The most common goal for a non-airline pilot is to learn to use an airplane for purposeful personal or business transportation. One word about this before going on. Many people learn to fly and then realize that they don't really have enough requirement for going places to make it worthwhile. It's fine if a person just wants to ride around in an airplane, but if that's all you do, it is hard to maintain interest in the activity. So before you start learning to fly, give a lot of thought to how you might use this new skill.
Using the airplane for transportation means you want to plan for a private certificate with an instrument rating from the very start. The instrument rating doesn't mean you can fly in all weather conditions, but it does enable a lot of flights that would not be possible under visual flight rules. And, if an airplane is to be operated under instrument flight rules, that business about flying a lot of hours in a relatively short period of time becomes even more important.
A next step is to decide on what kind of airplane you want to learn in. Glass cockpits, where all flight, navigational and system information is presented on screens, are relatively new to general aviation, but they are now included on all new airplanes. If the purpose is learning to use an airplane for transportation, I would say, without a doubt, it is far better to learn with the latest in equipment. It might cost a little more but, hey, Princeton costs more than Western Carolina.
The flight instructor you choose is important, too. Many people are surprised when they visit a flight school and find that all the instructors are young. In truth, few pilots make a career out of being a flight instructor because there is not much money to be made there. I was charged $45 per hour for a flight instructor earlier this year. I was charged $94 per hour to get my GM car worked on earlier this year. That tells a story. Your young instructor is building flying time and experience and probably has resumes out with various airlines or other entities that operate turbine-powered airplanes.
For the most part, these young instructors are very good. They are, though, guided by the management of the flight school and there is some pretty backward management out there.
The best way to find out about this is to have a nice visit with any instructor you consider. Take him to lunch and find out what sort of person he is. How do you get along? Learning to fly is a quite personal thing and if there is any barrier between instructor and student, it doesn't work well. No way to know this for sure after a short time together, but if there seems to be good chemistry, it'll be more likely to work well.
Also find out how well the newest technology is integrated into learning to fly. Most training airplanes have both a GPS and an autopilot. Are these things integrated into private pilot flight training? If they are not, the school might be one of those that is living in the good old days. It has been my experience that young flight instructors do a great job with the newer technology stuff if they are allowed to do so. Certainly if you are going to put the effort into learning to fly, you want to learn how to use everything and how to do it all.
We write about pilots as if all are males, which most are. Females, though, make excellent pilots and flight instructors. Even if you are a sexist pig, you might find that a female instructor has better teaching skills and more patience than a male.
Finally, for many people learning to fly is one of the richer experiences out there. It can be fun and it can be rewarding. Challenging, too. If, along the way, you find it to be none of the above, walk, don't fly, away.