more, she told me she'd gotten a scholarship to this college because she couldn't afford to go to school. After she graduated (she has a 4.0 right now), she hoped to get a scholarship at the famous veterinary school, too. Well, we do know that something like 50% of the students in vet programs are young women, so maybe it's a bit easier these days.

Thinking it over, we had a bit more conversation where I advised her about a few things:

1. Make sure your school is accredited by a major accrediting body, not a place that has given themself the title that sounds like they're authentic. A simple "yes" response is not adequate.

2. Look into how long they've been in existence and what their graduation rate is because lots of "schools" take in students who never finish and end up with mountains of debt.

3. Financial aid is fine, but not if you're simply getting student loans. What is the school doing for you? Is it a college-work-study program? A partial scholarship? Don't depend on loans exclusively.

4. Where do graduates get jobs and what do those jobs pay? What does the future of those jobs look like in terms of future employment, advancement and career stability? The US Government puts out a book providing some of this information (The Occupational Outlook Handbook).

5. How long will it take to earn a degree and what is the name of the degree you'll get? An undergraduate degree such as a B.A. or B.S. is usual in the US. Abroad it may be a bit different.

6. How many graduates (the numbers and percents) are accepted into master's or other professional programs and where are the schools accepting them?

7. Beware of salespersons talking around the issue such as telling you "it's a degree equivalent" and you can use it just as you would a degree or regular diploma. Not so. I've seen this with high school students whose parents believed the non-traditional school provided something like this.

As always, be a fully informed consumer, do your research and ask lots of questions. Act in haste and regret at leisure should be your motto until you're fully satisfied.

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