I honestly thought it would take me another about 30 years before I deem myself credible to give advice to peers. However, as things turned out in the past few days, I have come to conclude that I might have something to add. I have just finished my MBA and now I am fresh out on the job market. In a time of crisis and pessimistic budgets it is a joy and pleasure to enter the working force. Thus, it is evermore important that the candidates come with good references, with rich experience and from a good school. How do we know a good school? Truth is, we don’t. The really good ones you can count on the fingers of your hands – the Ivy League and the famous European institutions, LSE, Cambridge, IESE. But are these the only ones? No, there are many more! Yet, all of the good schools, those who would be more highly likely to get you the dream job on the fast-track, have one vital thing in common – they are all ACCREDITED. It is something that would not be an obvious to be on the top of your list when deciding on the university. There are, of course, the ratings, the student life, the alumni association, the courses, the professors, the campus, the reputation… yet, accreditation??? Isn’t that just “much ado about nothing”… or at least about nothing of primary importance. The answer is NO! Actually, I would argue that it is the most important thing, a prerequisite for most of the things we all are looking at when evaluating the potential dream places. Further, because of its importance there has been a growing number of organizations which claim to accredit higher-education institutions, but in fact, they produce a document which is not recognized by the community. One of the first things to remember is that a school or college that is licensed is not necessarily accredited. Make sure that your university is both. Even more, make sure that the University is accredited by an association accepted by the Official Educational institutions (in the USA, that would be the US Department of Education; in Europe there are many). After all this talk about how important it is and how crucial it is that you benefit from it, what is it exactly that you can win from being a graduate from an accredited University? Accreditation, in essence, is the process through which an educational institution has to go in order to ensure a certain minimal standard level of education which it offers. It is used to monitor and assess and evaluate the standards and quality of the education a student receives in the institution – is the student getting a high ROI (return of investment). It gives the university an international reputation that it is adhering to general practices and the education it provides is recognized standards. College accreditation means that the school will provide you with all the necessary tools and services to start, develop and finalize your degree. Those will include registration, accommodation, tutoring, placement, financial aid and counseling, to name just a few. All these services, in turn, along with the education standard, will set the university apart from the general mass and will attract more qualified professors and personnel who are more likely to be more ambitious and initiate innovation and growth of the University from the inside. Now, these sound like the things you are looking for when you are making your choice. A university without accreditation will probably lack the resources and the capacity to organize all of these services for its student and faculty as it will be, in the best case, forced to prioritize and put into place a selected few, mostly those which bring a direct financial benefit to the institution, as it is a business in the first place. Further, without accreditation the university is likely to fall out of government student assistance programs, internship programs, or tuition assistance which are irreplaceable during the studying years and in some cases could make the difference between attending the institution or not. Moreover, if you decide to do a study-abroad program or exchange, a not accredited institution will not be able to provide you with the opportunity for the transfer of credits thus, slowing down your educational advancement and success. Well, after 3-4 years of long sleepless nights, essay word-counts and finance spreadsheets, you really feel that you have put a tremendous effort that deserves appreciation. Thus, it is painful to discover that most international companies and businesses will not hire staff which does not hold appropriate degrees from colleges and universities accredited by recognized accreditation agencies. Potential employers review applicants on education history along with professional experience and it is very important that the diploma obtained carries a value beyond the classroom. Thus, presenting an unaccredited diploma could hurt the chances of future employment. The importance of accreditation cannot be stressed enough. Even though accreditation will not guarantee you will be completely satisfied with a particular college or degree program, it does mean that some standards of quality are in place, that you may be able to transfer credits if you are so inclined, and that most employers will recognize the validity of your coursework and/or degree. In addition, appropriate coursework or an appropriate degree from an accredited institution of higher education can help qualify you for admission to other degree programs.
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