How to Compare Academic Programs
As you try to narrow your search for the perfect college, you may find that comparing academic programs is a good place to start. Since this is your future career we’re talking about, it makes sense to choose a college or university with a good program for your intended major.
But how do you determine what makes a program “good” anyway? Here are a few things to consider as you establish your own personal definition of “good.”
In higher ed, accreditation is everything. Why? Because accrediting bodies are third-party entities that set standards for academic excellence. By granting a school accreditation, the accrediting entity is verifying the quality of education at that school.
Here at Angelo State, we’re proud of our institutional accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. However, many of our academic colleges and departments have also received accreditation from more industry-specific accrediting agencies. So it’s a good idea to look into both levels of accreditation.
Ask your potential department head about the classroom experience in the department. You can start by asking a few questions about class size and how courses in your major will change as you get further along in your degree program. At Angelo State, most of the prospective students we talk to value our smaller class sizes because they offer personalized attention from professors. However, we recognize that everyone’s preferred learning style and environment is different, so take your personal preferences into account as you’re learning more.
You may also want to ask if you can see any examples of student work or research in the department. This will not only show you the types of work you can expect to complete, but it will also give you an idea of what will be expected of you.
Preparation For What Comes Next
Make sure you ask about what the department or program does to prepare students for life after graduation (whether that be the job market or graduate school). Ask about any seminars or hands-on experiences that will expose you to your chosen career field.
From the arts and sciences to business, teacher education and health and human services, nearly all academic areas can be enriched with on-the-job experience. Ask about what you’ll learn in the classroom that you can apply directly to those real-life situations.
Even if the department or degree program doesn’t have a formal program for tracking the achievements of its graduates, a faculty member should be able to list for you a few successful alums. Ask what those individuals did as students to set themselves up for success. Then ask faculty what they would recommend you do to achieve similar success.
A Final Note
These topics can serve as a starting point to help you get information that will inform your college decision-making process. Discussing each of these areas will no doubt lead to more questions and answers that will help you determine which college is the best fit for you. Good luck on your search!