Since I started working as a College Advisor to graduating high school juniors and seniors, I’ve had many students say they want to go to culinary school. When I asked, “Why?” I hear a plethora of different answers, all of them variations of, “I like to cook.” While that’s a great start, and the answer to the most important question, there are some other questions to consider when deciding to go to culinary school:
- What are you hoping to gain from culinary school? You should be able to list a set of skills that you want to learn or improve upon. If you can’t think of anything you want from culinary school, then this might not be the best option for you at this point in your life. Another useful way of thinking about this is, “What are you goals in going to culinary school?” You should have a list of objectives that you want to have met when you get that diploma.
- Can I afford culinary school? Culinary school and post-secondary schools in general are expensive. There are cheaper options, such as community college. That said, going to college generally means you either have to spend money now or take out loans. When considering loans, you should think about the starting salary you expect based on what you study and the quality of life you want after you are done with school. There are other forms of financial aid available from the government, such as federal and state grants, but they may not cover the entire cost of culinary school. Outside scholarships (such as C-CAP scholarships through cooking competitions!) are another form of financial aid that may help. Even with all of these ways to help pay for culinary school, you should budget exactly how much you can spend. If you are planning to live on campus, you must consider the cost of room and board as well.
- Is this the right time for me to go to school? Many students go right from high school to college, unsure of what they want to study. If this is you, or if you are unsure you want to work in the culinary field, working before you enroll in school might be a good option. After all, you can always go to culinary school later in life. If you are set on culinary school, then enrolling in culinary school right after high school can be a good idea- after all, it’s hard to go back to school after earning money by working full-time, and tuition prices are only going to go up.
- What degree do I want? There are many different degrees that you can earn in culinary school. Do you want to focus on the main course or do you want to learn pastry skills? Are you interested in working in the kitchen or do you want to manage a restaurant? Consider these questions before deciding on a program. You should also consider the program length, as you can spend anywhere from one year in school for a certificate program, two years for an Associate degree, or four years in school for a Bachelor’s degree. If you start out going for an Associate’s degree, remember that you can always go back for a Bachelor’s degree. As you consider the different degrees, think about whether you want to learn skills only in the kitchen or you want a liberal arts education as well. Finally, consider what positions you plan to seek after graduating, as that will help you decide on the degree program that is best for you now.
- Does culinary school fit in my life? If you are working, you should consider how much time you can devote to culinary school. Will your job be supportive, and can you ask for a flexible schedule? It’s not just the classes that take time, as you should expect to study two hours for every hour you are in class. There also are other considerations such as travel time and getting a chance to practice those knife cuts. Remember, just because you are in school doesn’t mean that your other responsibilities disappear – you still have to do laundry and cook food for yourself!
You don’t have to answer these all at once or have an answer for each question. The answers for each person will be different and may change over time. Some people start off in the kitchen and decide later on to study culinary or hospitality management. If you think carefully about what you want to get from culinary school before you enroll, you will get the most out of it!
By Guest Blogger Rebecca Travis, C-CAP’s Senior College Scholarship Manager