Choose the Right School for You

Getting some type of paralegal training or an education is necessary when working toward paralegal certification. A key to your success will be choosing the right school for you. There are numerous factors to consider when deciding on a school, and it is important to know where to start. The following tips will help you decide which college is best for your situation.

The first step after you have decided to pursue a career as a certified paralegal is to make two lists of criteria?one for the qualities you want in a school and one for the ones you do not want. These lists should include factors such as size of the school, size of classes, location, cost, type of classes offered, campus resources, public vs. private, etc. Remember to be honest with yourself when making these lists. An important quality your school should have is to be accredited. In order to sit for paralegal certification tests, the school needs to be approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Compile a list of schools you have previously considered or schools in your area. This list can include schools that you know minimal information about or schools of which you have a vast knowledge. It is okay to listen to the opinions of others, but remember that you will be the one attending and you make the ultimate decision. Review college guides and informational handouts to gain additional knowledge or find out about schools with which you are unfamiliar.

The next step is to research the schools you have chosen in your list. To do this, visit the school’s website or request brochures from the schools. Gather any informational handouts available as these will aid in making your final decision. You may even choose to visit the college or facility. To do this, you can contact an advisor at the school and set up a visit day. You may even be able to take a virtual tour on the school’s website.

From your lists of criteria and your list of schools narrow the pool. Do this by crossing off the schools that do not match up with your needs or wants. Review the reputations of the schools and determine if they will aid in your goal of becoming a certified paralegal. You may need to make an advantages and disadvantages chart to make the decision with some schools. Talk to alumni or anyone you know in the legal field to determine if this school is a good place at which to start your paralegal career path. Once your list of schools is at a manageable number, make any final campus or facility visits.

Finally, apply to the schools left on your list by following the application instructions on the schools’ websites. You may need to pay an application fee for each school or pay to send transcripts and test scores. Make sure you want to attend the school before applying to avoid unnecessary fees.

While awaiting responses from the schools, you may want to research scholarships that might be available to you. Similarly, you may want to review the financial aid and payment options available through each school. You can also fill out the FAFSA to determine if you are eligible for any federal financial aid.

Make your final choice from the schools that have accepted you. This will include reviewing financial aid offers and the logistics of each school. Choose not only what you feel is the best option at admissions time, but the school that will benefit you the most in the long run.

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