Finding and Applying : A Guide To Trade School

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So, you’ve decided you’re going to go to trade school and you’ve narrowed down the trades you’re interested in. Now it’s time to pick out some schools to apply to. It might sound easy when you think about how easy it is to find information about colleges and compare them but trade schools can be harder to research and information is usually sparse.  Applications are a more straightforward process. Below are some general guidelines for completing and submitting your application.

How to Find Information

    • The easiest way to find trade schools and program in your area is to Google your desired location, followed by the trade you’re interested in and a general term like school or program. For example, if you’re looking for a plumbing program in Florida, searching “Florida plumbing program” should be a good start.
    • Community colleges can sometimes double as trade schools, so look at your local community college websites to see if they offer any programs you’re interested in.
    • Once you find one, call their office and ask them any questions that their website doesn’t answer.
    • Stop by and check out their facilities. They’ll usually even let you shadow a class if you ask.

What Information to Look For

  • Make sure the school you’re looking at offers the program you’re interested in.
  • Look for specific details about their program such as the classes and their style of teaching.
  • Check their instructor’s credentials and make sure they’re appropriate.
  • Check that the program is both licensed by the state and accredited by a reliable organization.
  • How much does the program cost?
  • How long does the program take to complete?
  • What do the program’s completion statistics look like? Make sure the people who attend the program have mostly been employed and successful.
  • Check that their facilities and shops are clean and modern.
  • Check the location of the school and whether it involves an online component.
  • It sounds excessive, but do a Google search on their program and look for any news related to them or official complaints. Trade school quality assurance isn’t as accessible as it is for colleges, so make sure you’re thoroughly convinced that the school is reputable.
  • Ask what kind of connections they have with industry professionals, as this is a good sign of a successful, reputable program because alumni will come back to contribute, teach, and connect the program to their industry. 

What Applying Will Consist Of

  • The first portion of the application is usually just entering the portal and making a profile/login. 
  • The content of the application will vary widely, but at least a few of the following elements can be expected:
    • Basic information (name, address, contact)
    • Previous education
    • Previous employment
    • Extracurricular involvement
    • Brief written response to gauge interest and communication skills (I.E. “What interests you about our program?”)
    • Placement test (basic math and reading skills, if you have a high school diploma or GED, it should be easy)
    • A recommendation letter or two (less common than colleges, sometimes just names and contacts instead of letters)
    • Agreement to have a drug test/physical and have admission be contingent on passing
    • Payment of an application fee, usually $50-$100
  • After that, depending on the school, you might have to go to their facility to take the placement test if it’s not online.
  • You’ll likely have to have a drug test and physical and deliver it to them or have it faxed over.
  • You’re free to apply to as many schools/programs as you want, be sure to arrange it so you can send your physical and any other paperwork to each school at the same time so you don’t end up having to do it multiple times.
  • After your application, they’ll get back to you with a decision. At that time, you can go ahead and enroll or change your plans/apply to more schools.

Financial Aid

  • Financial aid works the same way it does for college, so check out our college financial aid and FAFSA pages for detailed information.
  • In short, you’ll fill out FAFSA and list the trade schools you’re applying to like you would for colleges at the end of it.
  • There will be specific grants and scholarships available for the trades with much less competition than college scholarships.
  • There are some union sponsored programs and apprenticeship programs where you’ll end up paying nothing for your education. Keep an eye out for them in your area and strongly consider them.

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