Choosing a School, Making the decision to advance your career by enrolling in a vocational school is a huge investment and a big step that could dramatically change your life. Choosing the proper school is crucial because of the cost, the time commitment, and your future in the workplace. Visit the schools you are considering in person, if at all possible. Do your homework and be diligent about it.

How much does the course cost?

If you call a school and can’t get this basic yet essential information, there is something wrong. Each course, or portion of a course, comes with a price. If the school is not willing to disclose that price, either on its web site or over the phone, be careful. If the school offers to return, or “kick back” a portion of the tuition for any reason, be wary because this could be both illegal and unethical, and may be indicative of the training offered.

Who are the instructors?

Check the resumes of the instructor or instructors that are teaching the class. Do they have a degree? How much practical experience do they have, both in the industry of their “specialty” and in the classroom? Are they licensed by the state? If the school is not willing to fax you a copy of the instructors’ resumes and credentials, either the instructors are not licensed or they don’t have the necessary credentials. For example, a good F&I instructor should have at least a BA or MBA degree in Automotive Marketing or business and no less than 10 years of senior management experience at franchised new-car dealerships as a general manager and finance director.

Who are the recruiters?

When you call in for information, are you talking to an owner or high-level official of the school, or merely a sales representative who gets paid on commission and will try to enroll you simply to line his or her own pocket and meet quotas – not because the school is best for you. Some schools may disguise commissioned salespeople as admissions reps or career counselors. If they call themselves career counselors, they must have a license in counseling. Ask for that license number, and where they received their counseling degree.

How many disclosures are there?

Some schools require you to sign away certain rights to protect them from litigation. But what about your rights? If there is an excessive amount of disclosures that need to be signed prior to enrollment, be very careful.

What is the class capacity?

The more students in a classroom, the less individualized training takes place. Make sure class size is limited, so that instructors can spend more of their valuable time training you. For example, the ideal class size for an F&I Management program should be limited to 10 to 12 students maximum.

What is the quality of post-graduate support?

The relationship between a student and a trade school should not end once the student is admitted, let alone graduates. Job placement assistance is critical. Do the lines of communication between the student and the school’s Placement Department remain open? Are job leads fresh and plentiful? Are interview coaching techniques presented? Will the school provide telephone and fax support in the student’s job search, and is placement assistance a lifetime commitment? Are free refresher courses offered? Do graduates receive monthly updates on ethics and legal compliance? Are professional resume services included, and if so, who prepares them? Keep in mind that the larger the school, the more difficult it is to service the proliferation of graduates. The Automotive Dealership Institute is a boutique school founded on the premise that the student is the most important factor in the business – not only prior to enrollment, but during the course and after graduation. ADI alumni always remain part of the school’s extended family.

How are placement figures derived?

Are most students being placed in positions they’re being trained for, or lesser, entry-level sales jobs? This could make a huge difference in your future.

Did You Initiate Contact with the School?

If a school you’ve never heard of contacts you, that should be a “red flag.” Some schools purchase thousands of resumes from jobsites (such as Monster.com) in order to target unsuspecting job seekers. Some will even pose as a phony employment agency, promising you a job as long as you attend their specific school. This “bait and switch” technique is both deceptive and illegal.

What is included in the course?

Are there hidden extras you will need, such as books or supplies, which could escalate the cost of your chosen course? Find out before you sign. ADI supplies all its students with all the necessary textbooks, handouts, and class manuals.

Are the facilities up to par?

Check out the school’s physical location and facilities prior to enrollment. If this is not practical because of the distance, see if the institute’s brochure, catalog or web site offers actual pictures of their premises so you’re not disappointed when you arrive. You’ll likely be spending some time there, so you want to make sure you’re in a safe area, in pleasant, well-kept and comfortably furnished surroundings.

Is the technology cutting-edge?

Some schools use old, or out-dated equipment to train its students. Make sure your class contains state-of-the-art technology. Don’t settle for anything less.

Are marketing materials professionally printed?

The materials the school uses to put its best foot forward are its marketing tools, specifically its web site, brochure, catalogs and other promotional materials. Are these well designed and printed, or are they just photocopied and stapled together? This could be the first indication whether the school you are considering is first or second rate.

Are testimonials real?

Schools will often quote former graduates who are doing well, but are they real? It’s important to find out. Ask for at least two references, names and phone numbers of their students who graduated, and call them to ask about their experience with the school and if they were able to get jobs shortly after they graduated.

Is the school independent, or part of a chain?

Smaller, single location schools, concentrate all their efforts and infrastructure on you. Schools that boast about expanding to other locations could be diluting their resources. Make sure you are a name, not merely a number.

Are there complaints against the school?

Before investing in a vocational course, make sure the school is in good standing with state governing bodies. Check with the appropriate government regulatory agency (Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education in the state where the school is located) and ask if there are any complaints pending, and what the nature of those complaints may be. Also check with the Better Business Bureau and the Department of Consumer Affairs.